Russell T Davies’ and Benjamin Cook’s latest magnificent octopus, Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale: The Final Chapter, the update to the fantastic original, landed on my doormat this morning.
It’s a book in email correspondence form, about Davies’ experiences, methods, trials and tribulations of being the showrunner of Doctor Who, as well as including pre-first draft scripts for several episodes as they were still being written. Now, much as I may occasionally joke about Davies’ plotting, I consider him to be one of the best character writers in the country, and the first Writer’s Tale book was a fascinating insight into the mind of the head honcho of (arguably) the most popular drama series on these shores in the past decade. And that in itself is a huge achievement, considering just how dead and buried Doctor Who was before it relaunched in 2005.
Since then, Davies has gone on to create smash-hit spin-offs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures (the second of which I’ve never watched, incidentally), and has recently moved to the USA, where Torchwood is probably proportionally even more successful than it is over here, with the rumour-mill spinning for all it’s worth that a US remake (possibly featuring John Barrowman himself) (I’m saving up my jokes about him in case I decide to write a proper blog entry on this rumour) (got to be frugal about Mr Saturday Night, just in case) is on the way.
Good on Davies, I say. Anyway, back to the first TWT, which was, for my money anyway, one of the best books ever written about the actual process of writing, an experience which alternates between being (or sometimes even manages to be simultaneously) the most horrendous and rewarding thing imaginable. Anyone who writes anything, whether it’s a novel, screenplay, piece of journalism or simply a blog entry (in no particular order), will surely recognise many of the inner demons of Davies. Perhaps the biggest revelation of the first book is that he is a world champion procrastinator – it’s amazing to think that despite this affliction (and a gazillion writers say “Helloooo!” to that one), he still became one of the most successful television writers in the country. Gives everyone hope, eh?
The new edition has an extra 300+ pages over the old one, which cover the period from the Season 4 finale right through to the final special where David Tennant regenerated into Matt Smith, and once I’ve read the new stuff I’ll report on the extra talking points I’ve found. But even if the new material is the biggest heap of shit ever (which it definitely won’t be), the old edition of the book is included as a generous extra, so I can already thoroughly recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in the process of writing. It’s a must-read.