Doctor Who Series 9: Mark Gatiss interview

Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman in Sleep No More (C) BBC

Ahead of his new Doctor Who episode this Saturday, the BBC have released an interview with writer Mark Gatiss, check out what he had to say about Sleep No More below. The episode airs 8.15pm, Nov 14 on BBC One.

What inspired you to write about an Indo Japanese space station?
I had this idea for a long time - an idea of insomnia first of all, it was something that really interested me. Then the idea of a future world where people are under such pressure to work all the time, they invented the Morpheus machine. When you go in it, it concentrates chemically the benefits of sleeping for 5 minutes, you can then work for a month without going to bed. There’s the idea that people get competitive, the wide awakes and the rip van winkles. It’s a space station that revolves around Neptune and it’s gone silent. They send a rescue mission from Neptune’s moon Tridon to find out what’s gone on, because the man who invented them, professor Rassmussen, is on the space station.

Why Indo Japanese?
It’s Indo Japanese because I went to Japan and India last year and I loved the idea of, rather than it being another space station I thought what if something has happened in the far future. I love the idea of fusing the different cultures and that it doesn’t look like an ordinary space station.

How does this episode differ from the last episode you wrote, Robot of Sherwood?
It’s very different, it’s a very dark episode and deliberately so, it’s like a horror film. It’s a found footage story, so stylistically and practically it’s very different. Robot of Sherwood is a romp, so it’s completely different. Robin Hood was pure fun, and Sleep No More is very dark.

Do you prefer writing darker episodes or lighter fun scripts?
I like both, and what I’ve specialised in all my life is a combination of the two. So it’s the two poles of what I do. I think an episode of Doctor Who is always somewhere in the middle, a lot of fun and a lot of laughs, and hopefully some scares!

Do you enjoy being on set and watching your episode come to life?
It’s a funny thing, with Sherlock I’m there every day so it’s a different process to birth it as it were and you’re also there being asked questions all the time. With Doctor Who I’m a visiting writer, I usually come for a day or two tops. It’s always nice to see it coming together and I was really intrigued to see how it would work out because of the found footage idea. I hope people are going to be really surprised by it, because it is really different. I love the variety within the format, there’s nothing like it on television, even a big fantasy show. To shake that up and see it via a different perspective is really exciting.

You’ve worked with Steven on several occasions, what makes you such a successful team?
We’ve been friends for over 20 years, and the first thing we bonded over was Doctor Who. We used to try and convince BBC Executives to bring back Doctor Who, which usually involved pushing them in to a corner. Weirdly they never said yes. It was the founding principles of how we became friends. It’s real fun thrashing things out, throwing ideas around with Steven, he’s got an amazing mind, he’s so stimulating, and if I get stuck on something he will definitely always have a brilliant idea for it.


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