Do you know, you’ve gone through this whole interview for SFX and you haven’t asked me if I’m going to write an episode of Doctor Who!
It was on the bottom of my list of questions – I was nearly there! I was laughing about what you said on your blog about how you rang the Visa people and they asked you about it...
I couldn’t believe that! I rang up and they said, “So you’re Neil Gaiman.” I said, “Yes.” “THE Neil Gaiman?” “Yes...” And this was the day after it was announced that I’d be writing Batman. So he says, “So, are you going to be writing...” and I thought he was going to say Batman, “an episode of Doctor Who?”
What did you say?
I told him, “When I was asked that last week at a bookstore signing I said, ‘That would be nice,’ and that they should ask Steven Moffat, who was coming out to Comic Con the following day. The following day at Comic Con Steven Moffat fronted a panel, and a girl asked him, ‘Neil Gaiman told me to ask you if he would be writing an episode of Doctor Who,’ and Steven Moffat said, “I can absolutely confirm that that would be nice.’”
So it’s a nice thought, if that’s not too much of an understatement.
Having said that... the amount of stress I’ve suddenly gone into on this Batman thing, where I was quietly writing my thing and now all across the internet it’s “ZOMG Neil Gaiman is writing Batman! Oh my god this is the best thing in the whole universe!” And I’m kind of like, “I’m trying to get this to work right now, and you’re not making it any easier by all going ‘OMG this is amazing!’” So I can now actually see a universe in which if I DID get to write an episode I think I would probably try to write it first, before I actually let anybody know it was being written.
Yes, that is a lot of pressure... And Who fans are very opinionated! I think you’d be perfect to do it, though.
In many ways, while I don’t think of Neverwhere as being Doctor Who-y, it’s true to say that when I was doing the character of the Marquis, I was definitely going for a ‘how would I do Doctor Who’ vibe. One of the things I still remember as a kid about William Hartnell – this is as a tiny, tiny kid – was that I was never sure which way he was going to jump. And a lot of it went back to the thing that he does in the first ever Dalek story where it’s dangerous and they are on Skaro surrounded by radiation and he wants to know what this place is and all the others don’t, and so he breaks the TARDIS. Intentionally. And there was a loveliness to that, in that as a kid I thought, “He’s not entirely trustworthy.”
I think Tennant’s brought that to him; he’s very skittish, you never quite know what he’s going to do next.
You don’t, although I think from Troughton onwards there was definitely the feeling with the Doctor where you knew he’d always come out on the side of good. But you weren’t sure what he’d do. And I liked that. So that’s what I was trying to get in there with the Marquis. My one little Doctor Who reference. Although then again that was done 15 years ago... there’s an essay of mine that I put up from 2002, 2003 as an introduction to a Doctor Who book and there’s a line where I say, “It’s probably good that they never let me get my hands on Doctor Who. I would have un-happened so much.” And people have taken that to mean, “Oh, he would have been really bad at continuity.” But what I meant by that was that the main thing I would have done would have been get the plethora of Time Lords out of the world and make him unique again. And that’s the one thing that made me so happy the moment the Christopher Eccleston series happened.
It’s certainly more interesting than him being a fugitive.
A fugitive could have worked, but at this point Gallifrey had become a place where retired Shakespearean actors in silly costumes were kind of hanging out. I never got a sense, ever, of what they did there, apart from wear funny hats. And have useless guards! They were like Vogon guards!
They were particularly crap, weren’t they?
You’re going, “You are a fucking Time Lord! You are a master of space and time and your only job is to lock the Doctor’s assistant in this little room and you are going to fuck it up!” My suspension of disbelief always broke whenever we went to Gallifrey.
It was rubbish. You wanted Gallifrey to be the most amazing planet in the universe and it was always this white room with wobbly walls. And you’re right, they did wear funny hats.
They did. I love that Gallifrey has now moved into the realm of myth.
It has. It’s like Atlantis or Camelot.
The lost place you cannot get back to, and that’s wonderful. So what will probably happen is that I will write an episode of Doctor Who one day and bring back Gallifrey. It’ll depend on all sorts of things – the BBC, Steven Moffat and me and time. But along with Mr Moffat, I can absolutely confirm, as I did with the gentleman at Visa, that it would be nice.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is available now from Bloomsbury Publishing.