Friday, December 12, 2008

Review: The Writer’s Tale

The Writer’s Tale
Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook

Published by BBC Books

Reviewed by Charlotte Evans
What strikes me most about Russell T Davies is that he’s one of us. Yes, he has the best job (lead writer and executive producer) on what is arguably the BBC’s best programme (and certainly its best drama). But he’s still a fan. A Buffy fan, a Doctor Who fan and a fan of television.

When Davies brought Doctor Who back to life in 2004 millions of people who’d loved it growing up tuned in. But I’d never seen a single episode. I’m from the generation that grew up watching Queer As Folk, Bob and Rose, The Second Coming, and even – long before I fell in love with Grey’s Anatomy and House – Children’s Ward.

Davies fans were introduced to Doctor Who and Doctor Who fans were introduced to Davies. But what about the next generation? They will only know Davies as the ‘Doctor Who man’ but I think that’s great too. They can go out and buy box sets of QAF etc and they can follow him after he leaves the show (in the more than capable hands of Steven Moffat– the man who gave us Chalk, Coupling and Jekyll, not to mention the some of the best episodes of Doctor Who such as ‘The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances’, ‘The Girl In The Fireplace’, the recent ‘Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead’ two part episode and the unforgettable ‘Blink’.)

This is an amazing book; the sort of book you only dream of finding. In terms of usefulness I can only compare it to Bob and Rose commentaries. But of course there is so much more of this. And there’s so much more to this.

The basic premise of the book is Davies and Benjamin Cook e-mail one another for a year in which Davies goes through the highs and lows of writing and exec producing Doctor Who.

And Ben does his best to remain invisible and not influence the show. He bravely asks the questions we all want to know the answers to and reminds Davies why he does it. He even asks Russell unexpected questions like ‘A question (a bit random, but bear with me): Have you been watching Skins?’ Which may sound like an odd question but is in fact a brilliant question – the sort of question writers ask each other. Davies doesn’t just talk about his writing; he talks about other writing. And he doesn’t just say what works – he tells us what doesn’t work (and more importantly, why).

This is a hugely important book containing the script as it’s written, rewritten and changed (for time, tone, or any number of practical reasons) but it’s also a fun book with e-mail subject lines like ‘James Marsters’ Arse’. It contains great pictures from the show and amazing drawings by Davies (is there anything he can’t do?)

If you want to write and/or love Doctor Who, if this wonderful writer has changed your life in any way – then read this book. Because Davies is not only an inspiration, he’s absolutely one of us (he too has crushes on hot TV actors and days when he admits ‘I’m glum’) and when Ben asks him why he does interviews for the Daily Mail Davies answers: ‘It’s publicity [for the show]. Moreover, it’s two pages on me and my success, as a gay man, in a paper that vilifies homosexuality. Visibility is a good way of changing things.’ (Hurrah!)

And when you come to the end of this marvellous book you have two options: read it again or begin writing. I recommend the latter.


Charlotte Evans writes “I’m a twenty-three year old writer, currently working for my local library service. Lovely to be surrounded by books all day, depressing that they're all written by 'celebrities'. I'm interested in reading, TV, theatre, stand up comedy, film and music.”

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