AMONG many sci-fi gifts this Christmas (Wrath of Khan and Search for Spock, Cory Doctorow’s latest, Doctor Who s4) one present stands out – Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale.
In case you don’t know, journalist Benjamin Cook asked Russell T Davies if he could follow the creative process for one episode of Doctor Who – from first thoughts to screen – and ended up getting a whole year’s worth of fascinating information, following the whole series.
The duo exchange a series of tremendously frank e-mails about … everything it seems, filled with insights into the making of the series and every little creative nuance along the way – with some funny cartoons drawn by RTD himself.
First of all, I must say kudos to fellow journalist Mr Cook, who had a genius idea and followed it through to its absolute ultimate conclusion.
But the main point of this post is to say thank you to Russell, for pouring his heart and soul into making the good Doctor so fantastic.
As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m not exactly open-minded when it comes to the Doctor. From the moment it returned I have been transfixed at the passion, verve and imagination in almost every episode. (Love and Monsters and Fear Her, I don’t mean you, sorry Russell).
Other writers have been praised for the show’s success and rightly so – Steven Moffat and Paul Cornell stand out in my mind for the quality of their work – and yes, there was an enormous group of talented individuals behind the scenes and in front of the camera.
But through it all has been RTD – overseeing everything.
Looking back, he seems to have come in for an incredible amount of criticism over the years across the net, but the haters should remember that without him, there would be nothing but audio books and a magazine (great as they are).
No Blink, no the Doctor Dances, no Midnight, no Turn Left and so on and so on – even no Torchwood or the Sarah Jane Adventures.
And as reading even the first few pages of the Writer’s Tale shows, the demands the programme placed on him (and that he placed on himself) were enormous.
You know how sometimes something plays on your mind and you can’t stop thinking about it and it drives you mad? Well that is RTD all the time as every story idea is mulled over in the Maybe – what he calls his endless, turbulent thought process – again and again.
This goes on with the added caveat that what he thinks about will be watched and dissected by millions of people (like me, now!) and even directly affect the mood of the nation. A bit much? Just remember how bat shit crazy everyone went when they thought David Tennant was regenerating at the end of the Stolen Earth!
But despite the almost constant demands and level of pressure the show’s continued success placed him under, he was spot on in almost everything he did, and virtually every decision he made about an incredible array of things – an incredible achievement. I mean, how many people would have gone with Catherine Tate?
Not only has his ability to make the right call again and again led to some fantastic event television, in an age when that is not supposed to exist, it has also led to many involved conversations and internet scouring for me and my friends, workmates and eight-year-old son Izaak over what each episode meant and what the future may hold. (while Pam shakes her head in bewilderment at her geek of a husband)
I have loved every minute of it and can’t wait for Planet of the Dead and the other specials next year, and all the series after that.
And in years to come, I can’t wait for the excited feeling in my stomach on Saturdays, or the anticipation that builds through the week, or the conversations still to be held, or finding a rumour on the net, or introducing Izaak’s kids to the Doctor (while their then grandma looks on shaking her head again).
That is all down to Russell T Davies and for that, I thank you sir for going through the mill for us, and would like to buy you a huge drink in return if we ever meet.
Enjoy your time away from the hotseat – you have earned it – good luck for the rest of your career and I’m glad you will be able to join the rest of us with a seat on the wonderful rollercoaster ride you helped create.