Mark Gatiss has been writing for "Doctor Who" since Christopher Eccleston flew the TARDIS -- and he's since penned memorable episodes for David Tennant, Matt Smith, and Peter Capaldi -- but come Saturday night (November 14), he'll finally take a journey to a place he's never ventured before: the future, in the first-ever "Doctor Who" found footage episode, "Sleep No More."
"I’ve had it in my head for awhile," he told MTV News during a press (and fan) event for the show at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. "I’m very interested in sleep... it was just a natural fit. I’m a big fan of that thing -- certainly the old show used to do it so wonderfully -- where you just open a window to a possible future. If you just add a few lines, you conjure this world. This is in the 38th century, Japan and India are the dominant cultures, and everything is different. All it is is just a couple of lines, but it changes everything. I love the possibility of that. Obviously, the future is unknown, whereas the past is very known, so it’s a different set of toys to play with."
The episode, which MTV News was able to screen in advance, finds the Doctor and Clara (Jenna Coleman) stranded aboard a futuristic space shuttle -- but unlike in many episodes that feature a similar set-up, everything that happens is viewed from the characters' space-helmet cams. They soon run into some fearsome creatures called The Sandmen, and while we (and Gatiss) can't reveal exactly what they're made of, we can say that they're different than the monsters you've met in past Gatiss jaunts.
"The Gelth and The Wire are sort of possession monsters, and the Daleks and the Ice Warriors are old monsters," Gatiss explained. "I kind of wanted to do... I love the idea of a race of big, physical monsters. It’s not CG, it’s a physical thing, it’s a man in a suit. I like to have a big, stompy monster, so that’s what they are."
When MTV News asked Gatiss the major differences between writing for Capaldi, Smith, Tennant, and Eccleston, he revealed that the devil is in the extremely minuscule details.
"One of the fundamental things you learn is essentially it’s always the same show, and The Doctor is always The Doctor," Gatiss said. "It’s not just a superficial thing... what you have to do is get the actor’s voice in your head, and then you know the way certain things will be phrased, or just speech patterns. That’s when the character and the actor merge.
"For instance, writing 'Robot of Sherwood' last year, Matt’s Doctor would have loved Robin Hood. Peter’s, I knew immediately, would hate him. That was funny! He’s grumpy, but it’s funny that he’s grumpy. I’m a huge fan of Robin Hood, particularly the Errol Flynn movie, but I’ve always thought since I was a child, at some point someone would say, ‘Would you stop laughing? It’s insane, what’s wrong with you!’ The type of person who would say that is the new Doctor, whereas maybe Matt’s Doctor wouldn’t have thought of that. You tailor it to suit the actor, and then, obviously, Steven [Moffat] makes the decision of where the character is going to go, and what sort of Doctor they’re going to be."
After last week's stellar outing, "The Zygon Inversion," Gatiss agreed that Capaldi is making his Doctor "a bit less crotchety," but working out the character's various idiosyncrasies can be the most fun part of the job.
"I think he’s wanted to have a bit more fun [this season]," Gatiss continued. "It’s like anything, you get comfortable in your skin, and the Doctor and Peter are now going, ‘Okay, this is what I’m doing.’ He said, ‘I’m not interested in being the 12th Doctor, I just want to be the Doctor’... You’re allowed to have elements of all of them, because that’s what would happen if you or I were able to change our face and regenerate; that we’d probably remember things. I was talking about the electric guitar, and how I rather loved the idea that at some point in his history he learned to play the guitar, but this one is really good at it. There’s a lovely line that was cut from 'The 11th Hour' when Matt gets hit in the head with a cricket bat by Amy, and he goes, ‘Oh, I’ve deleted French!’ It was such a funny idea, that this incarnation wouldn’t be able to speak French."
One thing that many "Who" fans seem to think should be deleted ASAP from Capaldi's incarnation is his pair of Sonic Sunglasses -- but to that, Gatiss seems to think that we all should just relax, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.
"The problem with the series is it’s been around for so long, that some people have an expectation of what they want every week -- which really is, of course, the same," he concluded. "That’s the thing you have to resist, because the thing that keeps it alive is that it changes constantly. It’s like the Sonic Sunglasses -- people have been up in arms. Even if you hate them, allow it for a bit. There’s nothing wrong with that.
"The Doctor having a big arc from the beginning as a very non-hugging person, who doesn’t know that he cares, to discovering that of course he still cares -- that’s a huge character arc, and that’s the sort of thing you would want from any series. The problem is if you just want it to be exactly the same every week, then you’re not allowing for things like that. If it was a brand new series, that’s the journey you would want your hero to go on. Essentially, every time there’s a new Doctor, it’s a brand new series. You’re bringing in new people every time."