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From themindrobber.co.uk Archive : 1st Dec 2003

New Who from Russell T Davies       

When Doctor Who returns in 2005, it might just be wonderful. Well, we all had high hopes in 1996, so what's the difference this time? Well this time, its being written by a man who not only loves the series, but seems to fully understand it.

Russel T Davies' appraisal of the the 1996 TV Movie is very apposite. "I didn't like the fact that it was about the Doctor. If he hadn't arrived on Earth, that adventure wouldn't have happened. I do think an adventure should be happening, into which he walks. I won't do things that way."

A mistake made time-and-again is the belief that the series is about the time-traveller himself when its really just about the opportunity to tell a great story. This point was missed entirely when the TV Movie attempted to turn the 33-year old patchwork of throwaway explanations about the Doctor's past into a meaningful history. Did it not occur to them that the series was conceived as Doctor Who, and that the audience didn't have a clue Who he was until six years after it started?

Unlike the X-Files or Buffy, Doctor Who can be set on any world at any time, with any creature imaginable. So why was the TV Movie set in America, with Americans? TV Producers narrow-mindedly insist that the audience has to identify with the characters or setting - so what ever happened to the idea of pure escapism?

Russell understands fully and intends to exploit the limitless potential of the TARDIS: "Every episode, you could be looking at going to a new location with a new cast - it is one of the most exciting things about it: you can go anywhere and do anything. The full range of historical settings. Why exclude anything? The budget is going to be a determining factor. The 21st century is going to be the handiest place to be, because its on our doorstep."

"The trick is to make it more real in terms of the very first episode having a geniuine sense of wonderment."

"Fans of the programme have seen travel into the past in their thousands. But we're talking about the ten million people we want to be watching finding this concept fascinating. Just because fandom has looked at that a million times, doesn't mean the Saturday-night audience has thought about what it's like to step out into Victorian London and meet Charles Dickens.

He clearly appreciates how important it is for new Doctor Who to appeal to a wide, new audience. The recent Big Finish audios are frequently fantastic but even more frequently unapproachable to the uninitiated. "When we were kids, everyone watched it. Before we got this ironic self-awareness about it, it was genuinely loved. That's the most important thing to remember, not the cult that's built up afterwards."

"Go back to basics and say, for the companions, this is the greatest journey of your life. You cannot underestimate that. I want to write these characters as I would in anything else, and I write character well, though I say so myself."

"I can fairly confidently predict that there will be a young female companion who will discover that she can explore time and space. If you watch Doctor Who you can take that for granted, but its really time to go back to basics on that."

However despite this traditional idea, the new companion may be more like Ace than Jo Grant. The new companion will be a modern action heroine. "A screaming girly companion is unacceptable now."

The BBC's newest Doctor Who offering is Scream of the Shalka. A rather down-beat affair in which the Doctor is a cold, disillusioned and querulous individual even more cantankerous than William Hartnell. But whereas Hartnell's Doctor had warm friends and family to balance his temprament, Richard E Grant's would-be companions are also annoyingly lugubrious.

Russell's approach to the Doctor is altogether refreshing:"I want to make the Doctor the best character ever. He should be so fascinating he's radioactive. He's funny, clever, wild and fast. Your best friend times 500."

With regard to monsters, Russell loved the Daleks "but I wouldn't load the series with lots of old monsters. We want to make brand new ones. There are copyright issues, but it'd be nice to bring in one or two moments of old archenemies, just because there's a great audience of dads and mums at home going, 'I remember that monster!'"

Writing commences properly for the new Doctor in January 2004 and there is no-one in mind to play the Doctor.


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