The Live Doctor Who Episode That Was Never Made
The World Doesn't End Because the Doctor Dances
According to a new interview with Mark Gatiss at Paris Comic Con, there could have been a live action Doctor Who episode, if 2005 to 2010 showrunner Russell T. Davies had followed through with the idea. Of course, the idea for a Tennant-era live episode never took off, and now we are left to contemplate what could have been.
Gatiss claims that he remembers Davies suggesting a live episode, like television shows from ER to 30 Rock have pulled off, while David Tennant was the Doctor. However, given the difficulty of attempting to pull together all the show’s science fiction elements live, including the Doctor’s confusing, wibbly-wobbly techno-babble, Davies gave up on the idea.
I seem to remember Russell harbouring a desire to do a live Doctor Who. ‘Forty-five minutes to save the world!’ I remember David [Tennant] blanching when he was telling me about it, even though we’d done The Quatermass Experiment… It’s possible. It would probably have to be a very contained thing where the Doctor was trying to get out of a lift or something.
Both David Tennant and Mark Gatiss appeared in The Quartermass Experiment, a live 2005 re-staging of the 1953 science-fiction classic, so they did have experience on the acting side of live science fiction. It seems, however, that a live action episode would not only be extremely difficult for David Tennant, with all the complicated, long lines the Doctor generally has, but would also be a bottle episode. Of course, Doctor Who can do almost anything in the universe, story-wise. I can easily imagine an episode like season 4’s terrifying “Midnight” live, but the idea still seems a bit impractical. As for another popular television show that Gatiss is involved with, Sherlock, the response is essentially the same. When asked by Blogter Who about a live action Sherlock, clocking in at the 90 minutes that is typical of the show, Gatiss quickly replied,
Ooof, not for Sherlock! I’m going grey just at the prospect!… Absolutely not.
Sherlock, much like Doctor Who, has a heavy amount of technical or fast-paced dialogue for the leads to deliver, and at 90 minutes, stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman would definitely have a lot of work to do. Plus, with all the texting and location changes in Sherlock, a live episode would be just as difficult as a live Doctor Who episode, but longer.
Sherlock, with three movie-length episodes per season, should probably just focus on giving us the next three. A television show like Doctor Who, on the other hand, has uncountable episodes to try out new formats and stories, and could certainly pull off a live episode, with a lot of work. If this idea ever pans out in a future show runner’s hands, the results would, at the very least, be quite unusual, even for such an unusual show. For now, we can imagine what a live David Tennant episode would have been like.
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