“I remember watching Gridlock, and when David peers through the fog and he sees those crabs and says “Macra!” I got up and ran around the room I was so thrilled! It was a tiny little reference to an always-forgotten Patrick Troughton story that made my week, and I was so glad I didn’t know about it. It’s fantastic to preserve those things if you can, and we all know what it’s like when it does happen, it’s magic.”
The feature-length special was the final drama filmed at BBC Television Centre in 2013, which meant scenes could be filmed in the same spot as the original Doctor Who episodes, dressed to resemble itself five decades earlier.
Gatiss had first broached the idea of writing a docudrama about the show’s behind-the-scenes creation as early as 2003, four years after his “The Pitch of Fear” sketch for 1999’s Doctor Who Night aired.
“I’d tried years ago when the show was off-air, which was an uphill struggle obviously. Then Steven asked me if it was something we should do when David [Tennant] was leaving and Matt [Smith] was taking over to remind new viewers that there have been other Doctors, but the general consensus then was that it was more like an anniversary thing. I remember thinking ‘Oh, another delay!’ but of course, with time going so quickly it didn’t really seem that long in the end.
“It was a blessed thing from beginning to end, it was a wonderful thing to do and I’m very proud of it and very touched by people’s response to it. I cry every time I see it. It always gets me.”
And now, it’s been brought bang up to date, with a wink and a smile.