The loss of Gallifrey has been one of the defining story points for the modern era of Doctor Who. We’ve so far seen three different incarnations of the Doctor — played by Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith, respectively — each of whom was haunted by his actions during the Time War and the resulting destruction of his homeworld and people. That changed in a major way during the one-two punch of last year’s The Day of the Doctor and The Time of the Doctor, but even though the Doctor has changed history and saved Gallifrey, one Who writer doesn’t think the show should be in any hurry to get to the homecoming.
Mark Gatiss co-created Sherlock with Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat, and he has penned a half-dozen episodes of modern Who, including “The Unquiet Dead,” “A Good Man Goes to War,” and “The Crimson Horror.” He’s also a name that comes up often when people start speculating about who might take over as Who boss when Moffat steps down. During a recent Q&A in Brazil, Gatiss addressed the subject of whether the Doctor would be returning home for a victory lap anytime soon:
Every time you go back to Gallifrey, it starts to make the Time Lords a bit too domesticated. I know that’s why Russell T Davies came up with the whole idea of the Doctor being the last one because eventually if you see them so often they become a bit like a bunch of MPs, whereas if you talk about them as this amazing, powerful force, they’re much more exciting.
I have to agree on this one. The Time Lords and Gallifrey are far more compelling when they’re being spoken of in hushed whispers, or in one of Tennant’s great speeches about his memories of his homeworld. While they’re being kept at a distance, it’s easier to envision them as a force of nature, ancient and powerful. But when they actually step into the foreground…well, we get Timothy Dalton in a bathrobe. While I think giving the Doctor a new ongoing purpose — to try and find the safe but AWOL Gallifrey — was a great turn for the show, that reality is much more effective as a long-term goal than an immediate reality.
Following up on his comments, Gatiss was asked if he personally would be interested in writing another story involving Gallifrey. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t sound eager to leap into that particular fray:
I don’t know if I would want to do one. I think the way the Time Lords were represented in The End of Time and The Day of the Doctor was very exciting because we’re seeing them in a crisis and they’re trying to come up with different ways of saving themselves. But I suppose if the Doctor ever does find Gallifrey again, then we might find out more. Who knows…
Having resolved the calamitous fate of Gallifrey, I can’t imagine Moffat is going to be eager to send the Doctor back there anytime soon. After all, he’s said his goal with The Day and Time of the Doctor was to set the show up for another 50 years. By granting the Doctor another set of regenerations and letting him fix his great mistake during the Time War, he’s done precisely that. But I think actually finding Gallifrey again shouldn’t happen until a long way down the road. Maybe for the 100th anniversary. Just ask Kal-El — sometimes your homeworld is a lot more powerful a symbol when you can’t just pop back for a visit whenever you want.