Reviewlet: Doctor Who, The Writer’s Tale

Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale starts with journalist Benjamin Cook e-mailing Russell T. Davies, head writer and honcho of Doctor Who, suggesting an article looking at the process of writing one of the forthcoming episodes of Series 4. Davies thinks it’s a good idea and replies, starting a year long correspondence during a tumultuous time for the programme.

The book consists of these e-mails, lightly sanitised for language and spoilers (past series 4), and illustrated with copious photographs and Davies’ rather nifty drawings. This can make for a slightly uneven flow sometimes, but if you’re used to internet forums and message boards it shouldn’t be too jarring.

Obviously the main interest will be for Doctor Who fans. You get to see the Christmas special, The Voyage of the Damned and the rest of Series 4 take shape, including the evolving draft scripts of Davies’ episodes (some don’t make it into the book to keep it possible to physically lift, but they’re available on the aforelinked website), and over the course of the book Stephen Moffet is confirmed as taking over from Davies for Series 5. As The Writer’s Tale, it’s also got plenty of interesting stuff for writers, some practical, on dialogue, writing action etc., but mostly on the state of mind of someone trying to juggle the enormous workload involved in producing Doctor Who, writing six episodes, re-writing others, working on The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood together with some shreds of a personal life. Davies manages to simultaneously display seemingly crippling self-doubt about the value of what he’s doing together with the unshakable self-confidence required to write anything like Doctor Who, the early chapter on the effect internet criticism can have on writers being particularly illuminating.

Slipping into the role of emotionally stunted stereotypical Doctor Who obsessive, there may have been moments when I might’ve muttered something like “yeah, yeah, you’re depressed, get over it and write more about the plans for showing Davros in his younger days”, but generally if you’re at all interested in writing and Doctor Who, you probably guessed from the title you might like this book. And bought it a while ago.