Saturday, 27 March 2010

And So The End Is Near... - The Writers Tale: The Final Chapter by Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook

Yeah, I've noticed a theme with the stuff I've been reviewing lately too. I have been reading other stuff, honest guv.

The original Writer's Tale rendered whole forest's worth of books redundant - there was now no need for any biography of Russell T Davies, because it gave you more of an insight into the man and his methods of work than any simple recounting of facts could. No need for any 'making of' Doctor Who books, it was everything you needed to know about how an episode journeyed from the inside of Russell T's head to several million TV screens (unless you want the dull technical ins and outs rather than the really interesting stuff). And it pretty much renders most books about scriptwriting redundant at a stroke, being a practical guide in producing quality television scripts under extreme pressure of time and budget. It wasn't 'this is how to write', it was 'this is how I write, learn what you may'. And it was utterly compelling, despite it being over 500 large format pages I finished it in around a day and a half. Food and sleep? There's another thing you could learn from the book, they aren't particularly important. Although coffee is.

Normally I wouldn't have countenanced buying the paperback edition, but as with most of the product relating to Doctor Who in the last five years there's an emphasis on making it essential. Sure, you might lose the script pages from the material in the original Writer's Tale, but it's a small sacrifice to pay (plus they're on the Writer's Tale website anyway). What you get in return is around three hundred extra pages about the making of the Last Days of Tennant, watching how the specials came together. It largely lacks the frantic charge of the first half, primarily because there's far less Doctor Who to produce (and yet Davies still misses a Kylie concert in Paris!), but Cook and Davies' conversation is still never less than fascinating. The highlight is probably Davies reminiscing about his parents and childhood in Swansea, and how they inspired a Booker Prize winning novel. It's sentimental, wistful and touching without being sepia tinted and, as ever with Davies' writing, there's beautiful and unexpected observations. And for those more obsessed with Doctor Who content there's Cook persuading Davies to go back to watch Rose after production's wrapped on The End of Time. Davies' views on his own work are often cutting but always positive.

As it is, this stands as a perfect epitaph to the Russell T Davies era of Doctor Who - a testament to the hard work he and the production team put in. It's almost a shame that there'll be no more Rusell T Davies Who, if only because it's we won't get another of these books to lay out the writing process on a modern TV show in intimate detail. The book finishes with the correspondents now separated by the width of an ocean and a continent, and an unknown (or at least undetailed) future for the writer. It's a reminder that while certain tales finish, real life doesn't stop and there's more of this particular tale to be written. Unfortunately it's not likely to be documented, which is a shame as the tale's got a lot more mileage in it yet. Or maybe Davies is wise enough to take advantage of the old showbiz adage to leave them wanting more.

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