When working on a series like Doctor Who where fans are both extremely passionate about the show AND well-versed in its half-century of history, you might think that there would be a lot of pressure not to change the formula or contradict any part of the series canon lest you invoke the wrath of the Whovian masses.
However, according to frequent series writer Mark Gatiss (who has penned this Saturday’s episode Empress of Mars) that’s simply not the case – because he thinks such backlash is nearly always unfounded and has little effect on the actual viewership of the show.
“Having always been one of those viewers, and also having been in my time a militant fanboy, I don’t give a monkey’s,” Gatiss told RadioTimes.com and other journalists. “Because it’s not about that.
“The people who complain if something contradicts The Wheel in Space are always going to watch the show in order to complain about it. You only have to worry about the people who didn’t know that the show existed before 2010. Or even 2016, effectively. It’s ancient history – 6 months is ancient history in television terms.”
“I mean there’s no point in being perversely cruel and say I’m going to totally rewrite the history of the Daleks,” he added. “Unless you come up with an idea which is startlingly brilliant.
“It’s all one big happy thing, surely. Should be. And you shouldn’t fret about stuff like that. That’s why we sit around tables in pubs arguing about things, and people always have! Is that it’s quite fun. And you’ll always find a way.”
And, as Gatiss went on to point out, it’s not like there haven’t always been contradictions and plot holes in Doctor Who over the years…
“It’s always baffled me why some things are absolutely immutable and other things aren’t,” he said, before giving examples from 1976 episode The Brain of Morbius (see video above) and the 1995 Doctor Who movie of parts of Doctor Who canon that most fans now ignore.
“Why is it immutable that the Doctor has 13 lives, and yet it’s not immutable that CLEARLY the Doctor and Morbius are having a mental battle that shows previous Doctors?” he asked. “That’s just not…people just go ‘That didn’t happen.’ The Doctor is half-human. That’s canonical. ‘No it isn’t.’”
“The Doctor has an entirely new set of lives post-Matt Smith. People just adjust. There was a missing Doctor we didn’t know about – it didn’t stop the programme. Did it?”
“I’ve never understood that, except that there is a desire to pick and choose,” he concluded. “So if you can pick and choose, what’s the problem? We’ll always find a way.”
Well, now that he’s explained it so nicely we’re sure Doctor Who fans will start being more understanding, flexible and laid-back when it comes to the continuity in their favourite series. Right guys?
Doctor Who continues on BBC1 this Saturday 10th May at 7.15pm