We are all shaped by our hero figures. Through their actions, be they fictional or real, they provide a barometer by which we measure our own standing. They can inspire us both in our lives and in our work – that goes double when you just so happen to be writing dialogue for your hero too.
Mark Gatiss, writer of Sleep No More as well as former League of Gentleman cohort and Sherlock co-creator, has sat down with the Radio Times to discuss just how his own moral code has been shaped by the Doctor. Speaking passionately about the ratings furore which has been the dominant conversation this series, Gatiss said the show should return to its traditional tea time slot.
“Put it on at a proper time, put it on where it should be, when Pointless Celebrities is on,” he said. “That’s where it belongs, otherwise you are almost perversely cutting off your key audience, which is children.”
And there’s a personal reason why it should be returned to that slot.
“I learnt my entire moral code from Jon Pertwee [the Doctor, 1970–74], and also what TV still should be about, which is a very Reithian thing,” he said. “I learnt so much from TV in the best kind of osmotic way. I absorbed morality, I absorbed a kind of scepticism and enjoyment of story, and oddness, and narrative. These days it’s so hard to get those things through; it’s almost become a dirty word to say ‘culture’. Education should be so much more than getting a good job.”
It’s this blinkered results driven culture that seemingly drives the conversation about ratings too.
“The ratings system is insane and iniquitous. I’ve seen grown men crying because their show got 6.3 million [viewers] instead of a hoped-for 6.5. They make a difference to a person’s career.”
But having listened to the ‘ten year low’ overnight ratings headlines, Gatiss is having none of it.
“This is nuts. Everybody watches television in a different way from the way they did four, five years ago. Yet the people who make a fuss about overnights are the same people who go home and watch TV in an entirely different way.
“That’s the modern world we live in and I’m not being defensive, but when you add everything together – time-shifting, plus iPlayer – [Doctor Who’s] ratings are the same as they ever were. But there is no capital in saying ‘Doctor Who’s ratings remain roughly the same’, so people make a story out of it.”
Even the ever-present Great British Bake Off with its year high total of 15 million viewers, cannot change his mind about the built in obsolescence of overnight ratings.
“Those episodes of Bake Off or The X Factor, and their virtues are manifest, will never be watched again. Yet Doctor Who will be watched in 50 years’ time, 100 years’ time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I love things to be popular, I want things to be watched, but this sort of scrutiny is deadly.”
You can read more about Mark Gatiss’ career, his childhood and his love of horror over at the Radio Times.