Interview - Russell T Davies
The new series executive producer speaks.
The writer and executive producer of the new series of Doctor Who, Russell T Davies, talks about his feelings about landing the best job in telly, the influence of Buffy, and his thoughts on who is the best; Vervoids, Bandrils or robot mummies.
What was your initial reaction when you heard that Doctor Who was coming back... and that you were making it?
I was delighted. To be absolutely honest, I was busy - making Mine All Mine, to be seen on ITV, February 2004 - and I presumed the phone call was about a vague, tentative chat with the BBC. So I ignored it! (You can waste your whole life in TV just chatting about projects, so I refuse chat-meetings.)
It took me a couple of weeks to realise that this wasn't chat, this was real, and mine. I still have a hard time realising I'm doing it. I think of a good, exciting scene, and then there's a ten second delay before I realise that this scene will actually exist!
What's your favourite cliffhanger?
Loads of 'em. Really, episode one of Pyramids of Mars - that's why we used it in Queer As Folk. But I even like episode one of Terror of the Vervoids, that's a magnificent climax.
In the years since the original show finished, how has the way we make television changed?
A lot of telly is fundamentally the same. The same old slow process! It's our understanding that's changed. Contrary to some reports on what I've said, I don't think attention spans are shorter, I think they're better. Audiences understand things - even the subtlest of details - so much faster. We're all experts now.
In the old days, it would take five scenes to establish that a female character is lonely, married, and suicidal. Nowadays, that can be established in a single image. Scripts have to reflect that; the audience is brilliant.
Buffy spawned a host of fantasy shows that appealed to young women as much as men. What else is there to learn from Buffy apart from Strong Female Roles Good?
Good Writing Good. That's the most important thing in that wonderful show. It showed the whole world, and an entire, sprawling industry, that writing monsters and demons and end-of-the-world isn't hack-work, it can challenge the best.
Joss Whedon raised the bar for every writer - not just genre/niche writers, but every single one of us. What a man! I shook his hand once, did you know?
What's the best piece of advice you have been given since taking on Doctor Who?
The same advice I take to every job, from the country's finest writer, Paul Abbott. He always says, 'The only way to work, is to work.' We can all sit and dream and hope and despair, but the only way to solve any problem is to sit there and write. It's not magic.
...And the worst?
Bring back the Bandrils.
Were you really involved in a bid to remake Doctor Who five years ago? And if so - what happened?
It wasn't a bid - what's a bid? Who bids? I've never "bid" in my life. I had one meeting, which just tentative and friendly - this was back in the days when I still did chat-meetings. But it was never that serious, and two weeks later, they discovered that BBC Films were making a version, and we'd have to give them time to develop that. So I waited...
Did you have Doctor Who at the back of your mind when writing Dark Season and Century Falls?
Only in the sense of catching that scary, exciting thrill of watching good, spooky telly. I don't think about Doctor Who all day long! Well, not until now...
What's the daftest thing you've seen written about the new series?
Oh, how long have you got? Just go and read your own message boards. I went there once; never again. Dear God, the loneliness.
Go on - start a rubbish rumour about new Doctor Who...
No chance. The more rubbish the rumour, the more people believe it. I'm just looking forward to the day when we can launch our first trailer of the new series on BBCi...
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