Short thoughts on Doctor Who, disc by disc (Originally published June 2012)
Tonight’s soundtrack: Don McLean, “American Pie”
Were I ever, I don’t know, say, trapped on a spaceship plummeting simultaneously toward a really sturdy-looking planet and backward through time, and the only way to escape involved making a dour space emperor laugh and realize life could also contain joy, I’d say, “No problem. Get me the DVD of Earthshock. We’ll show Emperor Melancholialien the bits in the documentary where Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss imitate Adric and the Cyber Leader.”
I don’t know if you’ve seen the performances in my escape plan, but they are gold. This is pre-2005, and neither Gatiss nor Moffat likely know they’ll ever be working on Doctor Who, much less running the show and launching internationally successful mystery programs together. At this point they’re television professionals who can talk about Doctor Who memories with genuine affection to a camera without drooling or causing seizures. Being known for comedies, they play to their strengths and go for laughs. Easy targets, and hardly original observations, but when intercut with the original footage, Moffat and Gatiss… man, that’s the stuff.
It’s the accuracy that makes it genuinely funny and not just “Remember when that guy did a thing like this?” The timing and the body language reveal that “ACTOR & AUTHOR” and “TV & FILM SCRIPTWRITER” are super super huge nerds.
These aren’t guys who just saw Earthshock once and got some prompts from the documentary producer. They didn’t just watch Earthshock dozens of times on home-recorded tapes. No, what these keenly observed little recreations from Moffat and Gatiss tell us is this: these are guys who have done this before. This is practiced. They act out moments from Doctor Who, on their own and for no pay, and now the world knows it.