Mark Gatiss stood in for Matt Smith’s Doctor during a crucial TARDIS scene

In Doctor Who origin drama An Adventure in Space and Time, it’s not actually the Eleventh Doctor with the First…

Mark Gatiss and Matt Smith (Getty, BBC)

In 2013, Doctor Who fans had a lot to enjoy as the series celebrated its 50th anniversary. Multi-Doctor episode The Day of the Doctor! A new prequel for Paul McGann! A spin-off comedy featuring classic Doctors! And all sorts of exciting TV moments all celebrating the legacy of the show.

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But a particular highlight has to be An Adventure in Space and Time, the feature-length behind-the-scenes drama written by regular Who writer and actor Mark Gatiss (and starring David Bradley) that retold the origins of how Doctor Who came to be, and was recently revisited by fans for a lockdown watchalong.

In case your memory is hazy, the story caps off with an emotional moment as the current Doctor at the time – Matt Smith – made a surprise cameo alongside Bradley playing First Doctor actor William Hartnell, with both appearing in the original TARDIS. But did you know Matt Smith didn’t actually come on set?

Fans have long surmised that Smith couldn’t make the trip himself – if you watch the film’s last scenes, at one stage Smith appears to be both in front of and behind the TARDIS console, suggesting he was added using greenscreen – but during the new watchalong writer and actor Gatiss explained the story behind the cameo, also revealing that it was him who stood in for Smith when the latter was supposed to activate the controls on set.

“Right up till the last moment we were hoping Matt could actually shoot his cameo onset but scheduling was impossible,” Gatiss wrote on Twitter, adding that he “cried” when he first thought of the cameo idea.

“So those are my hands! And doing what Jon [Pertwee] did in ‘Planet of the Daleks’.”

Gatiss also revealed other behind-the-scenes tidbits throughout the episode’s rewatch (including that series co-creator Sydney Newman could have been played by some big-name American actors before Brian Cox took the job), but as random pieces of Who trivia go, his secret Doctor replacement is a fun one.

Mark Gatiss IS the Doctor… or at least WAS Matt Smith… for a bit. What a world.

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Doctor Who returns to BBC One in late 2020/early 2021