Mark Gatiss has written more episodes that most for the modern series of Doctor Who. The Sherlock co-creator has been lucky enough to pen eight instalments across the ten seasons so far, with at least one story each for all four modern Doctors. However, there was one episode that got away from him.
As revealed in the latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine (via DoctorWho.TV), Gatiss was originally set to write one more story for David Tennant’s Doctor. Scheduled for 2008’s season 4, it was to be titled “The Suicide Exhibition.” The episode was on “the verge of production” but was eventually swapped out for “The Fires of Pompeii,” a hugely important instalment to the overall arc that featured guest roles for future Doctor Who stars Peter Capaldi and Karen Gillan.
Here’s how Gatiss described the episode’s core idea:
“The title came from this thing I was reading about how, in the First World War, they were evacuating stuff from museums to various Welsh museums. All this precious stuff, they hid in places like salt mines. But what they had in both World Wars was this amazing thing called the Suicide Exhibition. People still needed stuff to see, for spiritual succour. So if they had 300,000 Anglo Saxon pots, they just put some of them out that they could afford to lose! If a bomb fell, it wouldn’t matter, because they had loads of them.”
After his initial draft, the showrunner at the time, Russel T. Davies, encouraged him to dial up the Indiana Jones influence to make it a proper wartime adventure:
“After the first draft, Russell said, ‘Let’s make it the Nazis and do the full Indiana Jones on it.’ The whole museum was a puzzle box of sliding doors and traps and stuff.”
Though you might expect him to be upset about this lost episode, Gatiss isn’t cut up about how things played out:
“I would’ve liked to have done it, but it was not to be!”
Mark Gatiss can be seen in this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special as a mysterious character currently only known as “The Captain.”