News

WIZARDS VS ALIENS

Filming is now underway on CBBC’s thrilling new action adventure drama, created by Russell T Davies and Phil Ford. Wizards Vs Aliens, produced by BBC Cymru Wales in association with FremantleMedia Enterprises (FME), will air on CBBC this Autumn. Filming has begun at the BBC’s Roath Lock Studios in Cardiff and on location around the area.

Starring Scott Haran as Tom Clarke and Percelle Ascott as Benny Sherwood, the series also features Annette Badland (Doctor Who episodes Aliens of London, WWIII and Boom Town), Michael Higgs (Eastenders), Jefferson Hall (Doctors) and Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thrones). Don Gilet (Doctor Who, The Runaway Bride) and Nina Sosanya (Doctor Who, Fear Her) make guest appearances as Benny’s parents.

Wizards Vs Aliens brings magic and sci-fi together to tell an epic tale. Aliens are intent of devouring all the magic on Earth - one 16-year-old boy stands in their way. Tom Clarke is a seemingly ordinary boy who loves football. He lives with his dad Michael and grandmother Ursula in an ordinary house in an ordinary street - but there’s something different about Tom. He has an astonishing secret - his family are Wizards! When the alien Nekross arrive on Earth hungry for magic, there’s big, big trouble in store for all wizardkind.

With the help of his friend and science super-brain Benny, Tom must stop them - but will these two unlikely heroes succeed, or will the Nekross devour all the magic on Earth with disastrous results for the whole planet?
Wizards Vs Aliens (12 x 30 minutes) will be broadcast on CBBC in Autumn 2012.

TORCHWOOD:MIRACLE DAY
by Christina Radish (Collider.com)
January 16 2011

In July 2011, Starz will be bringing the 4th season of the popular BBC series Torchwood to a new global audience. Exposing new viewers to the show and expanding the world to increase its international reach means a bigger story and new cast members (including Mekhi Phifer and Bill Pullman) will be joining old favorites.

Subtitled Miracle Day, the story follows what would happen if, one day, people ceased to die, and explores what that sort of overnight population boom might mean for individuals all across the world. This obviously unnatural event that threatens the human race is something that, of course, only the secret Torchwood team – which includes Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) – can attempt to resolve.

During the Starz portion of the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour, creator/show runner/executive producer Russell T. Davies talked about this provocative new premise, the process of expanding the show’s audience, what it’s been like transitioning to the States, and promises that the 10-episode series will be quite shocking. Check out what he had to say after the jump:

Question: What can you say about the provocative premise of the upcoming season?

RUSSELL T. DAVIES: This has been working under the working title of The New World, but that was a secret title to hide the real title, which is now Torchwood: Miracle Day. The premise is that a miracle happens to the world. It’s as simple as, one day on Earth, no one dies. Not a single person on Earth dies. The next day, no one dies. And the next day, no one dies. And on and on and on.

By the sixth day, the old stay old and keep getting older, and the dying keep dying, but no one quite dies. The possibility of death ceases to exist. That’s great news for some people, but globally it becomes a problem. That’s what the whole show is about. It’s an instant overnight population boom where, suddenly, the Earth relies on people dying. That’s how the whole system works. So, suddenly, you’ve got a crisis affecting everyone on the planet. That’s where the Torchwood team and our brand-new characters come in.

How has the process of transitioning this show to the States been for you?

DAVIES: It’s been fantastic. I haven’t really have any horrendous experiences. I’ve had a good time with it. I came to America with Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner – my fellow executives at BBC Worldwide – to work with the people here and the talent and the ambition. I love all of the stuff we’ve done in Britain. I love the people we work with. Frankly, it’s bigger here, and there are different opportunities and things to learn. That was our major drive for coming out here.

You’ve seen the shows that Starz is selling here, and we want to bite some of that and experience it. So, we came here and it was a fantastically straight-forward procedure. Jane Tranter already had a very good working relationship with Chris Albrecht. We went to him and pitched the idea of Torchwood and, in a matter of months, we were good to go. We start filming on Monday. We are talking premium cable. We are talking a channel that is dedicated to bold, exciting ideas and stuff that you won’t fit onto a network. That’s always what BBC One has been back home, and that’s always what Torchwood has been, in its various guises. It’s been a good fit. We’ve learned a lot, and once we start filming, we’ll learn an awful lot more. But, it’s a good laugh so far. That’s the important thing.

When you killed 80% of your cast in Children of Earth, was that pretty much it in your mind, or was there a lingering hope that the show might continue?

DAVIES: Oh, there was always hope. That’s actually a feature of Torchwood. A lot of more straight-forward science fiction shows on big networks get a cast of 12, and they are all under contract for seven years, so they all stay with you for seven years. Torchwood was always at a high body count because I think it makes the story stronger and more dangerous and more frightening. You cannot guarantee who will survive, and I think that raises the stakes for everyone.

Is there something to tantalize Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) back for Season 4?

DAVIES: There is. Captain Jack has a history. It’s very important to say that, in many ways, while loving and embracing everything we have done in the past, this is a new start for Torchwood. It’s a new launch. I think it makes sense, as a new viewer. That was compulsory. It’s an interesting hybrid of a show. Part of the action is in Britain, but most of the action is in America.

Will there be any Doctor Who reference or blending, at some point?

DAVIES: Captain Jack is an immortal, and what we are talking about is the world turns immortal. There’s an awful lot of story packed into that. It’s still the same old show. For those of you who don’t know, Torchwood began life as a spin-off of Doctor Who, before acquiring its legs and becoming a show in its own right. But, we honor and respect history. There’s no break in continuity. There’s no fracturing. There are fewer references, to be honest, because we are making a show out here, and they are making a show in Britain. It’s quite difficult to coordinate any sort of cross-over. You wouldn’t even want to, as both shows have a fantastic identity of their own. But, for those fans who like that sort of stuff, it’s still absolutely faithful, and you get the odd little moment where it will satisfy on that level.

You always have LGBT themes and characters in your shows. How will that be addressed in this forum?

DAVIES: I could get on my soapbox and say how important it is to me, but it’s just simply who I am, as a gay man in the world, given opportunities to write on all sorts of networks, which I’m immensely grateful for. It’s not like I include gay characters because it’s my duty, or anything. It’s simply second-nature for me to do that. It would be rather odd if I didn’t do that. And, I’ve been very lucky. I think you are very lucky when you are the man who created Queer as Folk because not many people ever dare stop you, having done that.

If you were a new writer, people could say “Let’s stop with the gayness.” But, that doesn’t happen anymore. Captain Jack is a great, big, swaggering bi-sexual lead character, and people don’t blink about that anymore. Certainly, no one at Starz ever even raised an eyebrow. It’s just been healthy and progressive. We want a brand-new audience on Starz. We want to increase the audience on BBC One. We must sell this to 57 countries, and they can all see that on the screen, and that’s got to be good.

How gratifying is it for you to look back and see where Doctor Who is today? Are you at all surprised at what they’ve done with that show?

DAVIES: No, it’s brilliant. Gratifying is exactly the word because you have to think all the way back to 2005 when we brought that back and people said, “That will never work.” Science fiction was dead in Britain, and it was an old joke of a show, frankly. Everyone told us we’d fail, and we took that show to be the #1 show in Britain, beating every other drama, every other reality show and every other program. So, it feels like the finest legacy.

I don’t feel responsible for Steven Moffat’s years at all. He’s his own man. But, to see it still staying up there, still striding the ratings and still being the cultural zeitgeist is simply what the program always deserved. I’ve loved that show since I was three, and I always knew it could be that good. I really, honestly believed that, and we don’t often get the opportunity to prove that. It’s brilliant. And, it’s great to then take something like Torchwood, spin it off, and set that up. We stand here, now, at a whole new chapter, a whole new birth, a whole new premise. I like to think that this is standing in its own right, as its own show, with almost a different form of science fiction that I can’t quite see happening on any other shows, except for this new version on Starz.

What Torchwood does now, in its new iteration, is take an idea, a concept, an event – which is this fact that no one is dying – and simply drops that into the middle of all of our lives. That’s the science fiction of it. The fantasy is to say, “What are we going to do now? What is our government going to do now? What are our children going to do now? What is society going to do now?” Some of those answers are beautiful, brave and brilliant, and some of the answers, looking into the depths of human nature, are terrifying. I like this forum of science fiction. It feels brand-new. It’s taken us these five years to get there, and it’s a great platform. I am really excited by it.

What did you learn from making Children of Earth that you are applying to this new season of Torchwood?

DAVIES: What we got rid of in Torchwood is the format of monster-of-the-week that we had in the first two seasons. It was a great format. Lots of shows do that absolutely brilliantly. In Britain, it was always slightly in Doctor Who’s shadow, as a result. When we got the chance to do Children of Earth, it became what it is now, which is simply one continuous story with a beginning, middle and end. This new series is 10 episodes long, and there is a massive, shattering climax to the whole thing. You’ll find out who lives, who dies, what happens and whether they can stop it or not, and that’s the end. It’s got that shape to it now.

Children of Earth found its legs, and it feels like we’ve stood up tall now. I can’t wait for you to see the show. It’s a really rigorous premise. There are some shocking episodes to come, in terms of some visuals and some things about people. It’s about what we are capable of, and the depth which we will sink sometimes. That feels really great, exciting and new.

________________________________________________

Torchwood to return

BBC Cymru Wales, BBC Worldwide and US premium entertainment network, Starz Entertainment, have today announced a three way co-production partnership that will develop a new series of the hit BBC sci-fi drama Torchwood. BBC Worldwide will also distribute the series to broadcasters globally.

The 10-episode instalment will be written by a team led by Torchwood creator, Russell T Davies, and produced by BBC Worldwide Productions. Davies and BBC Worldwide Productions’ SVP Scripted, Julie Gardner, return as executive producers with BBC Worldwide Productions EVP Jane Tranter. The series has been commissioned by Controller BBC ONE, Jay Hunt, Controller BBC Drama, Ben Stephenson, and Starz President and CEO, Chris Albrecht.

While previous series were based on location in Cardiff, Wales, this new instalment will see storylines widen to include locations in the U.S. and around the world. John Barrowman and Eve Myles will return in their roles as Captain Jack and Gwen respectively, along with new faces.

Announcing the commission, Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning said: "We have a long history of working with many U.S. networks but it is incredibly exciting to be working with Starz for the first time, as well as to be reunited with the best of British in Russell, Jane and Julie. Torchwood will burst back onto the screen with a shocking and moving story with global stakes and locations that will make it feel bigger and bolder than ever"

Jane Tranter, EVP, BBC Worldwide Productions, added: "Torchwood has attracted remarkable attention and loyalty in both the UK and U.S., and in this new partnership with Starz, the next chapter will not only reward our current fans, but also introduce new viewers to the most impressive instalment yet."

"We're committed to programming exceptional television that is entertaining, imaginative and provides a premium TV experience, and by any measure the new concept for Torchwood fits that mandate," Starz, LLC, President and CEO Chris Albrecht said. "I've been part of successful partnerships with Jane Tranter and the BBC previously, and I'm very much looking forward to working with them again."

Torchwood is a drama that puts extraterrestrial threats into a very real world, and asks how humanity deals with the danger - while fighting mankind's darkest instincts. The series was originally commissioned and produced in 2006 by BBC Cymru Wales, with the latest high octane series capturing UK audiences of more than 6 million.

BBC Worldwide has distributed previous Torchwood series around the world to territories such as Korea, Japan, Italy, Spain, Israel, Russia and across Latin America.

Interview with Entertainment Weekly (USA)

Question: Why'd you kill Ianto?

RUSSELL T. DAVIES: The threat to the world was just so great it simply would have been unlikely if everyone had survived. Torchwood is an adult show. We have killed off leading members of the cast before. Those have always been the stakes. Poor Ianto was defeated by a greater evil, I'm afraid.

Question: So this wasn't something that resulted from Gareth wanting to leave?

DAVIES: No, it was my decision.

Question: What do you make of the fan backlash?

DAVIES: It's not particularly a backlash. What's actually happening is, well, nothing really to be honest. It's a few people posting online and getting fans upset. Which is marvelous. It just goes to prove how much they love the character and the actor. People often say, 'Fans have got their knives out!' They haven't got any knives. I haven't been stabbed. Nothing's happened. It's simply a few people typing. I'm glad they're typing because they’re that involved. But if you can’t handle drama you shouldn’t watch it. Find something else. Go look at poetry. Poetry’s wonderful.

Question: Can you confirm that Ianto is, in fact, dead?

DAVIES: I’m afraid so. He’s a wonderful actor. I've worked with him before. I’m a big fan of his and I [look forward to] watching his career prosper. But death is death in this case. It would devalue the entire plot if we brought him back.

Question: But it's a risky thing to kill off such a popular character.

DAVIES: Absolutely. There’s a risk that some people won’t come back to watch now that Ianto’s gone. I thank them for watching the show and I recommend they go watch Supernatural, because those boys are beautiful. And don’t tell me they’re brothers. [Laughs] Not in my mind.

Question: One of my readers wondered if you were under pressure to de-gay Torchwood and that's why you killed him off.

DAVIES: I think you can forget about people picking up gay rights as an issue. It's rather like children picking up nursery blocks and waving them in the air but having no idea what it entails. We’re talking about issues in my entire life here, not just one small television program. If they did research they’d go and look at the history of gay and lesbian characters that I have put on screen. They should simply grow up, do some research, and stop riding on a bandwagon that they actually don’t know anything about.

Question: What was Gareth's reaction when you told him you were killing Ianto?

DAVIES: Oh, he’s a lovely, professional man. He completely understood. He’d seen two major characters disappear the year before. It’s a job. It’s a very straightforward process. He loved filming that great big death scene.

Question: With half the cast dead, where does Torchwood go from here?

DAVIES: We don’t yet know about our fourth series, but I’m fairly confident [it will continue] in some shape or form. I will just sit down and invent new stories and characters. That’s what I’ve spent my entire life doing. It’s not difficult at all. I could write the first 10 scenes in an episode right now.

Question: Will Jack continue to be the centerpiece?
 
DAVIES: Oh, I would think so. I would hope so. He’s absolutely fundamental to Torchwood.

Question: Do you think you'll stick to the miniseries format?

DAVIES: It’s hard to say. It’s been pretty successful. We were the number one show for five nights running [in the UK], which was amazing. Everything’s looking good, but it’s hard to say. We’re in a recession so no one gets easy money to make television. I like continuous story. I like doing new things. In many ways, Torchwood was designed as a digital weapon. It’s kind of multi-purpose, multi-adaptable, shape-shifting weapon that can become anything. I’m kind of excited what we’ll do next.

Question: What about a feature film?

DAVIES: Oh, God. Raising money for that would be harder than a television show. But anything is possible.

Question: Any hints about where the story will go next?

DAVIES: No, it’s literally too soon. I don’t know yet.

Russell Goes West

DOCTOR WHO writer Russell T Davies, regarded by many as the country’s best TV dramatist, has rocked BBC executives by announcing that he is leaving for the US.

The move is a major blow because, as well as revitalising Doctor Who, Davies created two popular spin-offs,Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Torchwood, starring Eve Myles, shifted to BBC1 from BBC2 last week, clocking up huge audiences.

But there is now uncertainty over its future with its creator relocating to Hollywood .

Davies said of his move: “I haven’t planned anything, all my furniture is now there and I’m just going to start writing.

“It will take years to get anything made out there. It’s going to be difficult, so new and so brilliant. I will learn from people and bring it back here one day. It’s a big adventure and a lot of fun.”

Asked about the future of Torchwood, a BBC spokeswoman said: “It’s his show but it’s too early to say whether it will return. We will look closely at all of the ratings.”

Budget cuts are forcing cancellations across the channels.

And it's goodbye from him

Published Date: 05 April 2009
AFTER 60 episodes, five years of all-night writing sessions, and approximately 15,000 cigarettes, Russell T Davies is finished with Doctor Who. The final full stop has been typed on the final page of the final script and on Monday filming began on what will eventually become the last episode of the show to be made on his watch as head writer and executive
producer.

Anyone who has read his book, The Writer's Tale, which tells the inside story of the making of series four, will know that Davies is a man whose tear ducts get plenty of exercise. But ending his tenure on Doctor Who camewithout recourse to a hankie.

"I'm absolutely unsentimental about this sort of thing," he says, talking in his Cardiff flat. "I would have thought that when I handed in the last script I might have burst into tears or got drunk or partied with 20 naked men, but when these great moments happen you find that real life just carries on. The emotion goes into the scripts.

"That's why I do the job. I find the emotional scenes emotional, the exciting scenes exciting. I laugh at the funny stuff and cry at the sad stuff. If you had a camera on me, sitting here at this computer, it would be like Diary Of A Nutter. They could show it on BBC3."

Davies is 45, six feet six, loud, expressive and funny. Possibly because he's gay, it's never written in profiles that he is quite the alpha male. Yes, he suffers from midnight moments of doubt, but essentially he's supremely confident in his talent, and the facts bear out that self-belief. His vision of Doctor Who as a soapy, poppy, flashy and yet, crucially, heartfelt drama has paid off with audiences in excess of 13 million and the complete annexing of the British mainstream.

It has also led to some interesting offers, such as Davies being invited to take part in Dancing On Ice. He declined. "But just after (Boyzone's] Stephen Gately had been on it, I met him and he said, 'Feel my arse.' So I did. It was so hard it was like holding a skull. And then he said, 'That's what ice skating does for you.' So there is something to be said for it."

There will be four special hour-long episodes of Doctor Who broadcast this year, starting this Saturday with Planet Of The Dead. The final two episodes will be broadcast over the Christmas period and conclude with David Tennant's regeneration into Matt Smith, at which point Scottish writer
Steven Moffat will take over as executive producer for a new series in 2010.

"The church bells ring when Steven hands in just one of his scripts, so I think a whole series is going to be glorious," says Davies. "We agree on so many other things, but he's not going to come in and copy me. I have read his first episode and it's phenomenal. There are such good times ahead."

Although Doctor Who under Davies has been exciting and funny, there has often been a base note of sadness, specifically to do with characters being separated from one another. He acknowledges that his feelings about the death of his mother in 2002 may have found their way into the work; it's not an experience one can address directly in art, he believes, but the emotions leak on to the page. "The day you lose your mother is one of the saddest days on planet earth," he says, "and one of the saddest things is there's almost nothing to be said about it."

Davies, it seems to me, is your classic sad clown - jokey on the surface, sombre underneath. His Doctor is forever giving speeches about how wonderful humans are, but Davies's own world view is more cynical. In the episode Midnight, passengers trapped inside a vehicle with a malevolent demon of an alien turn against each other and the Doctor in a bid to save their own lives. That's how Davies sees life. But he feels he shouldn't articulate such pessimism too often in a show watched by young people.

There is, however, no separating Davies from his writing. It's how he defines himself, and the aspect of his life on which his self-esteem is based. "To me. It's not a job, it's not work, I wouldn't even call it a vocation, it's simply the way that I think, all day, every day."

On occasion, he has written directly from his own experience. Queer As Folk, which was being broadcast on Channel 4 a decade ago, was a distillation of 15 years on the gay clubbing scene in Manchester between the start of his twenties until his mid-thirties. "I'd be out until five in the morning, get into work at Granada at nine, throw up in the toilets, then go and be brilliant at my job," he wrote in The Writer's Tale.

It was a period of a sometimes dangerous hedonism - and an overdose, which he'd rather not go into in any detail for fear of a My Drugs Hell headline - which ended up being dramatised in Queer As Folk. Was that series a fond farewell to his pleasure-seeking, self-destructive self? "I suppose it was.
I didn't realise it at the time, and it didn't coincide so neatly because I carried on for a few years after that, but at 35 it was only a matter of time before they closed the club door on me and said, 'Get out, grandad.' And I got my lovely boyfriend just before I started writing Queer As Folk, so everything fell into the right place really. I suppose writing it did me some good. It's all therapy in the end."

The "lovely boyfriend" is Andrew Smith, a Customs officer. They have been a couple for 11 years but don't live together as Davies believes he would probably kill anyone with whom he shared a home. "Bless him, he's the one sane man in the whole world and is mildly disinterested in Doctor Who. And
that's nice. I see him in Manchester and he says, 'How was work?' and I say, 'Fine'. He's beautifully stable, so a good counterpart for me."

Davies writes in Cardiff, through the night, head full of jokes, lungs full of smoke. "Sometimes the creative act is actually quite a sexy process," he says. "When it's working, when it's on fire. You can fancy your characters, you can hate your characters. Writing has an obsessive, unstoppable quality
in the same way that sometimes men are terrible monsters driven by lust."

He believes his homosexuality had one significant influence on his writing - it made him an astute observer of behaviour.

"Nowadays there are kids who are confident enough to come out at school, but that didn't exist when I was at school. So during those teenage years when everyone else is snogging and copping off at parties and you're not, you spend a lot of time watching what's going on. I think that watchfulness you
develop when you're in the closet does have an effect, but it's not what creates the impetus to write in the first place."

His love of stories goes back to being a child. Growing up in Swansea, the son of two classics teachers, he loved poring over an encyclopedia of Greek and Roman myths. Then there was his mother's collection of Agatha Christie paperbacks, and his own beloved stash of Asterix and Peanuts books. Even now, he can hear the rhythm of Charles Schulz's punchlines in his own writing.

The big question now is what will Davies do next? He has a number of possible TV projects, including one codenamed in his head as More Gay Men. He thinks, too, there's a good chance he will go to America and work in TV there for a while. And he adds: "I do think that one day when I'm 65, if Granada would kindly open their doors, I might have a very happy retirement working on Coronation Street."

So would he be content if, in time, all his other work was forgotten and only Doctor Who was remembered? "No!"

Not that he really cares about posterity. A resolute atheist who once cast Richard Dawkins in Doctor Who, he has no belief in the afterlife, so doesn't believe he'll be "looking down, beaming" as repeats of Queer As Folk are shown on UK Gold.

"And frankly," he laughs, "in 50 years' time we'll all be foraging through the wilderness like wild dogs. So what the f*** does it matter what's going to be on television?"

Rex Features
RTD's New Project

Russell T. Davies will work as a creative consultant for new BBC Wales drama The Fabulous Baker Boys.

The Doctor Who and Torchwood producer's latest project will follow the activities of a small town in the Welsh valleys which is hit by the threat of a factory closure.

Baker Boys will show the "challenges and triumphs of the workers and their families" as they attempt to keep the local business running.

Helen Raynor and Gary Owen will script the series.

"This is a brilliant and shining idea, and Welsh right down to its bootstraps," said Davies.

"I'm delighted to be a small part of it, and can't wait to see what the wonderful minds of Helen and Gary have got in store."

Owen added: "The Fabulous Baker Boys puts contemporary Welsh life and characters centre-stage, and we're thrilled to be writing something so close to our hearts."

The programme is scheduled to air in 2010.

RTD is given an OBE

Davies, 45, who was born in Swansea, said he was "delighted to accept" an OBE for services to drama, adding: "I hope it does the whole industry a bit of good, for the writing of television drama to be recognised." He is also known for his gay drama Queer as Folk and the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood

RTD steps down from Doctor Who

BBC Wales and BBC Drama has announced that Bafta and Hugo Award winning writer Steven Moffat will succeed Russell T Davies as Lead Writer and Executive Producer of the fifth series of Doctor Who, which will broadcast on BBC One in 2010.

Moffat has penned some of the series' most unforgettable and acclaimed episodes - including Blink with its terrifying Weeping Angels, for which he was awarded the Bafta Writer Award 2008 on Sunday 11th May. His previous work on Doctor Who includes The Girl in the Fireplace for Series Two, which earned him his second Hugo Award.
His first was for the Series One two-parter The Empty Child, which became famous for its terrifying refrain 'Are you my mummy?'

For the current series, Moffat has written Silence in the Library, a two parter starring Alex Kingston which transmits on 31st May and 7th June 2008 on BBC One.

Steven's career began with the landmark ITV children's drama Press Gang in 1989, for which he won his first Bafta. Coupling, the hugely popular and award winning sitcom he created and wrote for BBC Two, began in 2000 and ran for four seasons. Jekyll, his six part thriller starring James Nesbitt and Michelle Ryan, transmitted on BBC One last year.
Steven will continue as one of the directors on the board of Hartswood Films which produced Coupling and Jekyll, where he is also working on his new comedy Adam & Eve with wife Sue Vertue. He has just delivered the screenplay for Tintin, the first instalment of the trilogy of films featuring the iconic Belgian comic-strip hero, to Steven Spielberg who will direct it for DreamWorks. Thomas Sangster and Andy Serkis will star.
"My entire career has been a Secret Plan to get this job," said Steven Moffat. "I applied before but I got knocked back cos the BBC wanted someone else. Also I was seven. Anyway, I'm glad the BBC has finally seen the light, and it's a huge honour to be following Russell into the best - and the toughest - job in television. I say "toughest" cos Russell's at my window right now, pointing and laughing."

"It's been a delight and an honour working with Steven," said Russell T Davis, "I can't wait to see where his extraordinary imagination takes the Doctor. Best of all, I get to be a viewer again, watching on a Saturday night!"

"BBC Wales is very proud of Doctor Who's phenomenal success," added Menna Richards, Controller, BBC Wales. "Steven Moffat is an extraordinary talent and we are very much looking forward to him joining the Doctor Who team."
Jane Tranter, Controller BBC Fiction, added her praise. "Scripts and writers are at the heart of what BBC Drama is all about, and especially at the heart of Doctor Who. The past four series have been brilliantly helmed by the spectacularly talented Russell T Davies. As lead writer and executive producer, he has overseen the creative direction and detail of the 21st century relaunch of Doctor Who and we are delighted to have his continued presence on the specials over the next 18 months.

"But the challenge and excitement of the fifth series is now being handed to Steven Moffat. The Tardis couldn't be in safer hands. Steven's talents on both Doctor Who and beyond are well known. He is a writer of glittering brilliance, comedy and depth, with an extraordinary imagination and a unique voice. Steven has a wonderful mix of being a committed Doctor Who fan and a true artist, and his plans for the next series are totally thrilling."

The announcement follows the news that Piers Wenger will take over the role of Executive Producer from Julie Gardner on Series Five of Doctor Who.

"The challenge of taking Doctor Who to a new future is a huge and thrilling one and BBC Wales is blessed to have someone with Steven's extraordinary talent in charge," said Piers." His imagination and creativity have already given birth to some of the series' most unforgettable monsters though in this instance no one need fear; Time, space and the future of The Doctor are safe with him."

Wenger and Moffat are already working closely together on the planning of the series.

Series four has achieved some of the show's highest audience figures to date and forthcoming episodes feature a stellar line up of guests including Lesley Sharp, Lindsey Coulson, Alex Kingston, Colin Salmon and Michael Brandon. Freema Agyeman and Billie Piper - The Doctor's two former companions - have also returned to assist The Doctor in series four.

Doctor Who will return in 2009 with four specials, and the full length fifth series is currently scheduled to be broadcast on BBC One in Spring 2010

Major new publication from RTD

BBC Books has bought Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale by "Doctor Who" writer Russell T Davies and journalist Benjamin Cook to complement its substantial "Doctor Who" publishing programme.

Russell T Davies has been executive producer of the popular series since it returned to the BBC in 2005 and is the writer of some of its most memorable episodes. In the book, which is published this autumn, Davies will provide a look behind the scenes at the family drama, in a collection of correspondence with his friend Cook.

It will focus on Davies' work on the fourth series of "Doctor Who", but will also bring in experiences from previous series and other shows he has written and created, including "Queer as Folk", "Bob & Rose" and "The Second Coming". It will be illustrated with photographs, Davies' hand-drawn illustrations and script pages.

Albert DePetrillo, senior commissioning editor at BBC Books, who bought world rights from Bethan Evans at The Agency said: "It's not only the ultimate 'Doctor Who' book, it's a celebration of the creative process and a love letter to great television."

Russell T Davies has said that Doctor Who is set up so it "should be around for 20-30 years". The writer, who revived the series, said it could continue with year-long gaps to keep it fresh.

He explained: "I don't have any big ambitions except to carry on writing stories for telly. We've set [Doctor Who] up in such a way that it should be around for 20-30 years yet.

"Within that timeframe there will be year-long hiatuses to give it a chance to get its momentum back." Davies has also revealed his plans for the show's break next year - a series codenamed MGM or More Gay Men.

He said: "It's going to be about fortysomething gay men and how jealous they are of gay teenagers. I've been longing to write something for adults.

"What got me started was a friend, a former Mr Gay UK, who split up from his boyfriend. He asked me, 'Why are so many gay men so glad we split up?'

"That remark's stayed with me for six years. I think there's a
self-punishing streak in that gladness and I want to explore it."

The Sarah Jane Adventures

Sarah Jane Smith, investigative journalist and former companion to The Doctor, is back in a brand-new CBBC drama from the makers of Doctor Who. And in the first two-part story of the series she faces some familiar alien enemies of The Doctor as the Slitheen are back and out for revenge...

On their first day at their new school Maria and Luke soon realise that all is not as it seems. There's a funny smell, the food keeps going off, the teachers keep farting and the new technology block is hiding some dark secrets.

With their suspicions aroused, Sarah Jane, Maria and Luke set about investigating, joined by their new friend Clyde. They soon discover that the Slitheen have disguised themselves as teachers as part of a deadly plan which threatens the future of the Earth.

But as Maria, Luke and Clyde become trapped in the new technology block in the clutches of the Slitheen and with Sarah Jane under attack from another of the alien monsters, will the gang be able to stop the Slitheen before it's too late?

Sarah Jane Smith is played by Elisabeth Sladen, who also starred as Sarah Jane in the Seventies Doctor Who series as a companion to the third and fourth Doctors. Maria Jackson, Sarah Jane's neighbour and sidekick, is played by Yasmin Paige. Luke Smith, Sarah Jane's adopted son who was created by aliens, is played by Thomas Knight, and Daniel Anthony plays the streetwise Clyde.

Revenge Of The Slitheen is a two-part story written by Gareth Roberts, who also writes for Doctor Who, and Russell T Davies is one of the executive producers.

Doctor Who to return for fifth series in 2010

After months of media speculation, the BBC can confirm that the BAFTA award-winning Doctor Who will return for a fifth series in Spring 2010.

Viewers are in for a treat this Christmas, as a special episode starring David Tennant and Kylie Minogue will be broadcast on BBC One in December 2007.

Series Four, which went into production in July 2007, will hit UK screens in Spring 2008, followed by a special episode for Christmas 2008.

In 2009 Doctor Who will return with three specials starring David Tennant, with Head Writer, Russell T Davies.

The full-length fifth series will transmit in 2010.

Jane Tranter, Controller, BBC Fiction, says: "Doctor Who is one of the BBC's best loved and most successful dramas. Its journey over the past three series has been one of the most ambitious and exciting that we have had, and I'm delighted to be able to confirm not only three exciting specials for 2009, but a fifth series in 2010. "

Menna Richards, Controller, BBC Wales, says: "The success of Doctor Who is a fantastic tribute to the dedication and expertise of the production team at BBC Wales who have worked on the project from the outset. This announcement is marvellous news for all involved, and more importantly for the programme's amazing fan base and audience. BBC Wales is looking forward to producing the fifth series."

Following the critically acclaimed season three finale, the BBC has announced that Catherine Tate is set to return to the TARDIS for the complete 13-week run of series four, reprising her role as Donna from the 2006 Christmas special.

Freema Agyeman, who won praise for her portrayal of Martha Jones in series three, is also set to return mid series four.

Russell T Davies talks about moving on from Doctor Who

In an interview in the latest issue of TV industry mag Broadcast, Doctor Who producer Russell T Davies has discussed leaving the show - later rather than sooner, mind. But eventually. Y'know. Some time. One day.

"I've certainly got things lined up", Davies says. "I'm talking to [TV production company] Red. I want to work with Nicola Shindler [producer of Casanova, Bob and Rose and Queer as Folk] again, and I want to live in Manchester again. My house is in Manchester.

"I've got a list of about 10 programmes in my head that I want to make. One of the stories will be about gay men, because I want to go back and write about them again in some shape or form. There's a few characters boiling away; they just pop up, unbidden. Doctor Who has not elbowed them out."

He also reveals what he thinks of ITV's "answer to Doctor Who", Primeval.
"I absolutely love it. Its [lack of] ethnic casting is shameful - I've never seen such a white show in all my born days! But apart from that I think it's excellent, I really think it's excellent."
 
60 SECONDS: Russell T Davies
by ANDREW WILLIAMS - Wednesday, March 28, 2007

(Do you think Russell was in a bad mood when he gave this interview? Webmaster K)

Russell T Davies is the writer behind such hit TV series as Queer As Folk and The Second Coming but is best known for reviving the fortunes of Dr Who. The sci-fi series returns for a new series on Saturday night on BBC1 starring David Tennant and Freema Agyeman as his new sidekick Martha.

What can we expect from the new series?
Martha’s the biggest change. She’s a medical student living away from home and is more independent than Billie Piper’s character Rose was. There’s more of a sense of a life interrupted with Martha but, like any companion, she’s brave and courageous and we should all want to be like her. I never want to write a companion who moans about being on the Tardis – they’re mad, wanting to go home. If someone offered to show me the whole of time and space, I’d abandon everything.

Who is your least favourite companion?
Oh, I’m not going to say. I’ll be at some convention in the future and she’ll run over and beat me up if I did. I love them all.

Who’s your favourite Doctor?
Tom Baker. I was 11 when he came along. I’d loved Jon Pertwee before but Tom Baker was just extraordinary. He appealed to every different generation of Dr Who viewer and the ratings really came alive when he started in it. You watch the episodes now and he still stands out.

Which are better, the Daleks or the Cybermen?
Daleks any day; that’s why I wrote an episode where the Daleks thrash the Cybermen. The fact they still work now is astonishing. We were tempted to redesign them and drew up all sorts of different Daleks – circular Daleks, flying Daleks, real Star Wars-type Daleks – but they just weren’t Daleks. There’s a reason they’ve lasted 40 years. I’d like to read a university-level essay on why the design of the Daleks has worked so well.

Dr Who fans have had a geeky image in the past. Have you changed that?
No, that image has lasted a long time and it’s slightly true. There is a section of fandom like that. I’m a fan myself but I’m very glad we’ve broadened the appeal. One of the great joys is getting fan letters from little girls because traditionally it’s been something only boys have liked. Saying that, we forget how huge the show was in 1964, when The Dalek Invasion Of Earth caused Dalekmania across the country. We’ve just restored it to its former glory. I’d like to read a university-level essay on why the design of the Daleks has worked so well

What’s your favourite piece of Dr Who merchandise?
The radio-controlled Daleks. They are so well made, I’d have loved to have had one when I was a kid. I keep an eye on the proposals for merchandise. We turned down a request for Dr Who-branded yoghurts because people are so concerned about what children eat right now. I said yes to a Dalek hot water bottle, though – I thought it was brilliant. I get sent a copy of all the merchandise and my flat is beginning to look like a paedophile’s den. I’m going to start giving it away to nephews and nieces.

Are you spreading yourself too thin with Dr Who, Torchwood and now the Sarah Jane Adventures?
No, it’s not like the Star Trek franchise when there were three series on at the same time that were practically identical. Torchwood is clearly for adults and Sarah Jane is clearly for children. We worked hard to keep them distinct but I think three will be our limit.

Torchwood had a mixed reception…
What do you mean, a mixed reception?

Some people hated it.
You mean among online, moaning old minnies? We got the highest digital figures the BBC ever got so, frankly, we were laughing. We’re working on ways the second series can be improved, none of which has anything to do with online forums.

Do you have a disparaging view of online fandom?
I’m suspicious of any focus group. If the BBC said, ‘we’ve done a focus group of 200 people from Ipswich and asked their opinions’, I’d say: ‘F*** off, Ipswich.’ It’s no way to work properly. It’s the same as an online forum, it’s like a focus group. If you worked in advertising and used that as a way of doing your research, your boss would sack you because it’s not representative of the general public. It seems that they’re becoming more powerful, particularly in American sci-fi shows, who seem to imagine those groups are the general public. They are all people of a similar background, similar philosophy and similar take on Dr Who – that’s fandom.

What does the T stand for?
Nothing. There’s another Russell Davies who broadcasts on Radio 4 so I added it to avoid confusion. For my first credit, I was thinking ‘Russell P Davies’, ‘Russell S Davies’ and, as soon as I chose ‘T’, one of my friends said: ‘What, like James T Kirk?’ I thought ‘oh f***’ but it was too late.

What are you proudest of having written?
The best thing I’ve done is the first episode of Bob And Rose but I expect Queer As Folk will be the one that gets remembered for longer. I’d be happy to have it on my tombstone.

What’s the worst thing you’ve done?
A sitcom called The House Of Windsor. It was absolutely f***ing terrible. It wasn’t my idea but I wrote an episode and every line was despicable. It had a great cast but it was crap.

Television's lord of prime time awaits his next regeneration

Sunday March 18, 2007
The Observer

John Inman's death moved Russell T Davies to write a typically ebullient letter to the Guardian last week, pointing out that for all the po-faced talk about perpetuating homosexual stereotypes, Mr Humphries, the character Inman portrayed in Are You Being Served? was 'essentially happy'.

'As a young gay viewer, back then, I loved that character,' Davies wrote.

The man who helped to rejuvenate the BBC's Saturday evening schedule by reinventing Doctor Who, has undeniable creative clout. But Davies's views also carry weight because professional success has bought a degree of celebrity, and status as a de facto spokesman for the gay community. Like Inman, Davies is becoming something of a 'national treasure', and that would be apt enough, since 'treasure' is a word you are likely to hear tripping from Davies's lips with increasingly frequency the longer you spend in his presence - along with other epitaphs such as 'sweetheart' and 'darling'.

That would suggest Davies is an archetypal luvvie, but there is far more to him than that. As Queer as Folk, the uncompromising breakthrough drama he penned for Channel 4, demonstrated, Davies is made of sterner stuff. Its graphic depiction of gay life in Manchester outraged some, but cemented his reputation as one of television's most talented writers, along with his old colleague Paul Abbott.

He and Abbott are now among the most powerful men in television. Davies has done more than any other writer to revitalise the BBC's output, placing a witty, daring and imaginative Doctor Who at the heart of a revamped Saturday night schedule. It's a crucial slot, drawing in tea-time audiences that tend to stick with BBC1 for the evening.

The success of Doctor Who was a pivotal moment for an organisation stung by criticism from its governors, legislators and, yes, even viewers, that it was screening too many lifestyle shows. Doctor Who proved the perfect riposte, despite audience research that suggested it would not be popular. BBC executives ignored those findings and trusted their instincts; the show was a hit, and the channel has oozed confidence ever since.

There are other innovative programmes too, of course. Spooks, to name but one, preceded it. But somehow Davies's Doctor Who has defined the channel, providing a creative spark that has encouraged more risk-taking and emboldened programme-makers and executives alike. How ITV, much in need of a creative catalyst despite an improved line up this year, would love its own Russell T Davies.

Davies will not be writing Doctor Who forever, of course, and that is a major headache for the BBC. 'I'm not going to go on and on,' he says, from his spacious flat overlooking Cardiff bay, where the series is filmed. 'I wouldn't want to do series seven. There are other things I want to do.'

As the third series begins the Saturday after next, Davies won't be packing up his typewriter until the turn of the decade, a date too far into the future to worry even the most nervy time-traveller, but one that will worry BBC executives.

The show has survived the departures of both Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper, but it couldn't outlive its re-creator.

Quite what Davies would like to do next is not clear, but he wouldn't be short of offers. America is a temptation for any writer determined to make his mark, and his fortune, in the world's largest and most powerful television market, but it is one that Davies is likely to resist. 'I feel too old and too knackered. I'd have to start all over again', he says.

Exercising creative control over Doctor Who - he is also the show's executive producer and oversaw its spin-off series Torchwood and Sarah Jane Investigates - is time-consuming and exhausting. 'I have considerable creative control but no sole creative control,' he emphasises, but his position means he sometimes can't start writing until well after lunchtime.

He tries not to complain about beingstuck in Cardiff from Monday to Friday, 'but it's not home.' That is in Manchester, and he tries to get back for the weekends. But for the moment he's too busy even to watch much TV. He hasn't seen The Wire, the US drama that has been hailed as one of the greatest ever, and hasn't watched much of The Sopranos. Writing for TV doesn't leave much time for putting your feet up in front of the box.

Davies was born in Swansea in 1963 and went to Oxford University, but he cut his teeth in BBC children's television, which he left with no job to go to but a vague aspiration to work for Granada. 'I came down the road where Granada was. I left to go on the dole and bugged them until they gave me a job. I look back now and think I must have been very determined when I was young.'

He concedes he was wary of writers, despite the fact he had always aspired to be one. 'I didn't know any writers and I wasn't from a family of writers. You think writers are almost mystical but they eat and drink and go down the pub like everyone else.'

His own working methods are unremarkable enough: 'I sit down at the computer and I treat it like homework. I do it as late as I possibly can. You have to let it stew.'

He dreams up Doctor Who scenes while he's doing his shopping or wandering around Cardiff. 'If I'm stuck I'm more likely to go out to Tesco than go for a long walk,' he says, adding that he 'writes very quickly'. The stories 'are more or less fully formulated by then'.

There may be a few more series of Doctor Who to come, but Davies is obviously pondering his next project. He is a big fan of soaps, and confesses: 'I've always loved Coronation Street. I still think its wonderful. [Its creator] Tony Warren created a whole world. The tone of voice has not changed.'

ITV boss Michael Grade may be short of a few quid after axing his lucrative quiz show channel, but he should dig deep into ITV's budget regardless - and make Davies an offer he can't refuse.

SFX Interview RTD

A few weeks back, we visited Cardiff to speak to Who supremo Russell T Davies (we like that phrase, cos it reminds us of “Zarbi Supremo”). The choicest cuts from the interview can be found in the six-page Who feature in our latest issue (SFX155, in the shops now). You can also find more of Russell’s words of wisdom in our SFX Collection Doctor Who special, which goes on sale on 28 March.
However, Russell talked to us for a good two hours, which means we still have a good 5000 words of transcript offcuts left over. So we thought we’d share it with you lot, for free. Ain’t we good to you? Say "thank you" nicely.

After two successful seasons, is there an expectation on you now to raise your game?
“Not really, no – no-one ever tells you that. I mean, they love it - the BBC loves it. Noone’s saying ‘Change this’ or ‘Do that’ or ‘We need more of this’ or ‘We need more audience’.
“We get bits of research done and there’s all sorts of interesting figures – like, we probably have our lowest viewing figures in Northern Ireland, which is interesting. But no-one turns round and says, ‘Put some Irish characters in!’ or something like that. It’s interesting, a focus group thing arrived in the office yesterday and someone said ‘Have you seen it?’ and they were describing it to me. And it was all very nice stuff, but I was sitting there thinking ‘I’m not actually listening to this!’ And [executive producer] Julie Gardner wouldn’t, [producer] Phil Collinson wouldn’t, and we wouldn’t tell any of the writers – it’s not the sort of thing we do.
“So it’s just carrying on, really. Obviously, it’s scary with Billie gone. Obviously, it’s a huge change. We did brilliantly at Christmas without Billie and we’re very confident in it, but that’s probably our biggest challenge – that’s probably the way everyone’s gonna talk about it and write about it.”

But is there a little creative voice inside your head, saying “Raise your game”?
“Not really. You sort of do that with every script. You just sit with every script saying, ‘Let’s make this better, let’s make this as good as it can possibly be’. You tend to work just in terms of story. Although there is a certain amount of raising your game just because naturally that’s the process of work. You must do that with every issue of SFX, you say ‘Let’s do this, let’s do that’. You’re not sitting there saying, ‘Let’s raise our game!’ You’re saying, ‘How do we make this better?’ It’s a different phrase, sounds like the same thing, but it’s actually very different.
“There are some innovations this year that are technical, like when we have matte paintings. I love putting matte paintings in scripts, because [FX company] The Mill do it so beautiful. They’ve got this slightly new technology this year which is called two and a half D - I don’t know if that’s its real name. Instead of 3D it’s two and a half D! So the matte paintings are astonishing this year because there’s a fair amount of movement in them. So a shot of a planet or an outer space setting or Elizabethan England moves slightly. It’s quite brilliant. When we go to The Globe theatre in episode two, they’ve done a top shot of The Globe which looks like a CGI model shot, but the camera’s moving over all the houses and over The Globe and there’s little people on the streets running. So things like that are raising your game as you go along. And everyone’s getting used to writing it... but then, when they get used to writing it then you want to kick them up the arse and say, ‘Take it a bit further’. So, normal work really. I think the important thing to say is that no-one in charge ever says, ‘You’ve got to make that better now.’”

Does making Doctor Who feel like one long marathon? Or is it a sprint every season?
“No, it is a marathon – it’s non-stop really. The whole series has felt more like climbing uphill this year because we’re heading to this big climax. Last year we did the big climax in the middle, because we did all those four Cybermen episodes in the middle - which actually was a nightmare to get done at the time. I remember coming out of the tone meetings, we had people bleeding from the eyes - it was just huge! But actually it was brilliant psychologically because once you’d done those four Graeme Harper episodes although there were still five more episodes to make they were there, they were written, and it all sort of made sense... so it was slightly easier. This year we were saying, ‘Why does it feel tougher going into the New Year this year?’ It’s because we’ve got the big climax to come. It’s huge, and it’s special effects galore and acting galore - so we’re not relaxing yet. Last year we sort of ended on ‘Love and Monsters’, which was easily filmable - that was an easy shoot comparatively, just one monster and all set in the present day. But now we’re building up to this huge obstacle in the last two episodes, so it feels like... not an uphill struggle, cos that makes it sound like it’s bad, but its like there’s a prize to be reached at the end! Whereas last year that beach scene at the end of ‘Doomsday’ was it, and that was in the can and it was sitting there. So you always felt like, ‘No matter what goes wrong, we’ve got that ready to show’. So this year it does feel harder, but in a good way - like good work. Over the next six weeks we’ve got a lot of filming to be done. It’s all gotta be on schedule and we’ve got to hit those moments and afford those moments, and stuff like that. But that’s good! So yes, it is, it’s a constant marathon for everyone really. And people go on to Torchwood and they go on to Sarah Jane, so no-one really stops!”

Sounds knackering. Do you ever get a stitch?
“No I don’t really, no. I was ill, though - I had this bronchitis for about six weeks in November, and that was a fucker cos I just didn’t have the time! And people filled in and strangely they coped without me. Why didn’t they just stop? I can’t understand how they carried on! But that was a fucker for me, just because there is no time to get ill. I mean, I wasn’t lying in a bed for six weeks but it felt like six weeks of being below par. But that happens doesn’t it? It happens in every job. But even though I was coughing away I could still and type actually - so it doesn’t kill you in the end. That was the closest I’ve come to a stitch.”

What do Freema and the character of Martha bring to the show?
“It’s simply the new energy of having someone new. There’s a whole different slant to the relationship in having unrequited love - which is so not laboured, it’s there as little moments.
“It’s a chance to explore the whole mythology from scratch, which is always good for the series. That’s an interesting thing in pacing out the new series: when does he tell her that he’s the last of his kind? And how do you get something new out of that? And I’m so pleased with that moment; David’s just absolutely beautiful with it. I won’t tell you where it is, but it’s not straight away; it’s a gradual reveal. And not revealing it leads the Doctor into all sorts of interesting situations. So she gives you a chance to use the mythology and to highlight it again from scratch. Rebooting is always a brilliant thing in that sense.
“And she gives a lot of Freema, that’s the greatest strength, as Billie brought an awful lot of Billie to Rose. Y’know, we’re so lucky with these women, because in nine months filming she never had a bad day, never had an off day - which you’re entitled to with nine months filming. You’re entitled to storm about the set one day and say, ‘I’m tired!’ and things like that, and she fucking loves it! So she brings a lot to it. And then you watch the rushes every day and then other writers come in and see what she’s doing, so it’s nice and interactive. She just brings an energy to it that’s very Freema.
“Martha’s got a career, and there’s a sense that the Doctor’s interrupted her life. With Rose you felt like the Doctor made her life. With Martha it’s more like she was interrupted. There’s a family, and the family’s got all sorts of ongoing situations in it as well. And the Doctor interrupts... and of course she loves him and goes with him, but she has got that to go back to.”

Do you still get a thrill when you type the words “interior TARDIS”?
“I love it. It’s surprising how little we use it. It’s still sitting there like the biggest set in the world, and it’s still the first thing we cut. We cut a huge scene at the start of episode four, a great big long scene in the TARDIS right at the top, lovely stuff with the two of them talking. And then you watch it and you think, ‘Nah, just land in New York - get on with it, for god’s sake!’”

... not just the TARDIS, but the sense that this whole world of icons is your playground?
“I suppose. It doesn’t feel like you’re playing with them though, it feels like you’re genuinely using them. I think when you start to play with them, that’s when the TARDIS suddenly becomes an iconic column or a sedan chair - I think you can play too much with them. It’s like Martha saying [of the TARDIS], ‘It’s made of wood!’ I think that’s treating it with respect, because that’s a genuine, natural response.”

Is there ever a conflict between the fan part of you and the professional writer?
“No. I thought there might be at the beginning, but no, it’s like my writer’s voice is much stronger than being fannish in any sort of way. It’s funny, because there are so many things that I used to think were just fannish things that actually turn out to be very important to the programme. Simple things like Radio Times covers. We used to sit and count them and collect them. Now you’re here as an executive producer of the show it’s fucking vital to get a Radio Times cover! All the stuff the fans used to worry about is true of the marketplace. That is a mark of prestige from the BBC, and they’re so brilliant to us. But that working relationship we’ve got with them is hard-won, and it’s a lot of work for a lot of people. But it’s worth it. So it’s funny that - you find yourself niggling over things that I would have thought were just the preserve of fandom, but are actually genuinely important to the show. But not with your writing particularly.”

Getting the Daleks and the Cybermen together in an episode – that’s surely something you wanted to see as a fan?
“That’s a great example, because you think that’s fanwank sort of stuff, and then when you come to it... Before that episode went out, when we showed that first Cyberman two-parter, friends of mine who are teachers were saying that kids were playing Daleks vs Cybermen in the yard anyway! Once they’d met the Daleks and they’d met the Cybermen it was a very obvious thing for eight year olds to do, to put them together in the schoolyard. So again, that’s not just fannish.”

It’s such a really obvious idea you wonder why they never did it before in the old show!
“Equally, they were probably wise in the old days, weren’t they? The luxury of having a single camera shoot is that we can make things look good. Imagine if three Daleks came through on a three-wall set and three Cybermen came through and spoke to each other! They were probably right back then.”

It’s common knowledge now that you polish most of the other writers’ scripts. What do you change?
“Most of the polishing - which is not on Stephen Moffat or Matthew Graham’s scripts, or Stephen Greenhorn’s this year, because they just don’t need it – is because action adventure is very, very hard to write, and there’s simply no experience of it in this country. Go to LA and they’re all working on Galactica and all of those shows. It’s a proper job in America. There’s no call for it here. What you learn on Doctor Who you will probably not carry on to any other job you ever do, because most stuff is people sitting in offices and pubs and bedrooms and just... life. Even cop shows only have a certain amount of car chases and things like that. Whereas we run for about 25 minutes. So writing that is very hard to do, and I’m just getting well versed in that. I’m still cracking it myself though, still thinking of new things to do. It’s pacing mostly, and dialogue. I’m good at dialogue. Give me a script and I can zhuzzh up the dialogue. And sometimes it’s fitting in with production parameters. Helen Raynor did episodes four and five [of season three], and with the end of episode five, we were about to start pre-prepoduction and - bless her - it was just impossibly expensive. Her original ending of episode five would have had the streets of New York in the 1930s being over-run, and I said, ‘We can do many things, but you need to contain this.’ And I know how to contain something, so that’s what I did.”

Why doesn’t the TARDIS visit more alien planets?
“It’s fascinating, this area. I get letters saying, ‘You can go to a forest, you can do this...’ Actually I’m not sure that you can... I don’t watch things like Stargate closely and I laugh when I look and they’re in the same forest again. And I’m not knocking the programme: there’s nothing else they can do. They’ve got a format where they have to go through the portal to an alien planet every week.”
“On our most expensive episodes we might get, I dunno... 200 effects. Most of them, you don’t get that many. And [visiting an alien planet] you’d eat up half those effects in normal conversation. If it’s normal dialogue with you and me talking, with something in the background, then you’ve eaten them up just intercutting, because every shot counts as an effects shot. If I was having a conversation with you on an alien planet and there’s gonna be a city in the background, and my close-up is one shot, it’s not then free to come back to my shot. It cuts to you, cuts back to me, and when you come back to me that’s a new effects shot. Every director comes in saying ‘But that’s the same effects shot! It’s Russell talking with a city behind him – we’ve done that once, we’ve established that!’ No, it’s a new effects shot because I’m moving, I’m talking, I have to be keyed in differently against green screen.
“So that’s the problem. It’s not like, ‘Oh, we’ve got a city in 3D, now we can use it ten million times.’ No, every single shot counts, and we pay a fixed price for every single shot. So you cannot sustain it for long. If they’re on an alien planet then very quickly they have to get underground, or into the city. Yes, now and again we’ve done a bit of it, and there are certain shots of alien cities and things like that, but we’re just very careful with it. We’ll do a bit. There are gonna be people talking on alien planets and you will see alien cities in the background, but it’s written so that it’s limited. You have to write around it and be careful counting every shot. Obviously, I like things related back to Earth and to humanity, but it’s very clearly a cost-cutting measure that a lot of our adventures are on Earth. I don’t ever want to sound like we’re short of money though, because we’re very well funded, very well looked after.”

Do you think that two or three years down the line it’ll be possible to do more of that kind of thing, because the technology’s developed?
“I suppose so, but you’re at the TV end of the technology, which is never gonna buy the most cutting edge stuff. The other day Will from The Mill was saying, ‘Oh, there’s this technology now that lipsynchs perfectly’. And lipsynch on a CGI monster is a nightmare, cos it’s so expensive. Cassandra is the only one we’ve ever done properly - and she could hardly move! The effect is very, very expensive, so most of our other CGI monsters just growled and things like that. Now there’s software that can film the actor and can lipsynch it. It was all very exciting! And then he phones up saying, ‘Yes, but it’ll cost £100,000 pounds’, and we simply haven’t got the £100,000 spare – we’ve got a billion other things we can spend it on. So at the top end of Hollywood they’ve got machines that can do that infinitely. But price-wise, you’ve just gotta wait.”
“But it does get better. And actually we have now got one CGI creature towards the end that has got a good few lines of dialogue. Although we’ll have to cut around it, and we’ll have to cut to other people sometimes when it’s talking. But it’s getting better. Two years ago Will would have been saying, ‘That’s absolutely impossible’ unless you spend all your money on it, like we did with Casssandra. Now we can do that, and other things, like that two and a half D thing I was describing.”

Is it tough to keep the Doctor Who brand consistent?
“It’s not tough, it’s just constant work. You try and keep an eye on everything, but there’s some things I don’t know. I picked up the last Doctor Who Magazine and it said “Paul Magrs’s Tenth Doctor novel is gonna be called The Wicked Bungalow”. And I sent an email saying, ‘No it isn’t!’. And I love Paul Magrs, he’s a great novelist - I know how clever and ironic Paul Magrs is. But if you’re a Times journalist who wants to have a pop at BBC merchandise - which is an article that’s dying to be written any day now, we’re very lucky we haven’t had one of those yet - and you went into Waterstones and you walked past a book called The Wicked Bungalow demanding £5.99 of your kid’s money, that’s genuinely damaging the brand. Not the content of the book, because I know how clever that will be. But you could write that article, you could write 800 words on that in a second, saying, ‘What’s the BBC doing taking our children’s cash? They’ve even released a book called The Wicked Bungalow!
“I think it’s the best range of toys I’ve ever seen. I think they’re marvellous those toys - especially for TV tie-ins, and they’ve got that sense of humour of the show. All of that is very closely looked after: the books and Doctor Who Magazine, and Doctor Who Adventures and Battles In Time. The only thing I’ve given up now is that I used to keep an eye on the comic strip in Doctor Who Magazine and [script editor] Gary Russell’s handling that now, just because my workload is a bit big.
“So yeah, it’s looking after it in the way that a Hollywood studio looks after Harry Potter. It’s that important to do, to keep the consistency. It’s like when you were a kid you used to buy those famous old Doctor Who annuals that were so mad, and disconcerting, and you wouldn’t sit there on Christmas Day going, ‘Hurray! What a marvellous annual!’ I mean, they were mad! You wanted pages full of Daleks and Cybermen and secrets of the TARDIS and things like that. And I don’t think the annual was good enough this year, to be honest - they had a //reprinted// comic strip in. This year they’re not going to get away with that I hope, we’ve been sending off memos. It was a lovely piece of work and it made the headlines cos it outsold The Beano; nonetheless - not good enough. The annual was good, but it could get better. So you give notes on things like that, although they don’t always listen to you.
“There’s always little mistakes. They run the DVD covers past us, and with the holographic cover of the series two box set, you see that as an email, as a clean illustration, it looks brilliant. You walk into HMV on the day that it’s released and it’s cloudy, because it’s a hologram. Stuff like that, you’re kicking yourself saying, ‘Why didn’t I think of that? Those lenticular covers are cloudy and it doesn’t stand out from a distance!’ So it’s always one step forward, two steps back. But at least we’re monitoring that. At least you have got the executive producers of the programme walking into HMV and saying, ‘Oh look, that doesn’t work, so we’ll try again next year’. “Everyone’s worked very hard on what is a unique property to the BBC. They’ve never done anything like this - not with this amount of books and peripheral activity and the online stuff, and the animation: it’s absolutely unique. And it’s working cos... Julie Gardner is now head of commissioning for BBC drama, she’s the busiest woman on planet Earth, and that was her on the phone earlier saying, ‘On Friday we’re gonna nail down various bits of merchandise, and bits of spin-off stuff’. She doesn’t let anything escape her – she’s absolutely amazing, never lets it go. And she’s doing that on 27 programmes at the same time! But she loves her Doctor Who. Genuinely loves it.”

On writing the scene in the first episode of the new series where Martha sees the TARDIS for the first time:
“With that.. you don’t relax, but it’s just lovely, and somewhere in that scene I think she says - and the Doctor says - things that have never quite been said before.
“With Catherine Tate she saw the inside first and then went to the outside, and I love that, because she did exactly the same reaction of walking around the outside saying, ‘It can’t be that small!’ Because you would do that. Yes, you’re gonna repeat that moment, but that’s lovely because that is what you would do. So you can’t just be different for different’s sake. You would walk round the outside of that box - although noone ever used to do that! So you just think about it for long enough and there’ll be something new in there.
“There’s that moment of the Doctor saying ‘It stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space’, and I love that moment. And actually I think it’s only the second time he’s ever said it. He never had to say it to Jackie; he didn’t explain it to Donna properly either. So you look at that and you think, ‘It’s only the second time’, and if you’re eight years old you just soak that stuff in – it’s lovely.”

On why Martha isn’t all that radically different from Rose.
“You have to love where you’re going, cos otherwise there’s no point in being there - you wouldn’t travel with the Doctor.
“It worked for me. When Jo Grant became Sarah Jane Smith I was 11, I was the perfect age, and I didn’t blink. I certainly remember when Doctors changed you spent an episode not liking them, but I don’t ever remember doing that with companions, you like them because you wanted to be them. I think you wander off-beam once you start making them alien.”

On Martha’s relationship with the Doctor.
“There is a gradual, slow arc for her, that’s very diffferent to Rose’s. Rose was lucky: she had someone who reciprocrated, and they were like the golden couple together. How often do you get that? And it’s not huge, it’s all subtext.
“It makes me laugh when I get letters moaning about the romance of the two of them [the Doctor and Rose]. I think, ‘Where was that then?!’ If you distilled the romance it’s like two minutes of screen time over two years! It’s actually so subtly there. Yes, it’s talked about and it’s powerful, but did they stop ‘Tooth and Claw’ for a quick snog?”

On the “arc” of Martha and her family...
“It’s a nice story. It’s one of those very gradual arcs. You can always watch it each week from brand new, but we’ve tried some new things with it. These sort of gradual arcs aren’t particularly prescribed at the beginning of the series. When I sit with [BBC Head of Fiction] Jane Tranter and describe all 13 episodes, I barely touch on them. This is what I start feeding in as we go along. With Stephen Greenhorn, who did episode six, the very last thing I did was say, ‘Would you just put one line in?’. Because episode six was actually written about fourth in order. And no-one knew exactly where it was gonna go until I handed in episode 13 – that’s what’s nice about it. I sat down with episode 13 and I sat there with the freedom to take it absolutely anywhere, we’d not said, ‘This is gonna happen’ or ‘That’s gonna happen’. And that’s a good thing. With Martha and her family anything can happen, and does. So it’s not too prescribed, and I can go back enough into previous episodes. There’s a dubbing line I’m going to put into episode eight that will just make it all slightly more continuous. But just very slightly, so if episode eight is your first episode, you don’t sit there going, ‘I can’t follow what’s going on!’ So it’s light.”

On whether the series will get “darker” in season three, now the Doctor has lost Rose:
“I sort of lightened it slightly. It’s inevitable from series one to series one to series three, they’re darker. That’s what happens - it happens on any show. Things get more involved in the continuity, in any show, with its continuity - with its characters, with their relationships, they just darken. This Life did. Lawyers in a house shagging - brilliant, marvellous. By the end of series two they are knotted and fighting. And it’s very interesting that they chose to end it there, that they couldn’t bring those people back. Because, y’know, imagine trying to pick up the continuity of that for series three – it’d be a nightmare! So you’ve gotta beware of that. You’ve got to say: it’s like a new show, new series, new adventures. It’s different every week: that’s enough of a format to keep it going.” “It’s the really close fan scrutiny of the series that will pick up on a dark moment like the Doctor killing all the Racnoss [in “The Runaway Bride”] and stuff like that. I don’t think if you’re ten years old - or you’re 50 years old and you’re a casual viewer - that that’s what you came out of ‘The Runaway Bride’ with. You’d come out with that last scene: ‘Oh, wasn’t it nice, it was Christmas and it was snowing and they saved the world!”

On not loading the scripts with too much exposition:
“There are certain things where I think, ‘I know how that’s all connected’. And if you wanted to sit me down at a convention or something and say, ‘What’s the relationship between those three things?’ I could spin it out, but you just don’t on screen. You don’t anyway, because you try to write it as a drama.
“It’s the same if you’re writing Queer As Folk or something. I don’t do those sort of things of writing lists of the backgrounds and backstories of characters, where they went to school, what they had for breakfast. You do have vague notions about characters in your head, like what sort of family they’re from and why they act like this, and something terrible that once happened to them, but if it doesn’t crop up in the dialogue naturally then you don’t say it. That’s true of any drama, so I think the same is true of Doctor Who.”

On episode three, “The Shakespeare Code”.
“The scale of that one is phenommenal. We went to The Globe and there’s a crowd replication shot of The Globe full of people: it looks like thousands of people, and it’s one of the best FX shots we’ve ever done, it’s amazing. It’s very funny. There’s monsters and chases and marvellous deaths to keep kids excited, but that is definitely funny. [Writer] Gareth Roberts has taken to that like a duck to water. It’s been a joy working with him and to give a writer like that a chance to write the stuff he’s been doing in Doctor Who novels and comic strips for years is just brlliant.”

On the Daleks:
“They are brilliant. They are evil in metal form. That’s why they’ve lasted for 40 odd years. I love the Daleks. I think the biggest risk we took was not redesigning them. Everyone was designing flying droids that had Dalek bumps on them and suckers sticking out of them that would buzz around, and you go, ‘It’s just not a Dalek’ - you know when you see bad toys of Daleks that have got the dome wrong, and you go, ‘That’s not a Dalek!’? And so we were so precise in saying, ‘It’s got to be exactly the same. They bulked it up a bit, but the relationship of one segment to another didn’t change at all, and that’s what made it work. And then you see it working again, and that was a surprise - seeing it work again with kids. It’s weird, isn’t it? It’s just a brilliant bit of design. They’re such a good idea. They’re just a classic, and they’re pure evil, and in a show like this that’s what you want.”
“I love writing Dalek dialogue - I love it! I think they’re so clever and sharp. And they’re not emotionless, they’re angry and xenophobic. It’s brilliant to write them. They can top anyone’s dialogue, like they did in that Cyberman scene [in “Doomsday”]”

On episodes seven and eight of the new series, based on Paul Cornell’s Doctor Who novel Human Nature:
“I read it years ago and loved it, and when we came to make it I didn’t read it again. [Script editor] Helen Raynor did go and read it so that someone was on track with the source material, but [producer] Julie Gardner hadn’t read it either and we said, ‘Let’s not, let’s just treat it as a script’.
“I remember in the novel the school turns to glass. Which is a brilliant image, and we could have afforded it - so it’s not a matter of cost. But actually I didn’t quite get that as part of the story. It’s a wonderful thing to read in a novel, but there’s no need for us to spend money on that.”

On episode ten, “Blink”, and Doctor Who’s casting:
“An actress called Carey Mulligan carries a lot of that. She was the young innocent one in Bleak House. She’s brilliant. People always go on about our ‘stunt casting’ with Catherine Tate, but no-one ever praises the young people that [casting director] Andy Pryor finds who are brand new. There’s this bloke called Travis Oliver in episode three who’s brilliant. Freema is the best example – she’s done a lot of work but is a brand new face in that sense. And no-one ever says, ‘Well done Andy’ for finding brand new talent like that.”

Interview by Nick Setchfield and Ian Berriman

THE RUSSELL T DAVIES EFFECT 
(Telegraph, Sunday 11 March 2007)

In two years, Russell T. Davies has re-energised a hoary old BBC show and made Saturday night TV bigger, better and louder than ever before. Now for the 'Doctor Who' overlord's next challenge: rewriting Dickens and avoiding 'Newsnight'. By Richard Johnson

It's a bright, warm, spring afternoon, and Russell T. Davies, the writer of Doctor Who, arrives on set in a black suit and a black coat. It's clear that he's been around the nether world of science fiction for far too long. The set would normally be populated by alien life-forms - the Moxx, with its face of blue, the Slitheen, and the Living Trees - all drinking their coffee through straws. But not today. The set, a derelict car-parts warehouse in Cardiff, is completely empty. Everyone is off filming a life-or-death struggle against the evil Toclafane. In Penarth.

Ground control: Davies has a say in everything - when he had a cold last year, it disrupted the 'Doctor Who' schedule for months

Davies walks through the props department shared by Doctor Who, and the Doctor Who spin-offs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, doing a quick stock-take. Space-age vehicle from the year five billion? Check - although it does look alarmingly like a VW camper van. Corpse? Check. 'You've got to have corpses,' he says. 'You don't want to keep hiring them. Corpses are expensive. Especially when you hire them on the scale we do.' Traffic lights, beds, radios - all from the past, the present and the future. There's even a Teasmade.

Davies is genuinely excited about rummaging through Doctor Who history. He's a fan, and not in a clever-clever, ironic, postmodern way. After the success of Casanova, Davies's costume romp, in 2005, he was desperate to get started on something else. 'The BBC were going "How about A Tale of Two Cities - in outer space?''' says Davies. 'Whenever a friend of mine went in for a meeting, I'd say, "Tell them I want to do Doctor Who".'

Eventually, the nagging paid off, and the BBC gave him the commission. Davies would be free to take us to the limits of our dark imaginings - from Cardiff. Doctor Who, which is just about to begin its third series under Davies, first appeared in 1963; it is now the longest-running science fiction television series in the world. With good reason, reckons Davies - it's down to the writing.

'Take The Talons of Weng Chiang, for example. Watch episode one. It's the best dialogue ever written. It's up there with Dennis Potter. By a man called Robert Holmes. When the history of television drama comes to be written, Robert Holmes won't be remembered at all because he only wrote genre stuff. And that, I reckon, is a real tragedy.'

advertisementHe pulls at the Doctor's clothes racks. There's no long scarf any more. 'The scarf was a fantastic accident,' says Davies. 'They were throwing clothes together in some warehouse, and apparently the Doctor said: "Let's try a scarf." They gave some wool to a woman who knitted something that was far too long. If they had sat there and said, "Let's have a really, really long scarf", it wouldn't have been funny. Before we started, we talked a lot about "eccentricity". Well, the Doctor's got two hearts. He's 900 years old. And he travels in time and space. He doesn't need funny clothes.'

This created uproar in the Doctor Who online community. But then, everything creates uproar in the Doctor Who online community. Fans spend hours logging what's right - and what's wrong - with Davies's doctor. He just ignores them. 'In the community of sci-fi shows, I think we're the only one that actively ignores its online fanbase. American shows seem to court them, or pretend that they do. That way lies madness. I can't think of a show that's improved its quality, or its ratings, by doing it. It's like going in search of a massively biased focus group - why would anyone do that?'

But Davies was sensible enough to keep the Tardis, an old-fashioned police box. After all, he was creating an action adventure science fiction show in a world that was full of them. And, early on, he realised that what made Doctor Who unique was the fact that everything else was American. 'I decided on big iconic Britishness,' he says. 'When we go to London, it's a picture postcard London, with red double decker buses and the London Eye. We don't have pearly kings and queens, but not far off. The Tardis is central to all that.'

There are three Tardises: one made from glass fibre, to lug around on location, and two made from wood. And there are four Daleks. In the Doomsday episode, they unleashed hordes of hidden Daleks from inside the Genesis Ark, but only four survived, by hiding in the Void. In real life, they are all kept under lock and key in Cardiff. Not because of the danger they present to the planet. 'It's just that everyone wants to be a Dalek,' says Davies. 'To be honest, if they weren't locked up, they would be damaged to buggery.'

The Doctor Who end credits bill Davies as 'writer' and 'executive producer'. That's an understatement. He has a say in everything, down to the colour of the Doctor's suit. After filming, he watches all the rushes - every single frame of them. He works across Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, writing the key episodes. And when there's an edit, or a dub, Davies is there. It's no wonder that he hasn't had a day's holiday in three years. There's simply no time. When he had a cold, in 2006, it messed up the schedule for months.

For Davies, it's all about retaining control. He remembers Second Coming, the drama he wrote in which Christopher Eccleston claimed to be the Son of God. It had a very precise description of devils in it. 'I wrote, "Their eyes shine with tiny white reflections of light'',' says Davies. 'But somebody made the eyes red. Now, I'm not being a dictator, saying, "It has to be done like this", but I watch an awful lot of telly. Red eyes look like Buffy. Green eyes look like Blake's Seven. So I changed the eyes to white again. It taught me that, as a writer, you can't say things out loud often enough.'

Nowadays, when Davies says something, people listen. A poll of industry experts, conducted by The Radio Times, rated Davies as the 17th most powerful person in television drama in 2004 - he's probably Top Ten by now, and The Stage voted him the most important artist at work in British television. So he's no stranger to the dramatic gesture. As he discusses his work, he becomes animated. He uses his hands like an Italian. He enunciates, slowly, for effect. If you met Davies for the first time, you would say: 'That man definitely works in theatre.'

This is exactly where he started - at the West Glamorgan Youth Theatre in Swansea. 'And it wasn't just swanning about pretending to be a tree,' Davies says. 'It was massively disciplined. God, he [his teacher, Godfrey Evans] would kill you if you were late, and I still carry a lot of that stuff with me. Never late!' Davies is the son of two teachers, but he learnt more at youth theatre than school. 'They were the first people who got me writing: they'd get us to write little half-hour plays, and rehearse them, rewrite them, put them on for the public. Brilliant times.'

Olchfa Comprehensive wasn't as inspirational. 'At the time,' says Davies, 'it was proud of being "Europe's largest comprehensive". It had 2,500 pupils, which is a ridiculous size for a school. But I avoided getting beaten up because I'm so tall [he is 6ft 6in]. I just sort of kept my head down, immersed myself in TV and comics - Marvel comics, loved them - and all sorts of comic strips, like Schulz and Uderzo. I spent a long time wanting to be a graphic artist, because I can draw, and it took me until I was about 20 to realise that it was the writing I liked, not the drawing.'

He studied English at Oxford, but his first step towards a career in television was the director's course at the BBC. Apart from the odd distraction - he presented an episode of Play School, and produced Why Don't You? - his sights were set on directing. His big break came with his first television drama: a six-part serial for children entitled Dark Season, which starred a very young Kate Winslet. His talent for writing soon became apparent, and he went on to produce scripts for Children's Ward and Cluedo.

But it was the Channel 4 drama Queer as Folk that first brought him to popular attention - or unpopular attention: it remains the seventh most complained about show in the history of British television. The gay drama, featuring rimming, underage sex and recreational drugs, also featured complicated, sympathetic characterisation. But it's the rimming that people remember. Davies is unrepentant. He has continued to write homosexual characters, and has excelled himself with Captain Jack, the star of Torchwood. Jack is attracted to males, females and aliens - television's first omnisexual.

In the variety of work that Davies has done, he's always looking to 'make the impossible work', whether it's a gay man falling in love with a woman (Bob & Rose) or Jesus coming back (Second Coming). And just about every episode of Doctor Who. But, at the end of all that dramatic conflict, he likes a good, old-fashioned happy ending. 'I think there's a real skill and genuine craft to a happy ending,' he says. 'I think the natural bent of all dramatists is to go dark. But I'm quite happy to go the opposite way - for the moment.'

His outlook wasn't always so positive. Just look at The Grand. It was Upstairs, Downstairs set in a big 1920s hotel. And it went out at 9pm on a Friday. 'My God, that show was steeped in misery,' says Davies. 'That was me exploring. And experimenting. I wrote about shell-shock after the First World War, betrayal, depression. The ratings just went down and down and down. As it got darker and darker and darker. I know the mistake I made - I thought drama was tragedy. It's a profound mistake to think that drama can't be fun.'

And The Grand wasn't his only failure. Writing is, after all, an imprecise science. Some things work, some things don't. Take Mine All Mine, Davies's drama about a family who inherited Swansea: by the end of its run, on ITV, it was getting two million viewers. 'But there was still no way I would be unemployed after that,' says Davies. 'It's just not that sort of industry. There's a lot of work for good television writers. And I'm one of those. In this country, you have to be a drunk and a drug addict for people to stop employing you.'

Not that he's excusing an audience of two million. Davies thrives off an audience. It defines what he does - popular drama. He's a fan of everything from Coronation Street ('the wit and wisdom of that show - I watch it five times a week') to Cold Feet, and reckons that Shilpa's victory in Celebrity Big Brother was 'the most fascinating two weeks in television's history -almost.' To Davies, reality TV is just a different way of telling a story. 'After all,' he says, 'when Panorama discusses racism, who really wants to watch?' Newsnight is currently pestering him for an interview, and Davies is still saying no. There aren't many television dramatists who would say no to the chance to discuss narrative arc and subtext on Newsnight - apart from, maybe, Russell T. Davies. 'I very rarely watch it,' he says, 'but, when I do, I end up throwing stuff at the screen. I think they're hugely pretentious. I saw them once reviewing The Lion King, which is one of the most brilliant films ever made. And the snobbery, talking about Disney. I couldn't believe it.'

Early on in the Doctor Who production process, Davies knew he had the Saturday night 7pm slot, and it informed the feel of the programme he was going to make. 'If you channel-hop on a Saturday night,' he says, 'you're up against the big Light Entertainment shows, like Ant and Dec, with a shiny black floor and a huge audience. With background music behind everything. They're phenomenally loud, those shows, and I believe that's what draws an audience. So we decided to make Doctor Who really noisy.'

Davies used to work with graphics, and it shows. He is keen on visuals. He's even taken to drawing aliens - Cassandra was one of his - to show his creatives. For the first few months of the job, he was sat in the big chair saying 'Big pictures! Big pictures!'

'I was shouting: "Blow up Big Ben. Blow up Number 10. Let's have a space ship. Not just 10 Daleks. Let's have 1,000 Daleks. Coming out of the spaceship. Coming out of 10 spaceships." That was one of the excitements of working on Doctor Who for me: big pictures.'

Tell him that CGI is getting cheaper. Tell him - and then stand back. Because today he's trying to get an extra shot that makes sense of episode three. It costs £3,500, and he doesn't have £3,500. Davies will never complain about the funding of Doctor Who - not publicly, anyway. 'But it's still the sort of budget, I gather, that they get for Waking the Dead. And they're standing around in morgues. We're blowing things up, with monsters everywhere. We could make a much smaller show. We don't. We make it big and blousy.'

The new series has certainly escaped the confines of the three-wall set, and it's more contemporary. 'I keep reading about how I introduced emotion,' says Davies. 'How ridiculous. I've introduced emotion? Doctor Who is about two opposites travelling together: their friendship and their love for each other. An alien and a human. He's got a Tardis; she's got a family, and a mother and a boyfriend, which is an innovation for Doctor Who - but not for me. It's the only way you can write it now. The more polarised, the better.' He's 900. She's 19. How much more polar can you get?

Davies divides his time between Cardiff - a nice little flat looking out over Cardiff Bay - and Manchester. 'It used to be 50/50,' says Davies, 'but now I'm here for 10 or 11 months a year, and home for weekends - to see the most patient boyfriend in the world.' He has, finally, got the pants and socks to support the two-city lifestyle, but he can't get used to one of the worst journeys on rail. 'Four hours of hell. It's like Calcutta - sitting on a box of chickens with peasants hanging from the windows outside.'

This is one of the reasons why Davies is ready for a new challenge. 'I've always wanted to adapt The Old Curiosity Shop. I love it. It's about time someone had the nerve to rewrite Dickens. The whole plot is a mess. The first three chapters narrated by Edward somebody? Obviously Dickens worked out that he couldn't be in every scene. So, at the end of chapter three, he goes: "That's the end of my part of the story - goodbye." And Quilp's death? Is that it? Anyway, lo and behold, ITV are doing it. If you stay too long somewhere you start missing out on chances like that.'

A fourth series of Doctor Who has already been commissioned, and Davies is putting the finishing touches to scripts for Christmas 2007. His work here is - almost - done. When he does leave, it will be with happy memories, especially of the day the Doctor returned, on 26 March, 2005. 'That afternoon,' he says, 'I went into town, shopping and pottering about. There was a buzz in the air. I felt like I was eight years old again. It was like "Mum's dragged me to town, and I've got to get home because Doctor Who's going to be on". I'll never forget that feeling. As long as I live.'

The new series of 'Doctor Who' returns to BBC1 on 31 March at 7pm

THE RUSSELL T. DAVIES EFFECT

Before Russell T. Davies came along, there wasn't much of a Doctor Who industry, just a specialist niche occupying small corners of the internet and a few shelves in Forbidden Planet. But since 2005, the series has become one of the BBC's biggest money-spinners, a sprawling beast that, like the thing Tom Baker battled in The Power of Kroll (episode 105), has many tentacles. Here are just some of them:

Pulp fiction 

In the last week of 2006 the Top 50 hardback fiction list included nine Russell T. Davies-inspired books: six Doctor Who and three Torchwood titles. In the first week of January 2007, three of the top five best-selling fiction hardbacks were Torchwood stories. As a result, despite publishing no other fiction titles, the BBC is now the 10th biggest publisher of fiction in Britain.

Hundreds of Doctor Who novels have been published since the late 1960s and following the cancellation of the series in 1989, Virgin Publishing developed a successful range of original stores under the Doctor Who New Adventures name, many written by fans, a number of whom are now writing for the television show (including one Russell T. Davies).

BBC Books published six Doctor Who novels last year, all featuring new stories not seen before on television. Each sold at least 50,000, while the top seller, The Stone Rose, has so far sold 70,000, an amazing figure given that most hardback fiction sales reach just a few thousand. A further nine new titles will come out in 2007 along with eight Torchwood novels to accompany its second series.

Penguin also benefited from the RTD effect last Christmas when its Doctor Who Annual sold more than 300,000 copies, way above the few thousands sales the industry usually expects for children's annuals.

Toys and stuff 

Doctor Who merchandise was responsible for an estimated £50 million of retail sales last year. The show has dominated Britain's toy industry over the past 18 months and earlier this year the Doctor Who Voice Changer Helmet was voted Toy of the Year by the Toy Retailers' Association, while Doctor Who action figures - more than 1\u221978 million of which were sold in Britain last year - picked up the Boys Toy of the Year Award.

A wide range of Doctor Who merchandise is now available, ranging from character walkie-talkies to bedlinen, alarm clocks and even a remote-control K9. DVD sales are soaring: the complete series one compilation quickly became BBC Video's top grossing 2006 release in North America. Internationally, the show is also selling well: broadcasters in more than 32 countries including Russia, Japan and India have acquired the series from the BBC. Torchwood has so far been bought by nine broadcasters.

The show recently made the transition to the stage, according to gallifreyone.com, the biggest Doctor Who website, which boasts more than 25,000 visitors a day. The Ten Doctors, a new story, ran to a packed house during Gallifrey 2007, the annual convention which took place in America last month.

Saturday night

Britain's biggest channels spent years trying to reinvigorate Saturday night television by experimenting with variety formats - and then came Russell T. Davies's Doctor Who.

The series showed how well-written, slickly produced sci-fi drama could once more reunite the family around the television on a Saturday night. Ratings for the first two series averaged just under eight million an episode, while the Christmas 2006 special attracted an audience of close to nine million. And it didn't take long for ITV to try to emulate the BBC's success.

Within weeks of the Doctor's return in March 2005, ITV confirmed plans for its own £6 million sci-fi rival about time-travelling scientists, Primeval, which launched last month with almost seven million people watching the first episode. ITV also developed Eleventh Hour, a sci-fi series starring Patrick Stewart. It was broadcast last year to lower-than-hoped-for ratings.

Back at the BBC, commissioning editors sought to build on Doctor Who's success in the Saturday early evening slot by developing more drama for a family audience. First came Robin Hood which, despite a subsequent slip from the opening show's audience of just over eight million, is set to return for a second series. Now in development is Merlin, a reworking of the Arthurian legend, destined for the 7pm Saturday-night slot next year. Cardiff

Swansea-born Russell T. Davies has also produced a lasting legacy for Cardiff. Both Doctor Who and Torchwood raised the profile of the Welsh capital as a go-ahead 21st-century city. In response, Cardiff has built a tourism package on the back of the shows and is courting a new breed of 'sci-fi tourists'.

The city's four-star Park Plaza Hotel, for example, sells Doctor Who luxury weekend-breaks. Visitors receive two tickets to Doctor Who Up-Close, an exhibition running in Cardiff Bay that has attracted 130,000 visitors, and an inflatable Dalek. The tourist body Destination Cardiff, meanwhile, has dedicated a page to Torchwood on its Visit Cardiff website, which also has details of a tour of Torchwood locations.

The RTD effect has also put Cardiff's television production business on the international map. Before it kicked in, few high-profile network series were made in Wales. Since the BBC chose to base Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures in the city, however, creative talent that might otherwise have left has chosen to stay while a number of top creatives from London have packed up to head west. BBC Wales also produces BBC1's Life on Mars, which is filmed in Manchester.

The franchise

The BBC has created a wealth of Doctor Who spin-offs to capitalise on the success of the revived television series.

The newest is The Infinite Quest, an animated story with voices provided by David Tennant and his new sidekick, Freema Agyeman. It will air a day or two before each episode of the new Doctor Who series within Totally Doctor Who, the weekly fanzine broadcast on CBBC. The new series, which was developed by the usual Doctor Who editorial team, consists of 13 three-and-a-half minute episodes. At the end of the run, each will be rebroadcast together to form a single, new Doctor Who episode.

But The Infinite Quest is not the first Doctor Who spin-off the BBC has produced. Following the Christmas special in 2005, for example, digital TV viewers could press the red button for a 15 minute interactive experience of life as the Time Lord's companion. And to accompany series two, the BBC produced 13 minute-long 'mobi-sodes', bite-sized prequels to each episode to be watched via mobile phone.

The BBC has also produced a series of weekly podcasts featuring commentary about the series which fans can download from the BBC's official Doctor Who website (www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho), the BBC's most popular site dedicated to a single programme. The podcasts of last year's series two quickly became i-Tunes' most popular TV-themed downloads.

Meanwhile, former Doctor Who designer Paul Tams and Bob Baker, the co-creator of the Time Lord's former robot sidekick K9, are developing K9 Adventures. The £3 million, 26-part series, which combines live action with computer animation, is due to air on the commercial TV channel Jetix Europe next year. The Doctor won't be joining K9 on these adventures, however, because of contractual obligations.

Dr. Who 2: Sexed-Up British Intelligence
By DAVE ITZKOFF (New York Times - 5 March 2006)

WHEN the television producer Russell T. Davies was growing up in Swansea, Wales, he came to a realization about himself — one that he knew might cause others to belittle him and even shun him: he loved the British science-fiction series "Doctor Who." And he wasn't ashamed of it.

"There's very classically and traditionally a strong gay fan base for 'Doctor Who,' " said Mr. Davies, 42, in a telephone interview from his home in Manchester, England. "He is a loner and a wanderer. He doesn't represent the authority — he is a man, unlike any other, doing his own thing. I think you can see the emotional connection."

From its premiere in 1963 through its 26-year run on the BBC (spanning eight different actors in the title role) "Doctor Who," the adventures of an enigmatic time-traveler known only as the Doctor, attracted a big, intensely loyal audience of viewers young and old, male and female, gay and straight. (It also earned a cult following in America when the series was rebroadcast on PBS in the 1970's and 80's.)

But as Mr. Davies's own television career began to take off in the 90's — he was, until recently, best known in Britain as the creator of the original version of "Queer as Folk" — the "Doctor Who" franchise was stuck in a state of suspended animation: aside from a TV movie that was shown in 1996, new episodes of the program had not been produced since 1989, when its meager production values lost the battle against the megabudget space operas being made in the United States. "It was rubber monsters and plastic suits," Mr. Davies said of the show, "but it was always imaginative, even when they had five cents to make it with."

Over the years, Mr. Davies has published a "Doctor Who" novel entitled "Damaged Goods" and even devised a character for "Queer as Folk" who was himself a fan of the show. Whenever the character failed to make a romantic connection in the clubs, "he'd go home and watch an episode of 'Doctor Who,' " Mr. Davies said with a laugh. "I couldn't begin to tell you what that says about me."

So when the BBC approached Mr. Davies in late 2003 to update "Doctor Who" for the 21st century, he was already teeming with ideas. "It's a genuine love of mine," he said, "and loving a program means you're not blind to its faults."

For starters, Mr. Davies abandoned its serialized format, in which stories were generally told over three to four 30-minute episodes, in favor of stand-alone episodes of 45 minutes each. (When the new "Doctor Who" has its American debut on Sci Fi on March 17, each episode will run one hour with commercials.) He also assembled himself a dream team of writers known for creating some of Britain's most influential television series — if not necessarily for their science-fiction credentials — and charged them with updating the show's titular hero for a post-"Matrix," post-"Buffy" generation.

"It was very important to Russell that the Doctor not be posh," said Mark Gatiss, a co-star and co-creator of the quirky ensemble television comedy "The League of Gentlemen," who was recruited onto Mr. Davies's writing staff. "It's all about the Doctor being a kind of burning, firework personality that is incredibly attractive, but also slightly dangerous to be around."

To that end, Mr. Davies selected the rugged actor Christopher Eccleston, of the films "Shallow Grave" and "28 Days Later," to be the ninth actor to portray the Doctor, injecting the show with a much-needed shot of credibility. "When people would talk about who was going to be the next Doctor," Mr. Davies recalled, "they would mention celebrity chefs and magicians. And you'd read this stuff in the papers and think, 'How devalued has this property become?' " He then gave the Doctor a young, unmistakably female sidekick, played by the pop singer Billie Piper. "It was a bit like casting Britney Spears," Mr. Davies said, "and then we auditioned her and discovered she was brilliant."

In the days leading up to the premiere of the new "Doctor Who" in March 2005, the British tabloid press did its best to insinuate that Mr. Davies — who is openly gay, and proud that his "Queer as Folk" series included, in his words, "more sex than any other program ever" — might somehow be an unfit candidate to re-establish a beloved cultural icon.

The faithful, however, declined to take the bait. "The vast amount of fans out there were just elated that the show was coming back," said Shaun Lyon, editor of the "Doctor Who" fan Web site Outpost Gallifrey (www.gallifreyone.com). "Pointing out that Russell's gay, let's be honest, you can no longer get a story out of that. Gay is officially boring now."

The first episode of Mr. Davies's "Doctor Who," teeming with rapid edits, dark humor, and, for the first time, computer-generated special effects, drew over 10 million viewers, or about 44 percent of the potential viewing audience, something that would translate into a Super Bowl-size audience for an American broadcast.

But controversy eventually caught up with the series: four days after the premiere, the BBC published a news release in which Mr. Eccleston revealed that he would not be returning for a second season — an awkward situation made more so when he protested that the BBC had falsely attributed quotes to him and had broken an agreement to withhold the announcement until after the show's first season had ended. "I'm sure it could have been handled better," Mr. Davies said. (Mr. Eccleston declined to comment for this story.)

Some fans were also slightly mortified by an episode involving clandestine aliens whose otherworldly identities are given away by their flatulence. Yet none complained about a scene from that same show in which the British prime minister (played by a Tony Blair look-alike) is found dead in a closet, or a sequence in the following week's broadcast in which 10 Downing Street is blown up by a missile.

And few if any eyebrows were raised when later episodes of "Doctor Who" introduced a character named Jack Harkness, a starship captain from the 51st century whose roguish banter implies that he is not merely bisexual, but omnisexual. "It felt right that the James Bond of the future would bed anyone," said Steven Moffat, the creator of the BBC sitcom "Coupling" and the writer of the Captain Jack storyline. "He's far too busy saving the universe to worry about which brand of genitals is best." In fact, Captain Jack proved so popular that the character was granted his own spinoff series, "Torchwood," now in preproduction.

Though Mr. Davies's first season of "Doctor Who" has more sexuality, both submerged and overt, than the several hundred episodes that preceded it, the show's producers argue that it is Mr. Davies's creativity, and not his sexual identity, that has made their show a hit.

"You come across the occasional nutter who will talk about Russell's gay agenda — I imagine he keeps it in a pink folder in a special leopardskin safe — but this is possibly the most heterosexual Doctor we've ever had," Mr. Moffat said. "Clearly, Russell's gay agenda is to turn everyone straight."

As he prepares for the reinvigorated "Doctor Who" to begin its second season on the BBC this spring, Mr. Davies said sexuality would always have a place in his science fiction, so long as it is balanced with all the other elements that constitute human experience. "People expect me to do that visceral stuff," he said, "but I don't think it's that clever to be violent and naked onscreen all the time. There's better, more intelligent and more humane stories to tell. If you want to just get silly with it, you might as well go and see a flasher movie."

Doctor Who Appears Stateside At Last

RTD is well chuffed that Doctor Who has, at last, been sold to the American Sci-Fi Channel. As he says:: "The Doctor's made all sorts of journeys in Time and Space, but this is one of his most exciting yet! I'm a huge fan of the SCI FI Channel, and I'm delighted that Doctor Who is appearing on a channel that supports and enhances the entire genre."

RTD Top of "Stage" poll

As reported in "Stage" newspaper:

Hats off to Davies – the clear winner of this year’s poll. The man has achieved the almost impossible and transformed Doctor Who for a cynical 21st-century audience and made them fall in love with it again. He wrestled Saturday nights out of the hands of Ant and Dec and revitalised family drama. The Christmas special has gone down a treat and fans will soon be salivating over series two. The triumphant return of the Time Lord and the gloriously camp Casanova to boot, has cemented Davies' position at the head of the holy trinity of British scriptwriters [alongside Paul Abbot and Jimmy McGovern].

RTD in Cardiff's Mardi Gras

Russell T Davies, will be attending the Cardiff Mardi Gras Fringe Benefit evening on September 6 to meet fans and answer questions on Dr Who, as well as his other critical and commercial successes. The event is part of Cardiff’s Mardi Gras celebrations, which take place throughout early September and culminate in a concert on the 10th September.

The musical event will take place in the Millennium Stadium and is expected to see the massive football and rugby ground turned pink for the evening. Opera turned pop star Charlotte Church is also set to appear at the musical events held in the Welsh capital.

Davies’ appearance will coincide with other appearances at the city’s Sherman theatre in an evening intended to appeal to fans of comedy, theatre and music alike. He will be joined by top comedienne Clare Summerskill, West End actor Dave Benson, who received plaudits for his one may Kenneth Williams show, Think No Evil, and live music from Swansea-based singer Scotty. The “in conversation” event is being held with local arts writer Mike Smith.

“I am looking forward enormously to interviewing Russell and opening the conversation open to the audience, as I know Dr Who is one of the big conversation topics everywhere I go,” Smith said Gay.com.“This evening will be great for Dr Who fans who can get to ask about the new series – not that I can guarantee Russell will be giving anything away!”

Tickets for the show are £15 and available from the Sherman Theatre box office on 020 2064 6900 or visiting www.shermantheatre.co.uk. Proceeds go to local advocacy group the Rainbow Project.

Blue Peter Competition

RTD was caught on camera, judging the latest "Design A Monster Competition" hosted by Blue Peter. The winner was William Grantham from Colchester ( well done, William!) Russell was filmed with BP editor, Richard Marson, BP presenter Gethin Jones (could he be Welsh?) and what was really great, it was filmed in Russell's kitchen. Nice colour, Russ, but those curtains? What were you thinking?

Good Evans!

Doctor Who producers are trying to convince Chris Evans to make a guest appearance in the next series.

According to the Daily Star today, the radio DJ would star as the Devil in an episode called The Satan Pit, when the show returns for a second series next year.

Evans is the estranged husband of Billie Piper, who plays Rose Tyler, but the pair have remained friends and would not have a problem with working together.

"We've already got some great celebrities lined up for the next series, but having Chris Evans would be the icing on the cake," a source revealed.

"Having him as Satan would be a hoot and we're sure he'd relish the role. And we know Billie would find it a giggle."