Neil Gaiman participated in a press call on Wednesday, which I was fortunate to attend, to talk about his upcoming story “Nightmare in Silver”. Since his call was loaded with spoilers I found it safer to post this after the story aired. We found out a lot like William Hartnell's Doctor scared him as a kid, He really enjoys writing for Doctor Who and that Patrick Troughton is his favorite Doctor. Here are some of the highlights from that press call.
First off he explains how the story a Nightmare In Silver came about.
Well, they began - the entire episode began with an email from Steven Moffat which was a sequence of emails. The first one saying, you know, would I like to write another Doctor Who episode following on from “The Doctor’s Wife?” And me writing back and saying I really didn’t have time and life was just completely mental and I was sorry.
And then him writing back and saying, you know, if I could find time somehow, he’d really like it if I made the Cybermen scary again. And that one got to me because when I was a kid, I was a huge Patrick Troughton fan. Patrick Troughton was my Doctor.
So I started thinking, well actually, I loved the design of the clanky, clanky theme punk Cybermen but I know that their time is coming up and wouldn’t it be fun to actually see if I can make them more scary.
After that, I think I originally proposed doing it in a fairground like something in the 1950s because I knew that would be really fun. I just loved the idea of doing it on an English beach with Cybermen coming up out of the sea, millions of them and crunching over the pebbles and being that that was kind of not really going to work budget-wise anyway.
And after that, the idea of the Doctor playing chess was there from the very beginning. The idea of a chess playing machine with somebody hiding inside it was there from the very beginning. Originally - and I knew that I wanted a conversation between the cyber planet the Doctor and that the key thing while everything else was going on and while Clara was keeping everybody alive and stuff, there was going to be a chess game.
But it wasn’t until I was actually writing it - I was probably 15 or 20 pages into the script - that I suddenly thought actually Matt is a good enough actor that I could have him do both sides of the chess game.
And that would be fun. So instead of sitting there playing a rather talkative Cyberman, which was my original plan, he’s going to be playing himself. And at the moment I thought that everything just sort of opened up and suddenly there was a story.
And I got to do all this ridiculously fun stuff and have too much fun and then watch Matt have too much fun while he was shooting it and watch Matt get very, very sweary because, of course, it hadn’t occurred to me that I
Then he goes into depth talking about The Cybermen and how in a Nightmare in Silver they seem a little bit like The Borg and talks about taking back that mantel from Star Trek.
One of my great embarrassed admissions, and I have very few, but one of my biggest is while I have seen every episode of the original Star Trek many times and could quote you the entirety of“ The Trouble with Tribbles,” with my eyes closed, I think the next generation happened during a period that I was moving from the UK to the US and for a bunch of - for a big sort of wedge of that time, had no access to television because we were too far out in the country.
And so I kind of missed it. It happened in the background and I didn’t actually ever get to watch it and sort of started catching up again with television with Babylon 5 mostly because I was asked to write an episode.
So I missed the Borg. And actually only really - I mean, given that was way in the background. So I suspect this is more a case of a certain amount of parallel evolution.
And - but I would love to reclaim the cybernetic (menace) crown and also, you know, one of the things that I loved about doing this was creating the Cybermites. I remembered, as a child, hearing that the Cybermats were actually based on silverfish.
And I remember looking at these little silverfish and they looked kind of metallic. I thought, “These things are weird. What are they? Maybe they’re metal. Maybe they’re tiny robots.”
So the idea of creating a whole bunch of Cybermites and then, you know, having them colonize your face and colonize your brand and stuff was kind of fun. In my original conception of the Cyber Doctor, the sort of weird statuary that covers his face was very obviously made up of frozen Cybermites. But that wasn’t actually the way that the designers went, so I think they wanted something more Borg like as it was.
Then he was asked if there was anything in Doctor Who he would like to write for next like The Daleks or any other Doctor Who villain.
I’d love to create a monster, really like to create a monster. It’d have to be one that’s interesting enough or fun enough to come back written by somebody else or turn up completely reinvented or whatever. I’d love to do that, a feeling that you’d actually left something behind.
I love that Terry Nation left us the Daleks. And I love that Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis left us the Cybermen. In my head, I love that the Great Intelligence has come back but I miss the Yeti. I would love huge, shambling, robotic Yeti just because I loved him when I was a kid.
So, yes, I’d love to do that. That would be wonderful. The trouble with everything these days, for me, is time. There is only one me. There’re a ridiculous number of demands on my time. There’re so many things I’m trying to do and, you know, it’s so much more when I’m going to get time to do this, if I get time. I think they’ll have me back. They seem to like me at Doctor Who and I know I definitely like them.
He talks about making The Cybermen scary again and hopes someone else will take these new Cybermen and runs with them somewhere down the line.
I wanted the Cybermen to be much more silent than they actually are and the only noise we would ever hear from them was the point where they pump their chests and stuff like that, but I got so many of the things that I wanted and really I’m starting to feel like, okay, somebody else can now come along and take these Cybermen.
We have a new costume. We have a new look. We have something much, much, much more dangerous and the point where one of these things shows up again, I think people will be a lot more worried than they are currently about the old sort of Cybermen.
And I thought, well, Cybermen, you know, they talk about upgrading. Let’s watch them upgrade. What would an upgraded Cyberman do? I thought, oh, one of the things it would do is move pretty fast.
I loved the idea of a Cyberman that was essentially so dangerous that if you find one on your planet, you blow up the planet. You know, planets are expendable but a Cyberman, if you can’t destroy it immediately, is not.
You know, it’s going to be very, very hard to destroy. It’s incredibly dangerous and I don’t know. If I ever get back and do another Cyberman story, I would probably do something much more about what it’s like to deal with a Cyberman, what these new Cybermen are like and why you’d blow them up.
Neil Gainman finishes off talking about his experience with Doctor Who and who his favorite Doctor is when he was growing up and I found his answer to be quite interesting as he truly is a fan of the show and shares a lot of the memories that a lot of us fans must have had when we were growing up and it is actually pretty neat that he did also.
Well, I think the thing - you know, it would be hard to actually answer that completely rationally because you’re talking about the Doctor who was the Doctor for me between the ages of sort of age 6 and age 10.
And - or, yes. When did “The War Games” go out? Probably 9. I think 6 and 9. And that Doctor was - he was the Doctor for me. He was quirky, small, funny, slightly on the edge. Everybody always underestimated him because he seemed to be a little bit goofy while the things he went up against were huge and terrifying and he would win somehow. And there was always a cost, and he didn’t always win cleanly.
There was a weird feeling here that things were big and complicated and the Doctor didn’t really know it all but he was the Doctor who I would’ve wanted to go off in the TARDIS with.
I wouldn’t have wanted to go off with William Hartnell. He scared me. And I wouldn’t really have wanted to go off with Jon Pertwee because I didn’t have a miniskirt and I wasn’t old enough and I think you needed to be sort of, you know, somebody who could be pretty and ride around in an old car next to him in order to be a proper companion for him.
And by the time Tom Baker came along, I was just too old to fantasize about going off in the TARDIS with Tom Baker, although I think, you know, going off in the TARDIS with Tom Baker would be a wonderful, wonderful thing.
So for me, it was always Patrick Troughton. He was the one that I wanted to travel with and I loved the feeling back then that events have consequences and that some of those consequences are going to be lethal.