In an invigorating interview in today’s Telegraph, producer Russell T Davies expounded on his long term plans as producer of Doctor Who, plus a glimpse of things to come.
These days, as the writer and executive producer of the regenerated Doctor Who, which returns for a fourth series on Saturday, Davies is famous enough to discard it. Unlike most television writers, he is regularly recognised in the street. ‘It happens all the time, especially in Cardiff [where Doctor Who and its sister show Torchwood are filmed],’ he says. ‘Kids walk up and start talking to you. I think it’s nice that children realise that somebody like a writer even exists on a TV drama, because I don’t think I did at that age. Also, whereas adults might complain about a character they didn’t like or tell you who they want to see as the next companion, children ask you what’s your favourite monster and why – which is much more fun.’
Guests include Sarah Lancashire, Alex Kingston and Felicity Kendal, who Davies says stars in an ‘Agatha Christie-style murder mystery. She plays Lady Edison, the lady of the house with secrets to keep…’ Davies sounds most excited, however, about episode two, which is set in Pompeii. Any of the 13million viewers who saw last year’s Christmas episode, in which a space ship named The Titanic almost crashed into Buckingham Palace, will expect the spectacular.
‘The Pompeii episode is so ambitious,’ Davies says, ‘that we had a script that was easier to film standing by, in case someone turned round and said, “This is impossible.” The whole thing was terrifying, and a nightmare to film, but that’s what makes it good in the end. It’s a glorious episode.’
Davies, who seems almost alarmingly enthusiastic about Doctor Who, sounds as if he could go on making it forever. He has already written this year’s Christmas special (‘It’s set in the Victorian era. So expect plum pudding, death and disaster’). But after a hiatus in 2009, when there will only be two one-off specials, Davies will step aside for a new executive producer, Piers Wenger, to oversee series five, which is scheduled to air in 2010. Davies, a perfectionist, doesn’t strike you as someone who will find it easy letting go. But he insists he’ll cope.
‘The day I leave Doctor Who I will just walk away,’ he says. ‘I would never want to hang on as a ghost of what I was. I would be a nightmare! I’d be that voice at the back of the set going, “Oh, I wouldn’t do it that way.”’
Davies already has plans for what he’ll write next. He’s keeping his ideas to himself (‘In case someone steals them’) but the writer of Channel 4’s groundbreaking gay drama Queer as Folk says he’s eager to return to similarly grown-up themes.
‘I’d love to do another nine o’clock drama,’ he says. ‘There’s a whole world of drama and emotion and honesty that has no place in Doctor Who. I once got very, very stuck writing an episode of Doctor Who and on that night I watched Peter Morgan’s Longford. I’m dying to do something that risky, that real. It was just so brilliant and there I was writing about the interior of a space ship. I thought, “What am I doing with my life?” Luckily, though,’ he beams, ‘the space ship was fantastic.’
Doctor Who is on BBC1 on Saturday, 29 March at 6.20pm