photo: Russell T. Davies thinking of Peter Capaldi as the twelfth Doctor

On the Road to New Who’s Tenth Anniversary: Show Runner Extraordinaire, Russell T. Davies

Stephen Russell Davies was born the same year as Doctor Who—1963. His family had no idea that their son would become one of the most influential writers/producers of British television. Under the pen name Russell T. Davies, Stephen resurrected Doctor Who after a 16-year hiatus of the BBC run series and a failed attempt at a back-door pilot telemovie. A collaboration of the BBC and FOX, the 1996 movie was a ratings success in the UK but not America. It had been intended to kick-off an American-produced Who series, which was not commissioned. Who was waiting for Davies.

As a young adult, Davies had wanted to become a comic book artist. His color-blindness forced him to study English literature, which led to screen and playwriting. In 1985 Davies began working for BBC’s Children’s department. His work on Dark Season and Century Falls was highly successful. In l994 he began writing for adults, which ultimately led to his stint as show runner for the new Doctor Who. A fan since childhood, Davies had been lobbying for Doctor Who‘s return since the late 90s. His ideas (doubling the episode length, paring back the mythology of Gallifrey and the Time Lords, increasing the production values) were accepted. During Davies’ reign, the longer episodes were welcomed. The reduced Time Lord mythology led to plot holes, which continue to cause confusion for the fandom.

Davies writes openly about sexual orientation and continues to develop sexually diverse characters. The pansexual Captain Jack Harkness is one example. Doctor Who and Torchwood have same-sex couples. (Davies created Queer as Folk before Doctor Who, and gay lifestyle shows Cucumber, Banana, and Tofu after.) John Barrowman, the actor who portrayed Captain Jack, said that Davies “changed the face of television in the U.K.” Barrowman added, “He has taken subject matter that nobody else will touch, and he has put in characters that nobody else will bother doing.”

Davies was approached about becoming involved in a tenth anniversary celebration for new Who:

“Someone from the [BBC’s] branding team sent me a very lovely email saying do you want to do something. I don’t know what they imagined…a talk or a convention, perhaps. I just said no, to be honest. A program can’t have its fiftieth and then its tenth anniversary. I think that’s just confusing. It’s marvelous and glorious; let it carry on.”

According to Davies, current show runner Steven Moffat asks him to write an episode every year. Davies response: “I love Doctor Who with all my heart but nothing is more important to me than my own stuff.”

Cucumber, Banana, and Tofu seem to have Davies full creative attention. Ironically, Davies was quick to confirm interest in writing a Doctor Who movie if approached: “If we could get the lawyers and contracts flying now. You know I would do that because I think there’s a big leap to be made.”

Davies’ imprint on the cult-status Doctor Who continues. Moffat said Davies had a theory for Peter Capaldi, who appeared in Davies’ “The Fires of Pompeii” and in an episode of Torchwood. Davies phoned Moffat to applaud the casting of Capaldi as the twelfth Doctor. Moffat asked: “Okay, what was your theory, and does it still work?” Davies’ reply was, “Yes it does. Here it is…

Moffat (who often lies) says that he will use Davies’ original plan for Capaldi, and will “play that one out over time. It’s actually quite neat.” However, in Radio Times Davies said: “I know Peter Capaldi. He did a Doctor Who with us and he did a brilliant Torchwood and when they cast him I was just envious. I just thought: so brilliant. Why didn’t I think of that? Brilliant.” Does that contradict Moffat’s assertion that there was secret plan?

Davies continues to be touted as the savior for Doctor Who. One aspect of his legacy seems certain: “It’s now impossible for it to ever be axed,” he told Radio Times. “It’s certainly heading that way. Could you imagine if it was axed now? There would be uproar in the streets. Twitter would be set on fire.”

You can take the man out of Doctor Who, but apparently cannot take Doctor Who out of the man. If the BBC’s offer is right, we may see Russell T. Davies pen a script for the Doctor again.

Who Fact: Stephen Fry wrote a Doctor Who script. It was inspired by the story of Sir Gaiwan and the Green Knight, a traditional Celtic medieval poem. Davies thought it too complicated and requested revision. Fry never had time to do so.

One thought on “On the Road to New Who’s Tenth Anniversary: Show Runner Extraordinaire, Russell T. Davies

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *