Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale

writers-taleI’ve been horribly ill all over Christmas (still am), which has had only one benefit, I could get lots of reading done, which is why I managed to devour Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale in two days. This is an absolutely amazing book, a must for all Doctor Who fans or those interested in writing, a collection of e-mails and texts between Benjamin Cook and Russell T. Davies (plus a few from Stephen Moffat) it follows the creation of series 4 of Doctor Who, with further information on Torchwood and a little on The Sarah Jane Adventures. I’m not sure any review could do this book justice but I’ll try and describe it anyway; Russell T. Davies goes into such depth about what it’s like to be the head writer and show runner for Doctor Who and from the sounds of it, it’s quite an anguished life. He describes about how much of the writing, is actually just thinking about it and how he’ll have ideas just walking to Tesco, yet he’ll leave the actual writing to beyond the last minute. He undergoes massive self doubt about whether what he’s writing is any good (yet interestingly doesn’t care a penny what the fan forums say), I thought it was interesting (and reassuring) during an exchange of e-mails between Davies and Moffat, when Moffat admits that he’d quite like to stick his head through the window and yell ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’. As someone who wants to write, it’s so ‘nice’ to read that other very well established writers can still have the self doubt and that they just have to battle through it, which is something I need to learn to do. I also found it interesting the extent to which Davies rewrites the other writers scripts, with only out of all the stable of Who writers, four writers that he won’t do that for (Moffat obviously being one of them he doesn’t rewrite). The Pompeii episode in particular was shown how it was rewritten and in one e-mail shortly after Human Nature was aired, Davies is depressed because everyone is going on about how wonderful Paul Cornell’s script was and how he feels that he can’t admit that actually he rewrote most of it. So that was interesting, after reading the Doctor Who forums, seeing often the instant bias against Russell T. Davies scripts, that actually what his detractors don’t know that there are a lot more Russell T. Davies episodes in each series than they think.

Davies describes this as in now way a ‘how to’ book and that everyone writes differently but he does offer quite a few hints about things like pacing, speech patterns, character motivation etc., that I think is relevant whether you’re writing scripts or novels. A totally fascinating book.

Now, to the people who make Heroes, can we have something similar please?