"I haven’t been in Paris since the Massacre of the Huguenots" jokes Mark Gatiss, as he steps through the massive, roundel-covered doors of the First Doctor’s TARDIS "Or was it 1979?".
It’s a muggy July afternoon, and we’re standing in the deafeningly loud convention hall of Paris Comic-Con, where the exquisite replica of the original console room, recreated for An Adventure in Space and Time has received its first public viewing. For those less-well versed in pre-2005 Doctor Who, Mark’s Parisian quips refer to the events of 1966 adventure The Massacre of St Bartholemew’s Eve, and the series’ first overseas filming trip in the French capital for City of Death in 1979.
For writer and executive producer Mark Gatiss, the creation of An Adventure in Space and Time has been "long dreamed of" – initially pitched for Doctor Who’s 40th anniversary in 2003. David Bradley, Jessica Raine, Brian Cox and Sacha Dhawan star, but another undeniable star of the 90-minute drama is the breathtakingly realised console room – which Mark was kind enough to give us a tour around.
Although he’s been working on the drama for some time, Mark still seems to find a huge, childish excitement in the prop. As he clambers under the barrier, he yells "It’s all mine!", to the hilarity of the crowd of Sonic-waving fans. Do not underestimate the power of roundels, ping pong balls and peppermint green paint (the correct shade, painstakingly sourced using an old BBC design book).
"Incredibly, this console contains a portion of the ashes of Bernard Wilkie" grins Mark ghouslishly, jabbing his index finger onto a pair of Dymo labels on the console that bear the words "BERNARD WILKIE" and "1920-2002". Wilkie was a pioneer in visual effects at the BBC, working on shows as diverse as Quatermass and Monty Python – and, of course, Doctor Who.
Beyond fitting memorials, the console is "recreated in impeccable detail". There’s the misread radiation detector from the end of An Unearthly Child, dials and gauges in Megacycles and Phase Shifts, and a twinkling "Year-ometer".
The accuracy even extends to the myriad flickering bulbs, with Mark joking that they were hot enough to burn one’s hand (as Frazer Hines [Jamie] does in The Web of Fear episode one). The console’s minder later tells me they’ve now been replaced with safer and more energy efficient LEDs.
Mark’s own childhood memories of the Third Doctor seem to shine through, when he spots a favourite console gadget. "Most importantly, these are the things that Jon Pertwee leans on when he revives himself in Planet of the Daleks!" he exclaims, leaning Pertwee-style, on the telepathic circuits and sending a quick message to the Time Lords.
We leave Mark adjusting the lateral balance cones. "I can never remember which is the door switch" he confesses. After a short search, Mark finds it. "Ah yes" he Hartnells, grabbing his lapels and flicking the control. "That is it!".
Hear more from Mark Gatiss about filming An Adventure in Space and Time in our interview.
Watch An Adventure in Space and Time:
UK - 9pm, Thursday 21 November on BBC Two
US - 9pm ET/PT, Friday 22 November on BBC America
Australia - 8.50pm, Sunday 24 November on ABC1
New Zealand - 5.50pm, Saturday 23 November on UKTV
Canada - 9e/6p, Friday 22 November on Space