After more than half a century on air, it’s fair to say that Doctor Who has changed a fair bit, with fans often noting the differences between the modern rebooted series (revived in 2005) and the classic serials (which ran from 1963 to 1989).
And series writer Mark Gatiss is no exception, with the frequent NuWho scribe (and huge fan of the classic series) laying out how the BBC sci-fi has changed over the decades in an exclusive video interview.
“Television has become accelerated and is made to much higher production values, and the speed of storytelling has changed dramatically,” Gatiss, who has guest-edited this week’s Radio Times as part of the BBC’s Gay Britannia season, told us.
“Sometimes when you watch an old story now, usually episode three is just filler. And I don’t want to be perjorative about it, that’s just the way things were and there’s nothing wrong with that. It was weekly and it lasted most of the year, and that sort of thing. Obviously things have got quicker.”
However, Gatiss revealed that he thinks a certain something has been lost in the speedier episodes – suspense.
“To me the only thing probably, with the format, becoming as it did from the new series onwards, of 45 minute episodes, is you probably lose a little suspense,” he said. “But that’s all. And even then you know, it depends what sort of story you’re telling.
“Traditionally you’d reveal the monster at the end of part 1 – that’s like the pre-titles now. And I suppose it’s just a natural consequence of television and narrative becoming pacier.”
“But in the end I think it’s exactly the same show,” he qualified. “There’s never enough time to make it, there’s never enough money. It’s always hard work but tremendous fun.
“I think you could probably take someone from the original production team and sit them down now and you’d probably have a lot in common with them.”
Gatiss went on to share his abiding memories of his time in the new series, after previously suggesting he might not write any new episodes for the time being.
“I suppose the things I remember best were getting a phonecall from Russell T Davies on Christmas 2003 asking me to write for the new show, which was like the best Christmas present I’ve ever had,” he recalled. “And then a couple of years later being asked to be in it [for 2007’s The Lazarus Experiment] – which is also the best present I’ve ever had!
“And doing that episode particularly – the last day of shooting was my 40th birthday, it was kind of – everything had aligned, you know?
He concluded: “Just the whole experience and privilege of writing four Doctors and seeing the programme grow into this international phenomenon. It’s been amazing.”
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