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Mar 23, 2007

"I'm a very good judge - of drama."

From Kate Orman:  "I hear a lot about how Russell T. Davies keeps telling us all how brilliant he is. I will donate $AU5 to Comic Relief for every individual example of RTD boasting about his own talent since the new Doctor Who was announced."

Example:  "... I'm lucky that the BBC wasn't telling me what to do: they were waiting for me to tell them. That's the status I have in the industry. They're getting me in as a big name writer, and you don't get in a big name writer and tell him what to do." (DWM 359)

Any more, for any more?


Can you imagine if RTD had been producer in 1980 instead of JN-T? The clashes between his ego and Tom's, Television Center would have blown up.

Oh Kate what have you done, now we will have that fourth rate hack Jacqueline Rayner as the token female writer in perpetuity.

He is an arrogant twat tho isn't he.

At the risk of sparking controversy... (sorry for the length)

My biggest beef with Davies is not that he's arrogant (he IS a writer), but that he has been given control of this wonderfully flexible and creative show and he has chosen instead to produce something so utterly banal. He's squeezed the show into the same boring format as every other show on TV. Characters falling in love, having relationships, being all angsty and jealous, etc, etc. Yawn. Give me adventure, excitement!

To illustrate what I’d like from the show here are some examples of "this is how I would have done it" alternatives to televised episodes that I came up with while day-dreaming. Now, unlike Mr. Davies, I'm not a great writer. In fact, I'm not a writer at all. But, if I was, say, Executive Producer and gave these ideas to a professional writer and said "develop this" I bet they'd come up with something pretty neat.

Rose: We have young Rose working a dead-end, boring job in a department store. She has to put up with her creepy manager, idiot co-workers, rude customers and recently this weird bloke called the Doctor who is snooping about. If that isn't bad enough, lately she's been noticing that the store manikins seem to be moving on their own. And the only person who believes her is the crazy guy. One night, her and a bunch of people (co-workers, customers, etc.) get locked inside the store and the phones aren't working. And then someone gets horribly murdered. And then the crazy guy called the Doctor turns up and tells everyone that the manikins are alive and will probably kill them all. And everyone thinks he's crazy until the manikins DO come alive and try to kill them all. So, they're forced to barricade themselves in against the hordes of plastic killers while the Doctor works on a way to defeat them. But before long it becomes apparent that one of their number isn't who (or what) he/she seems, and may in fact be controlling the manikins...

Dalek: Roswell, New Mexico, 1957. A farmer is driving home one night and witnesses an Unidentified Falling Object crash into the ground. He investigates the smoking crater when suddenly a bug-eyed, metal monster levitates from the hole, screeches "EXTERMINATE!" and treats the poor sod to the X-Ray Laser of Doom. Roll opening credits. The TARDIS materialises in an underground bunker and Rose and the Doctor are promptly arrested by armed American soldiers. This is a secret American military base a-la Area 51 and the soldiers are particularly wary of spies what with the Cold War. To add to their worries they've recently taken delivery of a strange tank-thing that was captured after laying waste to a small town. They think it's a new Communist weapon, but the Doctor knows better. Unfortunately, the Dalek has been having a little tet-a-tet with the base commander and explains that it's no Communist (wrong monster). In fact, it hates Communists and is willing to give its new friend plans for a weapon that'll wipe those Commie Bastards off the map! "What's that? Kill all life on Earth? Hahaha! Don't listen to that crazy Commie-loving Doctor guy." No crying or angst for this Dalek: last one or not, a Dalek's gotta do what a Dalek's gotta do. Fortunately, the rest of the American personnel are less trusting of the Dalek than their boss and with their help the Doctor and Rose are able to foil its plans. The Dalek then decides that if it can't kill every person on Earth, everyone in the base will suffice. The story climaxes with the Dalek hunting the Doctor through the base and our hero must use his wits to defeat his more powerful opponent.

Those are just two examples. When the new series of Doctor Who was announced those were the sort of stories I was expecting. I'm sure you can understand why I'm disappointed. RTD likes to call the character-oriented nature of the new series "drama", but god help us if drama is just characters being angsty, making moon-eyes at one another, bewailing their tragic pasts and boring us with their interminable family issues. My ideas may not be "deep" and "emotional" (whatever that's supposed to mean, anyway) but they are dramatic, even if they focus more on the situation than the characters. Good stories need interesting and fleshed-out characters, sure, but interesting characters shouldn't come with the cost of dull and undeveloped stories.

Whoops. The Roswell Incident was 1947, not 1957. But you get the idea.

Loki, I agree with the sweep of your arguement but I think Dalek was one of the best stories of Season 1 and hardly lacking in drama. What went wrong was that other episodes tried to immitate its style.

One sympathetic monster: brilliant.
Every fecking bad guy: boring and anti-dramatic.

Oh God, please spare us from more wannabebutneverwillbes that are forever in denial about the lack of quality of latterday "classic" DW and the overall quality of New Who.
I was born 1 month(ish) into classic who (jan 64) and now enjoy the programme more than at any time since classic Tom days.
We are now facing a situation where DW is being renewed as for a fourth series, great actors are jostling to take over the lead and I am genuinely looking forward to the start of S3 even more than i was looking forward to the start of series 2 of Life on Mars.
RTD may be full of himslef, but so was JNT and he was shit (largely)

Is this the same Kate Orman who said the 1996 TV movie was brillant re-starting to the series???


1: The question marks were his idea.
2: He was a bit shit.
3: Er.....
4: That's it.

*as related by Chris Bidmead, Lovett Bickford, Eric Saward and everyone else they could stick on a DVD commentary

scampmeister: So, you enjoy New Who. Good for you!

I don't.

I not for a moment suggesting my ideas would be *better* than the present show. Rather, I'm giving an example of how *I* would like the show to be.

The problem with making it a "modern drama" is that it's just like every other frigging show on TV. Excuse me for wanting something a tad different. I also take issue with the claim by some that this is the ONLY way Doctor Who could have been reborn. I suspect that a lot of people who praise and rabidly defend the show would be doing the same regardless of the way it was brought back.

I don't want to MAKE the show. I want to watch it and enjoy it. That isn't happening. RTD is always saying "the audience wants this" and "the audience wants that". Well, I'm a member of the audience and there's what *I* want.

Loki -- I have to take issue with the idea that this Doctor Who looks like everything else on television. If you mean that on a core emotional level it uses something akin to soap opera or drama based on the human heart then sure I'll agree -- and it isn't as though many of the character beats aren't anything that hasn't been knocking around since the classical Hollywood style was established as early as the 1920s.

But, in relation to everything else its like nothing else on television. Sure, something like Fear Her is deliberately pinioned on the idea of creating a kind of weird detective story in Brookside Close, but something like 'The Satan Pit' whilst perhaps obviously taking its cues from the film Alien et al features at one points, lets not forget, its main character dangling on a rope in an endless dark discussing the nature of his own belief system.

But the fact that the same show can deliver something with the texture of 'Fear Her' a week after 'The Satan Pit'? There really isn't anything like that on television at the moment is there?

I would be very interested to know what you would want, what your ideas are, the kind of show you'd like to see.

(Note: These are just my opinions, which Stu asked for. You may not agree with them. Please don't take it personally if you don't.)

Sorry, this another long one.

Stu, I don't deny that the New Who has had some great moments and episodes. Nor am I simply saying Classic Who = good, New Who = bad. But the new series overall leaves me feeling empty in a way the old series never did.

For examples of the kind of stories I'd like to see, look at the two examples I've already given above.

Here are some other things that I would change if I could:

1. Bring back the serial format! Not necessarily the 22-minute episode serials of old, but stories with at least 2 or 3, maybe even 4 episodes (though these would be rare). A lot of stories in New Who have good ideas that just aren't being developed.

2. Bring back the cliff-hanger! The cliff-hanger was an integral part of Doctor Who and it was more than just structural. When used well it helped build tension and maintain interest.

3. Dump the season arc. So far, both season arcs have been pretty anti-climatic. That wouldn't be so bad if it didn't have such a detrimental effect on the rest of the stories. I wouldn't mind padding in a 2-3 episode story, but we get whole episodes that are just "well, we ran out of money/ideas so here's something to pass the time until we get to the more important stuff". When some stories are crying out for an extra episode that is unforgivable.

Here's how I would re-tool the past two seasons if I could:

Season 1:
Rose - 2 episodes
End of the World - 2 episodes
Unquiet Dead - 2 episodes
Dalek - 2 episodes
Father's Day - 1 episode
Empty Child - 2 episodes
Bad Wolf - 2 episodes

Season 2:
Tooth & Claw - 2 episodes
Girl in the Fireplace - 2 episodes
Impossible Planet - 3 episodes
School Reunion - 1 episode
Idiot's Lantern - 2 episodes
Rise of the Cybermen - 3 episodes

I imagine these as mostly self-contained stories that focus on the topic/situation at hand rather than serving a larger season arc. Consider my version of Rose in the post above. In that, we don't know much about her family/past - it just isn't necessary to the story. She's just some girl who is bored with her life who is given an opportunity to escape and takes it. Of course, this doesn't mean we totally ignore her family problems. Father's Day is a good story that serves its purpose well. However, I would have found it even more poignant if we weren't constantly beat over the head about Rose's family issues. It could have been slowly drawn out over the previous, say, 8 episodes.

As for the season arcs, I see no reason why the ideas in them couldn't simply form the season finale alone:

For instance, take The Long Game, Bad Wolf and Parting of the Ways. In my opinion, as individual stories they're all pretty poor. There is very little going on in them and the Doctor is mostly passive throughout. We're just sitting around waiting for something - anything! - to happen. But the central idea - that someone is manipulating history for their own purposes - is sound. Here's how I think it could be improved upon: The Doctor and Rose turn up in the future and the Doctor begins to suspect something isn't right. He snoops about and discovers some powerful force is fiddling with history. Further investigation reveals that it is none other than the Daleks! Gasp! And so the Doctor must race to prevent the Dalek's devious plan from coming to fruition, possibly at the cost of his life. Imagine a story with plenty of action and suspense, attempts on our heroes' lives, etc. None of this Big Brother rubbish. And by "racing to stop the Daleks" I don't mean "sitting on your arse all episode to build a weapon that you don't even bother to use anyway".

The Cybermen story would be similar. Remember the part where what-his-name (Jake?) witnesses the homeless men getting kidnapped by Lumic's henchman? That's where I would have brought the Doctor in. He witnesses the kidnap, and decides to investigate and the story moves on from there. More excitement and suspense as the Doctor infiltrates Lumic's operation and discovers the horrifying truth! I would have liked to see the alternative corporate society better developed and fleshed out. Include alt-Pete, but don't bring an entire episode to a standstill as Rose deals with her daddy issues. By all means, develop the characters, but let it flow with the story. After the Cybermen are finally defeated, I would have like to have seen Rose make an adult decision that while her time with the Doctor has been fun, she now wants to stay on the alt-Earth to help rebuild and get to know the father she never had (rather than, say, blubber on a beach).

These are just off the top of my head. I guess there's something very pulp fiction about my perception of Doctor Who. Lots of running about, almost getting killed. Thrills and spills and all that. Stopping occasionally for some character moments here and there, but never enough to stop the flow of the story. Really, it's not the emotional content of New Who that bothers me, but that it's allowed to dominate so completely. I'd like to see effort put in the tale being told and the characters being actively involved in that tale rather than wrapped up in themselves. I want sympathetic and interesting characters, but I don't want to know every detail of their personal lives.

In one of his essays, George Orwell wrote of "good bad books". He was talking about stories like Sherlock Holmes, which he said have absolutely no literary value whatsoever, no multiple layers or deeper meanings. Despite this, they are very successful and often continue to be read long after many literary works are forgotten. To me, Doctor Who is an example of the good bad story. Scampmeister says above that New Who is better quality than Old Who, and he's right. In fact, I'll go as far as to say that ALL of classic Who is pretty much crap. But it has that indefinable B-movie quality that lets it transcend its badness and makes it eminently watchable. New Who lacks that quality (indeed, it seems utterly desperate to shed it, to become a "serious drama"). No amount of budget, CGI effects and big name stars can make up for that.

In short: New Who is good, but boring. Old Who is bad, but fun. That is my opinion. If you don't like it - I have others (though you probably won't like them either).

I've been following this discussion from the other side of the Atlantic, and wanted to chime in with another perspective. I'm a fortysomething who has loved "Who" since the Chicago public television station first aired the Pertwees back in the mid-'70s, and who has fallen in love all over again thanks to the new series, so I'll apologize up front for coming off as...er, an apologist.

It really bothers me that it seems the latest sport among the cool kids is to bash Russell Davies, as was the case with John Nathan-Turner before him. I'll grant that JN-T made some egregious errors of judgment during his tenure, yet that same period also brought us a marked improvement in production values, a number of stories that even many curmudgeonly fans accept as classics, and that whole "dark Doctor" thing that so many fan fiction writers got off on during the fallow period between "Survival" and "Rose." I've always felt that it was grossly unfair to blame JN-T for "Timelash" and Ken Dodd and not give him credit for "The Caves of Androzani" and Ace.

I would argue much the same in favor of Russell Davies. Yes, he's made missteps, but good God, having "Doctor Who" back on the air after a SIXTEEN-YEAR hiatus and once again a critical and popular success is surely worth something. An entire generation of kids missed out, while "Who" became the exclusive province of the consumers of Virgin novels and Big Finish audios.

I love that I can now share "Doctor Who" with my wife--who absolutely loathed the old show--and that she admits that it's good. I'm thrilled that I'm now myself an American public TV programmer and can personally offer the TARDIS to another generation, and if I hear even one anecdote about a Central Illinois schoolkid pretending to be a Dalek, I'll consider the circle complete.

I'm not saying that Davies is above criticism, just that it's depressing that we finally have our wonderful old Doctor back and all some can do is find fault. I'm sure that all of us can think of things that we might have done "better," but I am glad that he did so many things right, and made it fun again to be a fan.

You've gotta take the rough with the smooth. Hmm, that sounds a bit dodgy now I think about it...but anyway.

I think there are things Davies does wrong, things he decides to focus on that sometimes I wish he didn't bother about. But overall? I think he's been a GOOD thing for Doctor Who and I'm glad he's part of it. So far, the positives of his 'reign' beat the negatives pretty handily in my book.

And if someone really can't come to like "New Who" then hey, look at it this way...at least the success of this new series means all those old stories you like have a much higher profile along with shiny DVD releases for your entertainment.

And if someone really can't come to like "New Who" then hey, look at it this way...at least the success of this new series means all those old stories you like have a much higher profile along with shiny DVD releases for your entertainment.

'Tis true. I'm mostly past caring about New Who at this point and there's certainly no shortage of episodes of classic Doctor Who to satisfy me. But I can never shake that feeling of "what might have been?". Ah well. Who knows what the future holds?

Personally, I can't wait for season 2 of Primeval...

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