BBC Books out now
Available on Paperback [RRP £16.99]
Without wanting to flatter myself by association, I was please to discover that I share a few lurves with writer Russell T Davies. Namely Beauty & The Beast. People often bang on about The Lion King (even RD quoted it in The Christmas Invasion) but B and the B has got it all going on for me and the big man agrees. Plus, he’s a fan of The Apprentice. What’s not to like?
Those familiar with the first edition of The Writer’s Tale (included here in all its glory) will know the format – Doctor Who Magazine scribe Benjamin Cook has entered into an email conversation (and sometimes texts – how modern!) with RTD discussing, primarily, the writing process. This new edition picks up where the last left off but what we get is much more than a simple to~ing and fro~ing of “This is how I did that” or “That’s why I did that”.
As before, there are detailed (yet fascinating) glimpses into how Russell created, wrote and produced the final specials. Reading the unfolding saga of how Planet of the Dead completely changed (as many stories do), not to mention “Bus~Gate”, over the months is quite remarkable. Even more so is the moment in an email where Davies realises himself who delivers the four knocks – and there are plenty of these moments of discovery to devour.
But it’s the ‘backstage’ shenanigans that take priority here. And by ‘shenanigans’ here I refer to the BBC. I lost count of the number of times the phrase ‘BBC Editorial Policy’ was wheeled out either with regards to a story (the skeleton in Planet of the Dead, for example) or behind~the~scenes chicanery (whether or not they could announce live at the National Television Awards that Davey T was leaving). It’s disappointing, and frustrating for a fan, to find out that the creative team have to put up with this sort of interference.
Even more horrifying is the stuff that RTD doesn’t tell us about – I can’t (and don’t want to) imagine. The production crew seem to work in a continual state of emergency and the saga of how The Waters of Mars nearly didn’t happen will send more shivers through you than a Weeping Angel or Midnight monster ever could.
Anyway, the book throws up so many interesting tidbits (many of which you’ve already read about I’m sure), but the one that really sticks out is Davey T’s almost decision reversal when Steven Moffat and Piers Why Does He Always Look Like He’s Just Been Crying For Ten Hours? Wenger took over. The Moff features like The Watcher, gathering Davies into his final moments on Who. One wonders (and hopes) if the Scotsman will undertake such a tome to record his experiences.
Like the first edition, the reader finds out in graphical detail just how painful (and rewarding) the writing process is for Russell T Davies. Torturous does not cover it and I hope that one day he gets to write a story at a pace that his massive brain can handle. Of his intellect I do have to question one thing – why does he go online? Davies has never been shy in expressing his opinions, quite rightly, on fandom and he lets rip once again. But why subject himself to message boards and forums? I can understand that he must get p’d off at the dozen or so people who continually churn out the same redundant remarks but they’re such a minority of the millions that derive pleasure from the series that it seems ridiculous that he would even consider their “opinions”. With higher than ever audience Appreciation Index figures and growing viewing figures the hard facts are there – Doctor Who is a palpable hit. Yet, he finds himself niggled by comments as they infiltrate his life in other ways. It saddens me, to be honest, that a man so obviously talented, so obviously brilliant, so bottom~huggingly creative that he finds himself bothering with these “people” – he’s better than that. I just wanted to give him a big cuddle. Moving on.
For fans of the show, The Writer’s Tale: The Final Chapter is the ultimate reference book – utterly indispensable. For those who have any interest in the world of television then it’ll serve as a warning and as a helpful guide to the industry. Russell’s candour and wit (and his lurve for the show) keep what could have been a dull read, an essential experience – and you will feel his sadness, joy and frustration in equal measures. Full marks must also go to Benjamin Cook for keeping up this correspondence and for keeping it so relevant. One hopes that he and Russell will continue as I, for one, want to know – what happens next?
Blogtor Rating 10/10
Thanks to eBury and BBC Books