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In The Picture - The Gentleman Who Wants To Be A Lord (2004)

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LEAGUE Of Gentlemen star Mark Gatiss would have loved to have been the new Doctor Who. But it was not meant to be. Instead, he's written for the new BBC1 series.

This isn't the first brush of the County Durham-born actor and writer with the Time Lord. He wrote several Doctor Who books in the 1990s and one is a favourite of Queer As Folk writer Russell T Davies, who's leading the writing team on the TV revival.

"Doctor Who was my first book published and it never goes away. Russell says it's his favourite Doctor Who story, " says Gatiss on the phone from Ireland, where the award-winning League Of Gentlemen are shooting their first feature film.

His novels featured three Doctors - Sylvester McCoy, Patrick Troughton and his favourite, Jon Pertwee. The new TV series will differ from the one fondly remembered by fans. "The thing to bear in mind is Doctor Who was not a cult programme until its dying years. It was a mass audience programme watched by ten million every week, " Gatiss reminds me.

"The key to the success of the new show is that it's trying to appeal to a broad audience. It may p*** off some old fans but that's a good thing. If it only addresses itself to old style fans, it's not succeeded. It has to appeal to a ten-year-old kid that's not heard of it.

"All these years, people have been saying, 'Wouldn't it be great if Doctor Who came back?' but those scenarios were played out in an imaginary world.

Now in the real world it has to compete against Ant And Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway."

He's confident that new Doctor Who Christopher Ecclestone is "absolutely committed to the role in a wonderful way" and is "a new version of the doctor we haven't seen before".

Gatiss has written the third episode in the series, which abandons the four or six parters of the past in favour of single or two-part adventures. His story introduces writer Charles Dickens (played by Simon Callow) into the world of the Time Lord.

"It's a totally different format. That was a big change in mindset, having grown up with four or six part cliffhangers, " he says. "The new series is for modern TV and, to be honest, it really benefits because it goes at such a lick."

He spent two days on the set but resisted asking to make a guest appearance. "I'm waiting for my proper part, " he jokes about his continued desire to play Who.

Gatiss couldn't hang around any longer because he was needed in Ireland as filming began on The League Of Gentlemen feature film. Compared to many British movies, it's got in front of the cameras comparatively swiftly.

"We've been living with the script for 18 months and the financing of a film is a nightmare situation. We've had a few ups and downs. But it's working out. It's amazing what a difference it makes when you are finally in production. It's a low budget film but tremendously ambitious, " he says.

A day off from filming was spent doing publicity for his new novel, The Vesuvius Club, about the exploits of an Edwardian secret agent. It was commissioned three years ago and he's been writing it in tandem with The League's film since then.

"John Jarrold, who's a fan of the show and had read some of my Doctor Who books, took me to lunch and said the terrifying words, 'Whatever you want to write', " he recalls.

"It's very nice but ultimately very frightening. I didn't know what to do but, at the back of my mind, I'd always fancied doing a secret agent story. I'm a big fan of John Buchan.

"I thought at first it might be quite a hard book like Fleming's, but that changed. I didn't want anyone to think I had any serious literary aspirations.

I wanted to write the book I always want to take on holiday but never quite find."

Enter Lucifer Box, a portrait painter who's a wit, a dandy, a rake and the guest all hostesses (and a few hosts) want to have. He also happens to be His Majesty's most accomplished and daring secret agent, a deducer and seducer of the highest order.

As you read The Vesuvius Club, you can visualise the TV drama or film that could be made from his book. Gatiss rather fancies seeing it as a four-part BBC serial. Time will tell if that happens.

"It was fun but also an ordeal, like all writing is. There were times I cursed and times I was having such a good time, " he says.

"The Edwardian period is my favourite time. I was brought up on Holmes and Fu Manchu, so I just used my book as an excuse to read even more stuff and completely immerse myself in it.

"But I did the thing I wasn't supposed to do - I got so excited and started writing before I had fully thrashed out the plot. In the end I had to get rid of stuff that I quite liked."

He's contracted to do more Lucifer Box books. He'd like to move him on 20 years and do a Dennis Wheatley, early 1930s-style book which would give him "a whole new cartload of things to have fun with".

He hasn't been neglecting his acting, playing a curate in one of the new ITV1 Miss Marple whodunits, The Murder At The Vicarage. Gatiss also has a part in the new film Woody Allen made in London during the summer. His scene involved playing table tennis with hot Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson.

"Whether that will survive the edit, I don't know, " he says.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Pratt, Steve (2004-11-13). In The Picture - The Gentleman Who Wants To Be A Lord. The Northern Echo p. 11.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Pratt, Steve. "In The Picture - The Gentleman Who Wants To Be A Lord." The Northern Echo [add city] 2004-11-13, 11. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Pratt, Steve. "In The Picture - The Gentleman Who Wants To Be A Lord." The Northern Echo, edition, sec., 2004-11-13
  • Turabian: Pratt, Steve. "In The Picture - The Gentleman Who Wants To Be A Lord." The Northern Echo, 2004-11-13, section, 11 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=In The Picture - The Gentleman Who Wants To Be A Lord | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/In_The_Picture_-_The_Gentleman_Who_Wants_To_Be_A_Lord | work=The Northern Echo | pages=11 | date=2004-11-13 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 November 2017 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=In The Picture - The Gentleman Who Wants To Be A Lord | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/In_The_Picture_-_The_Gentleman_Who_Wants_To_Be_A_Lord | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 November 2017}}</ref>