Gatiss is hot property these days, currently riding on a wave
of success following the publication of his novel The
Vesuvius Club in 2004, along with the big-screen debut
of the comedy troupe he's been a quarter of for over a decade,
in The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse, and his
own penned, and popular episode of the 2005 revival of Doctor
Who - The Unquiet Dead.
I've been looking
to interview Mark for a year now, and had originally hoped to
catch him when the League were filming in Dublin. Then earlier
this year when I was hoping to get over to London for a chat,
things got very hectic, Nebulous was on the radio,
publicity was in full swing for the League movie
(before the release date was put back by two months), and the
live version of The Quatermass Experiment in which
Mark played Patterson (alongside Jason Flemying and David Tennant)
Just after the
release of the film, as things died down a little Mark graciously
found time in his schedule for a chat. Pencilled in for a twenty
minute slot on a July afternoon, this ended up as our lengthiest
interview so far, finishing an hour later. In that time we managed
to discuss most of his recent career, with no holds barred.
A delight to interview - I don't think I've ever laughed so
much with one of my interviewees.
As the clock
strikes three, I dial the number I have been given for Mark's
agent, only to find myself speaking to an answer machine, as
the woman in question is off today. As I struggle online to
find an alternate phone number (didn't foresee this, so haven't
left the general number sitting out), I receive a call on my
mobile from the agency. Details are exchanged, and they are
due to call me back. Five more minutes of silence. Oh dear.
Another call to my mobile, and I'm given an extension number
I think its going
to be one of those days. Stupidly, I left it until just an hour
beforehand to go out and purchase some new equipment for this
interview. I have barely had time to do any testing, and I'm
having to use an old, and shoddy microphone. Typical.
the interview format:- In a bid to preserve the flavour
of the interview, this is presented as a fairly straight transcript,
reproducing most of the conversation as it was. Some minor edits
have been made to the text for purposes of flow, though in a
few instances I have left the hesitations and Mark's affirmations
in. This is what its like when talking to Mark Gatiss
Gatiss: Its one of those days all round. Nothing's getting
through today. I'll do my best.
Simpson: I'm not actually sure what would be an
appropriate topic to start the interview on. You seem to have
had a very busy year.
on. I've just been on holiday actually, which is something I've
been meaning to do since February and it was much appreciated.
You go on, you dive in. This for Nebulousity is it?
When I started
off wanting to do this interview, it was the time of Nebulous
and The Quatermass Experiment. And then the film.
And then I think I thought you were probably far to busy so
I thought I'll leave it for a bit, until things had calmed down
they have, they've kind of calmed down a bit; we're planning
the tour now, and its weirdly kind of full on. We did the commentary
for the film before it came out, which was a bizarre situation,
'cus you normally want a bit of time for it to settle down,
I think you'll probably hear when you hear it, its very particular
to its time, everything's sort of "well I wonder what happened?"
That's a bit
of a shame,' cus I remember on the third series commentary there's
obviously the knowledge of the response from the critics and
[the third series of The League of
Gentlemen had a very mixed reception, dividing many
of the fans and attracting many derogatory reviews. The film
seems to have split opinions too]
I think that's
bad thing though. Reece was in a terrible mood that day. I don't
know, a lot of people have said to me we sound really, really
bitter on that and its not true. I don't know, it was just interestingly
different. This particular commentary is all based around having
been talking to journalists for the last ten days or something
[laughs]. It has its own particular flavour.
because the film was pushed back as well wasn't it? The release
Yeah. We were
going to go with April 23rd - I think that's St. George's Day
- and because of Hitchhiker's [the long awaited big-screen
adaptation of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to
the Galaxy, which features Mark and the rest of the
League as Vogon voices] moving up we put back to June. But
it's a funny thing, its kind of all swings and roundabouts because
obviously the thing there was we were going to be up against,
as it were, Sin City, Star Wars, whatever, but
at the same time by having a little longer we were able to show
a completely finished film to the reviewers. If we'd gone in
April we would only have been able to show them the film with
the temporary soundtrack, which wasn't graded. You never know
really which one's the better one to go for.
How did you
find the response to the film yourselves?
It has been
wonderful to be honest, particularly from the fans, very very
good. We've had
I suppose mixed reviews is the best way
to put it. We've had fantastic reviews, some grudging ones,
some, I mean not very many absolutely bad ones, but it's kind
of exactly what we expected. No one really gives you any credit
for trying to do something with a bit of ambition. And of course,
again its on the [commentary], when making it we knew we would
get this sort of typical voice going that we were clever clever
to make jokes about how bad British spin-off comedies tend to
be, and of course then they'd say "How I wish they had
done one where they've all gone to Spain" and of course,
as expected that's exactly what some of them did say!
the weird thing about it all, in a funny way, you've got to
take the good ones with as much a pinch of salt as the bad ones
because in the end its just someone's opinion, and although
obviously you print all the good reviews on your poster, its
just someone's opinion
I mean, no word of a lie, there
were three reviews in The Times [British national
newspaper] over a period of like two weeks, in different
aspects of The Times. They were saying in the Times
Eye, or the Times Review
three different people
reviewed it and there were three entirely different reviews,
ranging from one, a guy who liked the series and hated the film,
someone who quite liked the film, and then an absolute rave.
Now, what do you do? You put all three of them on the poster?
No, obviously you put the best, but at the same time even within
a paper its just someone else's opinion so
the only thing
that ultimately tells if whether people have enjoyed it, is
whether they go to see it and eventually how it stands up -
if you can still watch the film in ten years time, and I strongly
believe you will be able to because we worked very hard to make
sure it wasn't just a, just a spin-off.
just how many reviews said, "You'll be baffled if you don't
know the series" and without exception, our experience
has been that people who don't know the show at all and have
gone to see it have completely got it because it is very gettable.
Its only if you know the series, you might think "Well
I understand this but nobody else does", you know what
I mean? But if you have no knowledge of it, you go and watch
it and it is explained to you quite swiftly that, you know,
here is a murderer on the loose from prison, here is a businessman,
here is a pederastic German teacher, and then they discover
their characters are a fictional series, its very gettable indeed,
it's kind of the curse of the spin-off, you can't
get away from the fact that it is actually based on a tv series.
But as I say, we did work very hard to make sure that it would
be accessible, really by crediting people with some intelligence.
You don't actually have to spoon-feed them every step of the
way, a lot of the stuff we took out was too much exposition.
it was quite a brilliant film. I know that one of the main papers
here, at the press show I went to
the guy from the Belfast Telegraph, he didn't understand
why the audience liked the film, he found it quite unusual.
I don't think he wanted to like it but
Yeah. I think
that's very true as well, you know there's a lot of meanness
in the island of ours.
I think what
I liked was that it was so different from the tv version; as
different from series three as series three was from the first
two series of the television version.
Well you know
what we've always tried to do, is not just take the easy option,
and not just being perverse. We're not trying to annoy people
who like our show but it's what keeps us interested. We really
couldn't have made a cheap spin-off
we could have done,
but we wouldn't have wanted to, it would have been pointless.
We spent a long time writing it and coming up with the idea,
because it made us laugh because it was interesting, and not
just an obvious thing where you know
Somebody, we were
in Dublin actually for the first Dublin screening, and at the
party afterwards, there were these two guys who were pointed
out to me as being big fans, and I was sort of pushed over towards
them, and said "So what did you think?" and this guy
said [adopts quiet Dublin accent] "I didn't like
it." And we were like, "Right, oh!", and actually
what he wanted was for it all to be in Royston Vasey [the
fictional northern-English town in which the television series
is set] and its interesting how, you know, if we'd actually
done that film we'd have been crucified for being lazy, if we'd
just done like a big-screen version as it were. So you really
can't win, that's the problem.
I was actually
more surprised that you hadn't done something completely different.
see this is the process we went through: from the very first
stage we always thought we'd have to do something, a total stand
alone, something like The Life of Brian, you know. And
we did, we wrote some stuff and we talked around it but it was
in the end it was
it just wasn't catching fire in the
same way. I think we wrote some funny stuff but it was suddenly
like starting absolutely from scratch, and then Steve had this
idea about being watched by Pauline in the supermarket and it
was just suddenly very fertile, it was like "what if
And then of
course, you get in a situation where you're trying to raise
the money, where actually if you'd gone to them and said "Look,
we have this very successful tv show but we're going to totally
" [laughs]. So in a way our idea
fed into the commercial realities of it which were to some extent
they did want a spin-off, but as I say it was much more to do
with the fact that that was the idea that made us laugh. I'd
like to think if we were able to do another one, we'd kind of
established cinematic ground that we're able to do something
sort of stand alone, but its very hard to say really because
it just depends on what the idea eventually becomes.
very different. Its a very literate film I think.
It was on
a certain intellectual level - an appeal to the "arty"
people [the pseudo-intellectual cinephiles and critics] as well
as the average person on the street.
Well the strange
thing is - its not as cynically contrived as it might sound,
but you know that we put the giraffe up front because it's a
kind of huge laugh that actually makes
my brother actually
loves that bit, and he's my template for all these things -
but you can smuggle an awful lot of quite interesting stuff
underneath the giraffe semen as it were. I think its very moving
film, and Herr Lipp's journey particularly is rather affecting.
I think the big thing to remember for us is our series has always
been like that, its not just Little and Large, its not a BBC1
show, and it would have been very odd if suddenly the movie
totally failed to reflect our own styles and personalities.
We knew we wanted to do something that had a bit of weight to
it, and was actually quite literate in that sort of way, its
just a very different world. Getting a film made is very hard
and it all sorts of different pressures had come into it, you
You do tease
us at the end of the film with that whole credit "The League
of Gentlemen will return in The Windmills Of Your Bum"
be that film?
Windmills Of Your Bum, but
the thing about tv is you
get ratings which are a kind of ludicrous concept as you know
because its based on the thousand people that have those things
in their tv [in the UK at least a certain number of homes
are fitted with devices which monitor what they are watching,
and the ratings for the whole country are based on the average
of this select portion of the viewing population], and then
they scale it from that, a kind of Gallop Poll. The weird thing
is we live and die by them, and yet they're ludicrously unrepresentative,
they don't take account of second tvs or videos very much, and
that sort of thing, so
The thing about film is you can't
argue with the figures. If people don't go and see it, they
don't go to see it. So its done okay, we're still in the top
ten after almost a month which for a British film is not bad
at all. But ultimately it will be decided by the dvd sales,
and increasingly that's how it is. The few weeks of actual theatrical
release are not where its at, I know for a fact Austin Powers
wasn't a big hit on its theatrical release but the dvd sales
were fantastic, and that's why it became a franchise you know.
So we'll have to see. We won't know until after the figures
have come in for the dvd, whether there is an appetite to make
with the sales of the dvds of television series, and Live
At Drury Lane, it should do quite well.
talking about the cold light of day, the reason there was an
enthusiasm to back the movie is because our dvd sales are very
good. So, touch wood. Encourage everyone to buy it three times.
But it is a different world. We would love to make another movie,
it would be very challenging to try and come up with a follow-up
rather than just a sequel. We'll have to see, we've got a lot
of possibilities we're
we've been asked to do a new series,
and there's another tour, so there's a lot still going on.
I was going
to ask about the tour. Apart from asking, why aren't you coming
We might be,
the thing is it's an initial run, the first leg, its exactly
the same as we did the first time. We booked through from October
to December. And it did sufficiently well that we did another
few months in the New Year, so what we've done is a similar
we had a meeting yesterday and Ireland wasn't
on the initial, but I think if we carry on into the New Year
then we will.
I might just
have to come over to England to see it.
Yes. We did
like three or four nights in Dublin, and we did one night in
Yeah. I actually
missed that last time round. How different is the stage show
Oh, I've no
haven't written it
been writing it. It's a panto-style. Its called The League
of Gentlemen Are Behind You. Not, its not a panto in the
sense that you could go and see us or Cinderella. It
will be our sort of version of it, but that's what we're basing
it around. It will be fun for all the family
But eh, I
dunno. Its interesting. We're kind of
Its like a second
tour is a different animal in that you can't, we're not going
to do the same sketches as last time or anything like that,
but to some extent we did some of the most famous sketches the
first time. And the other thing to bear in mind of course is
that its eh
when you go and see a show, like going to
see a band, you don't want to be presented with their experimental
strong element of catchphrase and familiarity, because that's
what you want. You get this response from when people see their
favourite characters and familiar situations so that's very
helpful of course, because we can put some stuff in that they've
seen on the telly, but obviously we can't just do that. There's
a lot to be decided yet.
it's a bit like Monty Python at the Hollywood Bowl, isn't
Exactly. Any live comedy show, I think the way you do it to
keep yourself interested is put maybe familiar characters in
a new situation, but also there are a lot of popular sketches
people like to see re-enacted. I know I do when I go and see
things, you kind of get a buzz hearing a familiar song or seeing
a familiar sketch.
on your Doctor Who episode [The Unquiet Dead -
I really enjoyed
it. I think it was probably my favourite of the series [honestly,
I've said that all along, I wasn't just trying to be nice to
Mark - The Unquiet Dead felt like old Doctor
Who, the Victoriana is like Pyramids of Mars
or Talons of Weng-Chiang - simply brilliant]
so. [laughs heartily] Its been an amazing experience.
We all had our fingers crossed for it, but its been beyond anyone's
expectations of success. I mean I cried real tears throughout
the series watching other episodes, I was absolutely in pieces.
told me the other day that the most he cried was watching an
episode of Doctor Who Confidential filmed at the new
exhibition in Brighton, with these seven year old kids saying
[adopts childish voice] "I like the Sliveen, and
the Daleks -they're my favourite." And it is incredibly
moving, because it's like us when we were kids. It's just incredible,
its happened again.
amazing. It's not a cult programme. It's family viewing. In
fact you can sense the ripples of panic going through tv networks
because what's happened is Russell [T. Davies, executive
producer] and the rest of us have discovered there is a family
audience, which everyone had said had vanished forever. So as
I say, it's been a privilege and a thrill to be involved with
it and I'm doing another one at the minute for it.
I was going
to ask any
[attempting to lure secret information
out during a formal interview] what's it about?
it's another historical. It's historical. That's all I can say.
[When I was at
school I ran a Doctor Who Society and got ridiculed regularly
for it. Back then Doctor Who was only on tv in the form
of repeats - at least until the Paul McGann tv movie in 1996.
As part of the regular screening schedules, I used to screen
the new spin-offs from BBV, like The Airzone Solution,
and the PROBE series - written by Mark, billed on their
commercial video release as "The British X-Files",
and featuring Caroline John reprising her role as former companion,
Takes me back.
I'm frightened by the fact that my PROBE films came out
when you were still at school I think.
I was in my
teens then [Mark laughs] '94 [the PROBE series came
out in 1994] It was a long time ago.
I've had a couple of moments when I've seen kids in shops -
there was one last week in HMV, a boy, he must have been about
eight, he was wanting to buy the new Doctor Who dvd and
his sister, who can't have been any older than him was lending
him the money.
My only regret in the whole thing, is that they're not doing
Target novelisations [for those not familiar with Doctor
Who, the Target novels started in the 1970s and were adaptations
of Doctor Who serials for a youngish market. The mainstay
of many Who fans youth].
I would love
I want Terrence Dicks to do The Unquiet Dead [Terrence
Dicks, former script editor on the series, and author of many
of the Target novels]. That would make me very happy. Its
just brilliant isn't it. I mean a lot of my friends who watched
it when they were kids, they know that I'm a fan but that's
as far as it goes. I went to a gig yesterday in Hyde Park, and
then afterwards I was on the tube with my friend and we just
talked about the last episode as if we were talking about Desperate
Housewives. There was no shame. It was just great tv. And
she'd been, you know, in floods of tears at the end, it's just
extraordinary isn't it?
Were you frustrated
at all by not being so involved in the pitch - because I know
a couple of years ago you did a pitch to the BBC for a new series
with, who was it, Gareth Roberts? And Russell?
No, I wasn't.
I mean to be honest, when I heard, I got a call from Clayton
[Hickman - editor of Doctor Who Magazine] actually at
midnight saying "Russell's bringing back Doctor Who"
it was like "Oh My God!" But the brilliant thing was,
I really mean this, was Russell's idea of bringing it back and
our idea of bringing it back are so in tune.
no, I mean I suppose apart from a couple of stylistic differences
which were inevitable, I couldn't be more pleased. Its not,
its not like its come back and I don't agree with the way its
been brought back. You know we were absolutely of a mind. It
seems bleeding obvious and it always did, that in order to bring
it back you have to reinvent it, and that's exactly what Russell's
count of the amount of times that people have been saying "Is
Paul McGann coming back to do a regeneration?" and its
like, obviously not because you're trying to get the audience
you've actually got, which is a kid who'd never heard of it.
And the first thing you're going to get confused about is if
[one Doctor changes into another], well why's this happening?
what I think Russell has done so brilliantly, is parcel out
necessary information throughout the thirteen episodes so you
don't have to swallow six impossible things before breakfast.
You only have to look at the tv movie to see, although it does
have its merits obviously, to see that - how not to do it.
inside the TARDIS, so you don't know its bigger on the inside
[oh how we laughed here]. It has the Daleks, the Master
and the Time Lords mentioned in the first three minutes, and
its incredibly excluding. And exactly what did happen, happened
- the general audience just went "What's this about?"
the way Russell engineered this, is from Rose's point of view,
that you meet this stranger, and then you kind of go with him
on this journey
its exactly, its just absolutely right,
that, you couldn't ask for anything more
[Star of the
2005 revival, Christopher Ecceleston's surprise departure was
leaked to the British press just days after the first episode
aired. The BBC issued a statement claiming that Ecceleston had
cited a concern over being typecast and the gruelling schedule
as his reasons for leaving. They later retracted the statement
when it emerged that Eccleston had not said anything. There
is some speculation that Eccleston's final decision to leave
after just the one season was spurred on by the BBC's statement
and handling of the incident. David Tennant was formally announced
as replacement a few weeks later - having been tipped on BBC
online as the forerunner from the off]
you knew that Christopher was leaving after a year?
no. I mean, I knew before it broke, but erm, but not for a long
time. I don't know, I don't know what anybody knew to be honest.
It's all kind
of shrouded in secrecy. I mean that, I think that it's a great
shame, because you only have to look at how effecting that finale
was to realise what an impact he's actually made in one season.
It felt like
he'd been the Doctor for three years, because it was so well
done. It was unbearable he was going. I think particularly the,
the moment where the hologram turns to Rose and says "Have
a fantastic life" I just went to pieces.
But I think
it's a terrible shame because he's just been really brilliant
and so yeah, he's absolutely proved the reason why he did it,
which is his versatility and his light touch and his ability
to do something very, very family orientated and sort of Saturday
night friendly. But David is a brilliant choice and a very good
friend of mine and I'm really so thrilled for him.
bizarre though. We keep
we were just doing the commentary
for Quatermass the other day and its so strange.
and David Tennant co-starred in the live remake of The Quatermass
Experiment for BBC4 in April 2005]. Every now and
then just look at each other and its like "What?!"
What? He came over to my house to watch Quatermass and
he just ending up staying the whole day, and we had a costume
Its just ridiculous. He said to me the other day, someone asked
him "Is it true you're a Doctor Who fan?" and
he went "Yes" and he said "I'm trying to play
it down a bit now" Very odd. But he will be wonderful.
that you've seen Quatermass, is that the first time you've
seen it since doing it?
Well, we watched
it the next day. [after broadcast]
first time we've seen it since, yeah.
How do you
find it went? Watching it as a viewer rather than as a performer?
We were doing
a commentary so we weren't listening to it in the same way.
I mean, I've said this, I say this on the disc, but without
being unfair to everybody, I think it was more exciting to be
in than to watch. In our head - in our heads, it was so thrilling
live, it felt like it was really taut and everything. Watching
it back I think
the aerial shots of London and everything
which are held for far too long. I did, we both thought, that
it kind of, the first half was extremely good and it's a bit
it just sort of falls apart a bit in the second half.
That's my personal feeling but it's a lot to do with the problem
of telescoping six half-hours episodes into one ninty mintueish
sort of slot, you know. A lot of the comic relief had to go,
and it becomes quite relentless at the end, I mean it's a grim
sort of story, but it looses a bit of its - a bit of its shading
Yeah. I was
maybe a little bit disappointed with the absolute climax - that
it became a cerebral thing rather than
Well I don't
know, you know I was saying again on the [dvd commentary] that
I, its a weird thing in retrospect to think that there actually
is a rubber monster in [the original] Quatermass
In fact if
anything you'd expect that ending [the implied monster
of the 2005 version] to be done in the original and in
fact it wasn't, it was a rubber monster, I mean I personally
would have been happier if we had been able to suggest more.
The first thing we talked about was
because it was always
that Quatermass was going to see Caroon again, which was very
nice, very ghostly, and in fact the other two astronauts were
added, it was added later the thought that you see all three,
the original idea was that kind of, as it were, behind him you
would see all these things thrashing about. So there was a suggestion
that in fact he had become this huge creature
it was an
awful lot to do genuinely with the fact that it was a live broadcast
from one place.
were just certain things really it would have been almost impossible
to achieve, it would have been nice to have the suggestion of
something I know, we all felt that, but in a way I think it
does sort of suit the stripped down nature of this version and
its worth bearing in mind that its an exp
it wasn't just
a recreation, if we wanted to fill in the archival gap
have done it full-on fifties and probably it would have been
filmed and all that sort of thing, but it was an experiment
on The Quatermass Experiment. It was an experiment in
live television so it, all those things kind of fed in to the
mix you know.
it was very successful. I was actually quite gripped through
We were, I
have to say as a performer it was the most wonderful exciting
thing. We had a lovely time. Everybody had a great laugh doing
it, but it was also an amazing bonding experience, simply because
it doesn't happen very often - ever really. And there is an
amazing camaraderie came out of the whole live experience.
You can see
the relief, I think, on everyone's face during the close as
the hysterical thing again, because when we were doing the commentary,
I was dead by that point. I was in the green room watching it,
and the captions were rolling, and I was going "Look they
think its finished, they think we're off air" Everybody,
David goes and kisses Isla Blair who's like the Home Secretary,
who he never met and they're
Aidrian Dunbar just looks
right down the camera and winks. Hysterical! But in a funny
kind of way it makes, it helps you realise [its] a live event
was the Pope went and died in the middle of it.
over my face! I knew he'd do that. You know the Pope's going
to die at any minute, just to spoil it. I think he was hanging
on just to see the end of Quatermass, but couldn't quite
I know a lot of the complaints that I heard about it were I
think informed by over-familiarity with the Hammer film version
rather than the original television version. It was only that
I'd seen the new dvd ahead of schedule a couple of weeks beforehand
that I was, you know, familiar with the original style. And
I think it adopted that very well
as a recreation of even the feel, I think it was superb.
One of the
things that you can't get away from really is they were dealing,
we were dealing with the same problems they were, and there
are only so many ways in a live environment you can frame a
shot. It's like fifty years later you've still got one or two
you're not going to be able to suddenly do something suddenly
radically different. So a lot of the time the flavour and the
feel of it comes out of the fact that it is the - its same set
up, really. Just we have slightly less upper-class accents.
talk about something else. I guess we should talk about Nebulous.
Which I thoroughly
Nebulous was I think the funniest thing I've heard on the radio
I'd just been
listening to Hitchhiker's [Guide to the Galaxy] again as well,
and you know it was a bit Douglas Adams-y, but I thought it
was more in tune with
my head I guess!
working on it really for years. I met Graham doing Dr Terrible
[Dr Terrible's House of Horrible, a BBC2 production
from 2001, written by Graham Duff]. Initially it was
planned as a tv series, as a sort-of spoof Quatermass.
It was going to be shot in black and white and all kinds of
things, and we, I persuaded everyone that it actually should
be a sit-com. We learnt an awful lot on Dr Terrible in
terms of spoof and how much legs they have
Not very much.
Especially when you're dealing in slightly heightened territory
anyway. The things that lend themselves best to spoofs have
been very po-faced, as opposed to Hammer which obviously has
a fantastical element anyway.
I think the
League do Hammer better than Dr Terrible did. You know,
there is that kind of Hammer element in
very much, yes. I was very keen if Nebulous would be
it would first and foremost work as a situation comedy and we
worked very hard on the format, on K.E.N.T., the hyper-laundry
idea, Nebulous having this clown-fixation thing, and then the
individual team members and stuff like that, and I think its
really paid off because it feels that it is a situation comedy.
You get to know these people very well and you have the fun
of just putting them in different adventures, you know
Is that how
you knew David Warner then, from doing that?
No! Oh God,
I met him
I met him through David Tennant about three years
David got to know him through a friend of his in Oxford,
I don't know how that happened but
. I was asked to do
a Doctor Who for Big Finish, one of the Unbounds with
a new Doctor, they asked me to play the Master which I was very
excited about, which I did, and they didn't have a Doctor and
I was just talking to David about it and he said "I've
just got to know David Warner", and he was very keen -
he'd just moved back from America so he ended up playing Doctor
Who opposite my Master for Big Finish. And then we wrote the
part for him in the film and I've kind of worked with him ever
since [laughs]. So then we did the Nebulous pilot
not long after that, so obviously we got him in to play Doctor
I think he's
very good in that.
Oh, he's fantastic.
There are things in it, actually there are things in it where
erm, 'cus we remade the pilot
Oh yeah. I've
heard the pilot as well. So
we actually took several of David's lines from the pilot because
they were never the same again and they were so brilliant
There were things like "Wasthereanythingelse!" [shouted
and slurred] and oh, I think the line "What if all the
chickens dried up", he's just got this genius for that
kind of line, he can just make an ordinary line really hysterical
with aggression, and this strangely sort of classless voice
he has where he just suddenly sounds sort of common. It was
just so brilliant, so we just used a lot of those. They were
doing another series, is it, November or September ?
think, touch wood, we're going to do it next month.
had to put it back slightly, but I think everyone's come free
in August. We're going to hopefully do it next month.
I think five or six. We had such a wonderful time doing it,
Graham Crowden was an absolute delight. It was just such a lovely
job to do. And I just, I mean I said at the time, if we'd had
twelve written, we just would have carried on we were just having
such a good time. I'd love to carry on doing it.
Do you have
much creative input into the scripts then?
What we did,
'cus we formatted it together, I came up with KENT and stuff
like that I think - we very much worked it up from the tv idea
and tried to make the personalities very
we've got a lot
of work in it together, but once that was done I was very keen
that Graham authored it, you know. Obviously it's his project
And I did
want to do a lot of work on making these characters right and
memorable, particularly Nebulous, I wanted to do something different
to what I've usually done, you know. So after that what we've
gone for, and what we're going to do again, in fact we're going
to have a meeting about it, Graham's done early drafts of these
things but we always talk them through and maybe suggest some
changes, and some additions and then even when it gets to recording
What we discovered
last time was lots of catch-phrases were developing, which we
hadn't actually thought about. And once you feel them coming
you start to sort of write them in a bit more you know. Its
more stuff like that. And also suggesting story ideas I suppose
we've had a lot of - I don't know if we're going to do it this
time but, we drew up a big list of stuff we'd brainstormed together
including one about, [which] I think we might be doing, where
everyone's journey to work is starting to take slightly longer
and it turns out the world is expanding because of the success
of anti-global warming. Actually, I think Nebulous has to solve
it by burning down the rainforest!
thing is, I think having got a very adaptable, flexible and
good format, you can kind of chuck all your favourite sci-fi
clichés at it, you know, and do big Doctor Who-y
monster stories and kind of time-travel stories and moonbase
stories, and things like that. They all feel like it adapts
very well to it.
I loved that
Claws of Axos parody one, with the
was one of the first ideas we had, 'cus of course it was going
to be tv and I was very keen it had very beautiful men in it.
But I said the one we should do a spaceship crashes, and a yokel
- it was going to be like a farmer with a pitchfork - he goes
over the brow of the hill, and there's this crashed spaceship
and three incredibly beautiful men, naked men come out, and
he just goes "Pwoar!"
be fun, and everybody falls in love with them. I really love
the way that came out, and then it sort of evolved more into
the boy band idea, Graham's idea of that, and I love the way
they all have individual sort of "talents".
and the sporty one. Yeah, I think its really funny that one.
My favourite is The Coincidence Machine. I think that's
I think they were so well written. I'm really looking forward
to the next series.
we'll have some more guest stars as well this time, but it was
just a joy to do. We had such a good time and it's a lovely
thing just to feel that, and also now getting back together
it's got a sort of old school feel. Its lovely to reconvene,
and Graham Crowden was so
it was his birthday on the last
day of recording last time and he just said "I can't tell
you what this has meant to me," you know, 'cus he's 82
And it was just wonderful. He just loved it, he was just kind
of in it, his bits tend to be sort-of isolated as it were within
the episode. But he was a delight to have around, and we just
sat at his feet and gazed into his majesty. He was hysterical
and had the most brilliant stories and he just loved doing it.
And everyday we'd say "How are you Graham?" and he'd
say [adopts gruff theatrical voice] "Hanging on,
dear boy! Hanging on!"
Do you prefer
writing or performing then?
I love 'em
both. I mean, what is that line in Kind Hearts and Coronets,
"How happy could I be with either were t'other dear charmer
I always miss writing when performing, and exactly the other
way round. I find writing very satisfying because of the amount
of control you're able to have of your own thing and your own
vision as it were. I love appearing in things, actually to be
honest the kind of acting I tend to like the most is when I've
nothing to do with the writing. It's simply because you don't
have the same pressures.
done, I'm doing some more, but I've just done the first episode
of Funland which Jeremy wrote with Simon Ashdown, and
my first day of filming was the day after the premiere of the
movie, and I was very tired and had been talking for like three
days non-stop to press and that. And I'd just got the train
up to Manchester and I just thought "Oh I wish this was
another day I'm just not in the mood, you know". But actually
it was really refreshing, liberating, I put the costume on,
it was a totally new set of people, and I had a really great
time and I felt reinvigorated by it you know and that's something
I really love about acting in other people's stuff - you go
into it with just that hat on, rather than two. The League -
we're across the whole production, its very difficult sometimes
to keep everything on the ball and in the air at the same time.
like the Lucifer Box series [Mark's new series of novels,
starting with The Vesuvius Club] you're doing
must be quite different again, from all of that.
I mean its very lonely 'cus its just me, and its very different
really. And of course if - I've forgotten this lesson from writing
Doctor Who books - but the reason that books take so
long is because you've got to write so many more words. It's
not like writing a script. But I've just started the sequel
which I'm not putting a finite date on 'cus I'm sure a lot of
things will intervene, but I'm very excited about it
that was due out later on this year originally.
You may actually
see that on Amazon it's supposed to be out this year, but it
isn't, believe me. I'm afraid not, it's not ready yet.
I read last
night in another interview, that you're moving it twenty years
into the future?
Is that still
Yes. Its set
about 1928/29, because I became very interested with, originally
it was going to be three Edwardian sort-of stories and when
I was finishing The Vesuvius Club I thought, I think
I've done Edwardian-pastiche and I just suddenly thought, wouldn't
it be great to do one set, like a sort of Thirty-Nine Steps,
and then I thought "Oh my God!" and then I could do
one when he's very old, like Fleming [Ian Fleming, creator
of the James Bond books].
You were saying
about Casino Royale.
even, not like a big You Only Live Twice Fleming, but
a very kind of early spy Fleming. So that's what I'm hoping
to do. The Devil In Amber is set in the late 20s early
30s when Box is middle age, and feeling his age, and is sort
of being challenged by younger agents and then the last, the
third one will be when he's elderly, I'm not quite sure how
I'm going to handle the sex scenes with that.
go back and do some prequels. I'll do a full-on Conan Doyle
1890s one and a First World War one. You can go on forever!
No sign of
you doing anything else like
I read your James Whale book..
was a bit of a surprise when I came across it.
That was a
long time ago.
what's Mark Gatiss writing a James Whale book for? [and
perhaps more pertinent, how come I haven't heard of it before!]
Well I love
his stuff and I mean
I'm not very proud of that book I
can tell you that.
No, not a
lot of it is my own work I have to tell you, but I was very
young - much younger. And I was commissioned to do it and then
I kind of panicked because it was difficult to find any new
information so it was just a bit of a pointless exercise really
I love those movies and I think Whale was a genuine,
genuine auteur, extraordinary talent. So well done for finding
it, wherever it is.
beside me actually. I mean I guess
a great story, a very interesting story, a lot of people have
told it a lot better.
Uh huh. I
was just surprised kind of you never did any more criticism
Well I mean
the part of it I had the most problem with was critiquing the
films because I don't know whether you can sort of learn how
to do it but I didn't feel very qualified, I can give my opinion
of them, I didn't go to a sort of film-criticising school; I
just felt I was sort of giving my version of events rather than
I suppose giving a genuine critique of the movies. Its funny,
I've thought occasionally over the years that I might like to
do something like that again but it's a very different thing,
a very different way of working.
I think I'd
have to find someone that no-one had ever done, in order to
I love biographies, I always read biographies. I just read a
book about the Mitford Girls which is just fantastic. I think
I'd have to find someone who is slightly lost to history in
order for the research to be very interesting, to be an interesting
thing where you felt that you were just discovering someone
that the story was worth telling and of being a bit forgotten
rather than doing the fifth book about Dickens or Peeps or something
- that doesn't really get me going the same way. That's what
I might [do some day].
the hassle I have trying to write to write anything about Hammer.
problem there is it's been done very badly a lot of the time.
And it's a shame because if you feel you have something brand
new to say its difficult to get it off the ground because people
say "That's been done".
Yeah. I always
want to say they were rubbish by the end [I was being a
little harsh here. I do feel that the last thirty years haven't
been properly evaluated, ever though, and the quality had dropped].
You can say
But its one
of those things, you try and argue it with people, somebody
needs to be objective here.
you find, I find the funny thing about Hammer is when I was
a kid they used to show horror double bills, I couldn't wait
to get through the black and white ones to get to the Hammer,
and my opinion is totally reversed now. I love the black and
white Universals, and a lot of my favourite Hammers.
I've started to do recently is watching horror films on a Friday
night again, and you'll be pleased to know, unless you do the
same thing, that it feels the same as it ever did. Something
about Friday nights deserve to be Horror Night. So I've been
buying an awful lot of old horror films on dvd. And things, Dracula Has Risen From The Grave
which I loved as a kid
is just terrible.
It's so boring,
It's so slow. It does of course have him impaled on a cross
but that's it! And yet something like Dr Jekyll and Sister
Hyde which I kind of routinely dismissed, I loved it when
I saw it again. I thought it was a really funny, clever pastiche
by Brian Clemens. All the Jack the Ripper, the stuff on Burke
and Hare, it's that sort of giddy mixture of Victorian clichés.
I loved it. That tends to be, that seems to be the pattern,
it's almost like, without being perverse, the less celebrated
ones are much more fun. Plague of the Zombies is a fucking
film. And The Reptile as well. Dracula: Prince of
Darkness is quite ponderous, it's got lovely things in it,
but it takes its time. Satanic Rites of Dracula, I really
enjoyed. It has no reputation at all. Its better than 72
[Dracula A.D. 1972] I thought. Maybe something
to do with I didn't know it very well, but I thought it was
really refreshing. Actually kind of maybe they could have updated
this you know. Yeah, its funny how your opinions shift isn't
think I've had a similar experience. I mean my first Hammer
was Scars of Dracula.
And I think
that was also where I discovered Patrick Troughton.
so it had that dual effect.
saying to me, "He was Doctor Who", and I was like
'Cus I remember
getting Box of Delights on video when I was a kid and
people telling me he was Doctor Who
it didn't register.
can imagine the magic of that. I have similar stories, I suppose
about Target books really.
I can, I can
remember where I was when I got the novelisation still, they
kind of trigger something Proustian. The cool blue spine of The Abominable Snowmen has a flavour to me that I can
identify, you know what I mean? I remember going to get it,
and I was reading The Daemons at the time and I couldn't
wait to finish it so I could start The Abominable Snowmen.
particularly always used to laud it over me because she had
seen it since the beginning, and she'd say "Oh yeah, I
remember that one". You'd go "Oh God!"
the Target ones are something I think we all go through as fans.
My brother and I both used to scour the bookshops for them.
We'd take a batch of them and devour them in an hour and a half
Yeah, I mean
I never read, I've never gone back to one.
Not since I was a kid, but I can remember - the first one I
got was The Three Doctors, I remember everything about
it, the beautiful orange cover, the Chris Achelios drawing and
everything and I
it was magic. That story has such a special
place for me in my heart. Mostly because of the book, because
of what it meant to me.
Oh, its funny