Michelle Gomez: Doctor Who’s women are a force to reckon with…

As Doctor Who returns, Michelle Gomez – who plays foe Missy – on how Dickens was her Harry Potter, Peter Capaldi's farewell and the search for the next Time Lord

The Big Issue: We haven’t seen you in Doctor Who since 2015 – will you be the one to bring down Peter Capaldi’s Time Lord?

Michelle Gomez: I have always operated well under a cloak of ignorance! I never really know what is going on but that seems to work well for me. There is only so much you can take in because the history of Doctor Who goes back more than 50 years. The real fans are the ones I really admire – along with Steven Moffat – because they are able to join the dots. Everything is connected, so it is a massive palette of colours to play with.

There are quite a few classic monsters this series.

I’ve never been described as a classic monster before, how dare you!

But does a series featuring Daleks, Mondasian Cybermen and Ice Warriors add pressure on you to make Missy the baddest of them all?

The thing about Missy is that she doesn’t care. You can bring on as many Daleks and Cybermen as you like, she just doesn’t care. She has this ridiculous sense of self that only the finest narcissists of this world can really appreciate. She is so fab and ridiculous. I would hope to have another job at some point but I will never get another one quite like this. I don’t know, maybe it is this face – I’m destined to play witches and bitches until the day I die.

I’m destined to play witches and bitches until the day I die

There was talk of younger viewers switching off during the last run.

I am still on the school run and that is not what I am finding. It is very interesting turning up as The Master. Always fun! It is not for toddlers but any child with a bright spark and imagination is going to get a lot out of it. But it does not patronise its audience, it expects the audience to be right there with it on intellect and creativity and imagination. You have to keep up, and if you don’t, well, you miss out!

Doctor Who star Michelle Gomez as Missy.

What do you think is the show’s importance, particularly to younger viewers?

It is one of the only shows on TV the whole family can share. It goes back over generations, and with that comes a real richness – nostalgia, romance, poetry, and all the beautiful things you will find on the pages of a wonderful book. That is what we are all part of, this massive modern-day version of an entire family lying under the stars making up stories, telling them to one another. That is what it inspires.

Dickens for me was perhaps what Harry Potter is for kids now. A rich, wonderful world that takes you somewhere else

When did you get the storytelling bug yourself?

Reading as enjoyment comes to children at different ages. I was about 12 when I realised it was not a chore. I don’t come from a family of readers. So becoming an actress actually exposed me and I got into a world of words, and that is the world I operate in now. Becoming an actress became my education, ultimately.

Which books drew you into that world?

Dickens for me at that time was perhaps what Harry Potter is for kids now. A rich, vivid, wonderful world that takes you somewhere else. Your mind is blown open, that is the most important thing, we get to experience the world out there without even having to get on a bus.

Is our libraries and literacy campaign one The Master and The Doctor could come together on? Peter Capaldi is already on board.

I thoroughly support libraries giving the opportunity to those of us that perhaps don’t get to go to the best schools or don’t get the best of the best. All you need is a good book and you are in a whole new world.There isn’t an easier, more affordable way to get out of your own head and into the world of others. So I thoroughly support the written word and I would love to get behind that cause if possible.

The new series trailer calls this “A Time for Heroes” – where are you looking for heroes at the moment?

I tell you who my heroes are – people who have challenging times and somehow find time to help others. People who do stuff for others but don’t have to shout about it, that always blows my mind. It is people being their best selves – and I am still reaching for that. It is my hope at the moment that we all find time to be a little gentler, and a bit kinder.

I couldn’t have wished for a finer Doctor than Peter Capaldi. He is one of the best we’ve ever had

You’ve made history, as the first female Master. Could Peter Capaldi’s replacement be a woman?

Of course. Absolutely. But it has to be the best man/woman for the job. We are in exciting times, and will see what direction we go in next. But we have Rachel Talalay directing, I’m playing the first female Time Lord in the Master form, there are some great female writers this year, we have a fantastic female line producer. It is always about the best person for the job regardless of gender.

How do you feel about Peter Capaldi leaving?

Part of this business is knowing when to quit. I couldn’t have wished for a finer Doctor. He is one of the best we’ve ever had. I believe his gravitas. I believe that he is The Doctor. He has such a beauty about him, in the way he conducts himself as The Doctor, and he is so gracious and dignified. At some point we all have to go, I suppose. Including me. I am very much like a dog – I deal with what is right in front of my nose. And at the moment, Peter is still The Doctor and I am still The Master!

Doctor Who returns on April 15 to BBC One