The Torchwood Institute - A Doctor Who and Torchwood Blog

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Writer's Tale

I picked up Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale over the weekend at Chicago TARDIS and I devoured it almost immediately. It's an incredibly detailed look at the creation of the fourth series of Doctor Who through a series of e-mails between Russell and Ben Cook.

There are a lot of things that you realize very quickly -- first of all, that yes, the complete set of departures and gap year have all been part of the plan for quite some time -- down to even Tennant's departure. It felt that way when you watched Series Four -- it felt like RTD had wrapped up almost everything that started all the way back in 'Rose', after all.

You also get a feeling for the insecurities of Russell T Davies -- and how it people that focus on how the "other" writers are better than Russell miss the point -- Russell rewrites almost everyone, and his fingerprints are all over the series as a whole. There's a notable piece where Russell feels sorry for himself for people not giving him any credit for his work on Human Nature, when he certainly helped on it. (Paul, in fact, has mentioned Russell's contributions.) That doesn't discredit that Human Nature is fundamentally Paul's story -- the novel, after all, is proof of that.

One of the best things is that part of Russell's strategy is clear -- there is certainly a risk that the new Doctor Who became so strongly associated with Russell, or the current cast, that when they inevitably leave, the show can continue -- but even that, it's part of the set up that the show may go away for a year or two -- but then will come back. Doctor Who becomes something that comes back; so we'll have Doctor Who now, and there will be Doctor Who for the fiftieth anniversary, and it will come back and regenerate itself again, and again.

And one part of the Writer's Tale is that it's part of one very strong strand of Doctor Who history. One of the reasons why Doctor Who was successfully revived is that people like Russell T Davies, David Tennant, and Steven Moffat learned about how televison was made by reading old Doctor Who magazines or books like 'The Making of Doctor Who'. This book will be read by people who will write for Doctor Who twenty years from now. They'll write other things as well -- just like RTD and Moffat have written wonderful things like Bob & Rose and Coupling -- but future writers will also continue to contribute to their favorite television show; the reason why they got into the business to begin with.

I can't recommend the book enough. It is a fascinating insight into this era of Doctor Who, and the writing process of Russell T Davies. It's accompanied by some wonderful sketches -- I'd love read a full Russell T Davies Doctor Who comic strip as well.

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