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Neil Gaiman Discusses His Contribution To Doctor Who’s TARDIS & Its Dislike Of Clara

BBC America invited The Mary Sue on a very special press conference call with Neil Gaiman in advance of his Doctor Who episode this weekend. “Nightmare in Silver” is the prolific author’s return to the show as well as the return of the Cybermen. While we were thrilled to hear him speak about his new ideas and the experience writing the episode (it’s a fun one!), we were very curious to know what his thoughts were on Clara’s seemingly troubled relationship with the TARDIS. 

Gaiman won a Hugo Award for “The Doctor’s Wife,” his first Doctor Who episode. It featured the TARDIS taking humanoid form and giving the Doctor a much-needed talking to. But if you’ve been watching Season 7B, you might have noticed the TARDIS giving some extra sass, particularly to new Companion, Clara.

The Mary Sue: The TARDIS was certainly always an entity before you gave it form and life in your last episode of Doctor Who, and I feel like in this half of the season specifically we’ve heard both the Doctor and Clara talk about the TARDIS more as if it was a person. Specifically a person who doesn’t care for Clara whereas she actually talks to it and some of the other companions didn’t do that. I was wondering what your thoughts were on how the TARDIS has been used since you gave it a voice and a person.

Neil Gaiman: You know, I don’t really think I did bring much…I grew up definitely considering the TARDIS a character in Doctor Who and the only really constant, not just companion, but character. In some ways more consistently there even than the Doctor because the TARDIS didn’t really change the way that it looks. It was still this wonderful blue box that was bigger on the inside, even if the inside has changed a little. And from a very early episode, I think it was called “Edge of Destruction,” it was obvious the TARDIS was sentient. I used to love the way that the Doctor would talk to the TARDIS and call her “old girl,” and things like that. So, when I wrote “The Doctor’s Wife,” I didn’t think that I was doing anything particularly, either odd or out of canon, or anything like that in giving the TARDIS a personality.  And I think in truth, the TARDIS, you know, people playing on that and going, “Ok well…” I think mostly what I did was remind people that the TARDIS is also a living entity. If they’d forgotten.

As to the Clara business, Gaiman told us: “I love the idea of a TARDIS who doesn’t particularly like a Companion, just in the same way that there were Companions…Leela springs to mind, the old Tom Baker Companion after whom the character on Futurama was named, who the TARDIS really liked. It was always sort of part of the script, for reasons never adequately explained, the TARDIS liked Leela a lot.  So if she doesn’t like Clara [pause] that’s something that may or may not ever be explained, it may get deeper, it may not. But I like that. I like the fact that the TARDIS is a character.”

I mentioned the pause Gaiman gave only because it sounded to me as if he knew a secret he wasn’t supposed to tell and was trying to figure out a way not to tell it. Either way, I feel the writer is being far too humble about his Doctor Who contributions. Tune in this weekend to see his next contribution when the Cybermen return in “Nightmare in Silver.” The episode features guest stars Jason Watkins (Being Human UK) and Warwick Davis (Harry Potter).

Previously in Doctor Who

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  • Mandy Curtis

    I first read the headline of this article ” … & his dislike of Clara.” My feelings are obviously coloring things.

  • kai charles

    I wonder if the Tardis is picking up on the stress Clara is causing the Doctor? It’s his own mind that is making Clara an issue but maybe the Tardis doesn’t like it. I often felt that the Doctor and the Tardis resonate each others emotions.

  • Anonymous

    In fairness, how could you not like Leela? She was badass.

    Although she did marry a Time Lord… guess that didn’t pan out so well. :(

  • Cynthia Massmann

    I had the thought that is had something to do with Clara impossibility. Since she seems to span across time, perhaps the Tardis has a problem with that.

  • Travis Fischer

    Agreed. It seems like they’re building off the same concept of the TARDIS not being able to stand Captain Jack.

  • John Sharp

    Not a fan of Clara, then? I’m very keen on Jenny and Vastra. Positive gay characters whose queerness isn’t their defining characteristic. Clara seems pretty bland in comparison :)

  • Hannele Kormano

    And Old&Badass!Amy.

  • Mandy Curtis

    Not really, no, and it makes me sad. It’s just that with each passing episode I find her less interesting (even though we’re supposed to think she’s mysterious) and annoyingly entitled (I’m not sure that’s quite the right word) with her relations with the Doctor. (e.g., I wanted to punch her for that “I’m the boss” quip at the end of the last episode.)

    I’m totally on board for a Madame Vastra/Jenny/Strax spinoff.

  • John Sharp

    I love this site. A comments section where people are nice and make sense :D