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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 514 > THE JOURNEY TO MARS!


With his ninth Doctor Who TV script Empress of Mars having recently aired, we decided to take a wander back through the career of Mark Gatiss…

“I’ll tell you some gossip,” is one of many splendid things that Mark Gatiss says on a regular basis, with his eyes all a-twinkle. He’s sitting on a TV set, as is his wont, except this time he’s directing.

We’re in a remarkably convincing and old-fashioned pub, where one episode of Queers is set. This is the BBC Four series of monologues which Mark is curating, and which sets out to document 100 years of LGBT experience. Between takes we chat about giallo movies, the wonderfully ludicrous 1974 Amicus werewolf film The Beast Must Die and fun rumours about the incoming new mystery-shrouded administration of Doctor Who. He seems extremely relaxed as a director, despite the lion’s share of his experience having been in the worlds of acting and writing (plus strangling, of course, if we are to believe his Twitter bio). And this experience is considerable: we’ve come to chat to Mark about his work in Doctor Who, which will require two sittings all by itself. If we were to cover Mark’s entire body of work across film, TV, books and the stage, the end result would assuredly fill a book or two.

“I want to engender an atmosphere of relaxation,” he says of directing, “because that helps people do their best work. It’s stressful enough as it is, without the director or the lead actor or whoever throwing a wobbly. Also, there’s just no excuse for it: everybody’s up against pressure. I mean, it can be very different if you’re struggling to complete an episode of Doctor Who and you’ve only got one scene in the can! But even so, it’s beholden upon whoever’s running the show to be kind and nice.”

This last remark seems quintessentially Gatissian, since he’s always come across as a very nice man indeed, and still seems utterly unaffected by his appearances in the likes of HBO big-hitter Game of Thrones, in which he plays Tycho Nestoris. After he has persuaded me to walk past the pub window on camera as an impromptu extra, in a selection of period hats, we head out onto Islington’s streets in search of a real pub. Once Mark is pint-handed, we settle down to discuss his latest episode Empress of Mars. Over the next five hours – and two issues of DWM, all told – we’ll discuss so much more, and hopefully learn a little more about the man himself. A journey to the centre of Mark Gatiss, if you will.

Empress of Mars is scientific romance… I’ve got an affinity with it, as Nestenes have with plastic!”

Remember how the Ninth Doctor was intimately in touch with the entire universe at all times and could feel it beneath his feet? Mark has much the same relationship with everything Doctor Who. His brain is one gigantic Web of Fear. When he speaks about this show, unbridled joy and passion shines through his eyes. You often glimpse the sheer volume of Who-related stories and trivia in that head, and how they might occasionally feel a burden. At one point during our epic chat, when he struggles to recall one specific scrap of Who trivia, he actually clutches his temples and says, “Jesus, my head’s too full of things!”

Mark’s all-encompassing love of Doctor Who makes him prone to glorious asides and mini tangents, but you can always rely on him to navigate his way straight back to the point. For instance: “Empress of Mars is scientific romance: Conan Doyle, Wells, Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs…From The Unquiet Dead [2005] onwards, it’s kind of my favourite thing. I’ve got an affinity with it, as Nestenes have with plastic! Sorry – the word ‘affinity’ always makes me think of that. But that sort of thing is mother’s milk to me: I’ve grown up with the Boy’s Own version of it all. Gets the claret pumping, all those turns of phrases, the names and the attitude.”

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Contents include: • exclusive interviews with JOHN SIMM (the Master) and MICHELLE GOMEZ (Missy) • an exclusive preview of the series finale, THE DOCTOR FALLS • showrunner STEVEN MOFFAT reveals what's going on behind the scenes in PRODUCTION NOTES • the adventure continues for the Doctor and Bill in part 3 of the latest comic strip story, THE SOUL GARDEN by Scott Gray, with art by Martin Geraghty • reviews of THE LIE OF THE LAND, EMPRESS OF MARS and THE EATERS OF LIGHT • The Fact of Fiction looks at 1981's THE KEEPER OF TRAKEN • the latest books and audios are reviewed • previews of forthcoming releases •prize-winning competitions, official news, the WOTCHA! column and much, much more!