Doctor Who series 10 will have seen a lot of comebacks, from monsters like the Ice Warriors, the Daleks and the Mondasian Cybermen to John Simm’s returning Master, last seen in 2010 episode The End of Time part 2.
However, series writer Mark Gatiss has revealed one familiar face wasn’t able to come back for one last hurrah – despite the actor who played the character requesting that Gatiss and series showrunner Steven Moffat give him another shot at an adventure with the Time Lord.
“We were in Morocco writing Sherlock, and throwing ideas around over meals,” Gatiss told RadioTimes.com and other journalists. “And I got a text from Ian McNeice asking, ‘Is there any chance I could come back as Winston Churchill?’”
Now, fans may remember that McNeice has appeared as UK wartime Prime Minister Churchill for a number of years since Moffat took over Doctor Who, first starring in Gatiss-scripted episode Victory of the Daleks (after a brief cameo in previous episode The Beast Below) and returning for The Pandorica Opens and 2011 story The Wedding of River Song. The actor has also reprised the role for some Doctor Who audio dramas.
Ian McNeice as Winston Churchill in Victory of the Daleks
Paying tribute to this small legacy, then, didn’t seem like too much of a stretch – so Moffat and Gatiss tried to hammer out a way to include Churchill in the upcoming Victorian-set episode Empress of Mars, which airs on BBC1 this Saturday.
“I said, ‘Well I'm with Steven so I'll ask him!’” Gatiss recalled. “And we spent one lunch trying to work out whether they could dig down into the bowels of Mars and find Winston Churchill.”
Sadly, however, the idea eventually had to be left on the scrapheap, as the pair just couldn’t work out how the 20th century Churchill would fit into Gatiss’s 1881-set story.
“I said it's a great pre-titles, but what does it mean?” Gatiss laughed. “It's 1881!”
Still, McNeice didn’t leave the experience completely empty-handed – eagle-eyed fans may have noticed that in last week’s episode The Lie of the Land, the actor’s version of Churchill appeared in the Monks’ Pyramid stronghold among images of various important historical events. Looks like the great man managed to KBO one final time.
Doctor Who continues on BBC1 this Saturday 10th June at 7.15pm