The Royal Television Society has singled out Russell T Davies for his outstanding contribution to British television
At a virtual ceremony held tonight, former Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies has been given the Outstanding Achievement Award by the Royal Television Society. The Award is given to someone whose entire body of work has proven them a master of their craft. Davies’ thirty-three years in the industry has seen him create exceptional television. Television he’s used to push boundaries, and inspire generations of viewers and scriptwriters. And it has made him an exceptional, almost inevitable, choice for an RTS Outstanding Achievement Award.
In announcing his honour, the judges said, “This is presented to a screenwriter whose work over the last twenty years has taken television drama to places it’s never been before, explored themes never explored before, and – more than anything – told stories never allowed before. That writer is Russell T Davies.
“Russell is one of the greatest dramatists of his generation, a writer who – as he put it himself – writes about ‘the big stuff…the stuff that makes you laugh, the stuff that makes you cry.’“
The judges praised Davies’ career exploring rich, open territory and making it his own
The panel went on to conclude, “As Lucy Mangan in The Guardian wrote, ‘He creates real, flawed, entirely credible bundles of humanity and makes it clear, without even momentary preachiness, how much they have to lose.’
“That’s what Russell does. He unflinchingly writes about the truth of real life, gives his characters wit and authenticity and his shows undeniable integrity, then defends them to the hilt. As he once said, ‘If it’s true, then it’s true. And you can never back down from that.’“
In saluting his work, the judges reflected on the extent and variety of Davies’ career. From his beginnings reading stories on Play School, to writing Children’s Ward. And then on to his breakthrough series Queer As Folk, which they described as “unexplored, rich, open territory. Territory Russell made his own,” with its depiction of the “raucous and messy, difficult and loud, loving and glorious” lives of gay men in Manchester. Cucumber, A Very English Scandal and It’s a Sin gave further voice to the lives, loves and fears of the LGBT community. With this year’s It’s a Sin described by the panel as “for a younger generation of gay viewers in particular, […] a genuine eye-opener – did this really happen like this? An older generation remembered…’yes, I’m afraid it did.'” While Years and Years was praised for examining the potential consequences of rising populism.
Of his unprecedented success resurrecting Doctor Who, they said Davies had “been handed the keys to the televisual sweet shop.”
“For five years from 2005, the colossal machine that Doctor Who became more or less took over Russell’s life… As showrunner and chief writer he re-imagined it for a new century and a sophisticated new audience, building epic stories around big, technicolour characters – adding special effects and production values that set new standards for fantasy drama. He allowed his imagination to run riot. But more than anything, he brought warmth and heart to Doctor Who, refashioning the show as a drama for the whole family to watch on Saturday teatime – and even in primetime on Christmas Day. With spin off shows like Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures running alongside it, Doctor Who became a global hit that continues to enthrall audiences to this day.”
In accepting the Outstanding Achievement Award, Russell T Davies shows his characteristic humility by instead wishing to highlight other writers. Ones who had worked in the past to bring LGBT stories to light with their work often not fully recognized at the time. And emerging names which he believed would tell the next generation of stories.
“I’m often seen as a gay writer, and I love that. Journalists often ask me ‘Do you mind being seen as a gay writer?’ and I’m very proud of it. … I think it’s a great grand tradition that I’m enormously proud to be part of.” Looking to the future, he praised works like Gentleman Jack, the “fierce and courageous” In My Skin, and Butterflies. And he spoke of the march towards progress of LGBT representation on television. “If you want stories to be on air, if you dream of them being on air, if you hope they’ll be on air, they will get on air.”
And he finished by calling upon everyone to raise a glass to Drew Griffiths, the playwright murdered in a suspected homophobic attack in 1984, leaving so many stories untold.
Though Blogtor Who is, of course, biased, we’d also like to add our voices to the celebrations and congratulations tonight. It is a thoroughly deserved award for a truly outstanding talent. And our admiration for a career almost unequaled in modern television.
You can read the full text of the judges remarks on the Royal Television Society Awards page. The video of the whole ceremony is also available there.