Thursday, January 21, 2010

REVIEW - "The Writer's Tale: The Final Chapter"

BBC Books out now
Available on Paperback [RRP £16.99]

Without wanting to flatter myself by association, I was please to discover that I share a few lurves with writer Russell T Davies. Namely Beauty & The Beast. People often bang on about The Lion King (even RD quoted it in The Christmas Invasion) but B and the B has got it all going on for me and the big man agrees. Plus, he's a fan of The Apprentice. What's not to like?


Those familiar with the first edition of The Writer's Tale (included here in all its glory) will know the format - Doctor Who Magazine scribe Benjamin Cook has entered into an email conversation (and sometimes texts - how modern!) with RTD discussing, primarily, the writing process. This new edition picks up where the last left off but what we get is much more than a simple to~ing and fro~ing of "This is how I did that" or "That's why I did that".

As before, there are detailed (yet fascinating) glimpses into how Russell created, wrote and produced the final specials. Reading the unfolding saga of how Planet of the Dead completely changed (as many stories do), not to mention "Bus~Gate", over the months is quite remarkable. Even more so is the moment in an email where Davies realises himself who delivers the four knocks - and there are plenty of these moments of discovery to devour.


But it's the 'backstage' shenanigans that take priority here. And by 'shenanigans' here I refer to the BBC. I lost count of the number of times the phrase 'BBC Editorial Policy' was wheeled out either with regards to a story (the skeleton in Planet of the Dead, for example) or behind~the~scenes chicanery (whether or not they could announce live at the National Television Awards that Davey T was leaving). It's disappointing, and frustrating for a fan, to find out that the creative team have to put up with this sort of interference.

Even more horrifying is the stuff that RTD doesn't tell us about - I can't (and don't want to) imagine. The production crew seem to work in a continual state of emergency and the saga of how The Waters of Mars nearly didn't happen will send more shivers through you than a Weeping Angel or Midnight monster ever could.


Anyway, the book throws up so many interesting tidbits (many of which you've already read about I'm sure), but the one that really sticks out is Davey T's almost decision reversal when Steven Moffat and Piers Why Does He Always Look Like He's Just Been Crying For Ten Hours? Wenger took over. The Moff features like The Watcher, gathering Davies into his final moments on Who. One wonders (and hopes) if the Scotsman will undertake such a tome to record his experiences.


Like the first edition, the reader finds out in graphical detail just how painful (and rewarding) the writing process is for Russell T Davies. Torturous does not cover it and I hope that one day he gets to write a story at a pace that his massive brain can handle. Of his intellect I do have to question one thing - why does he go online? Davies has never been shy in expressing his opinions, quite rightly, on fandom and he lets rip once again. But why subject himself to message boards and forums? I can understand that he must get p'd off at the dozen or so people who continually churn out the same redundant remarks but they're such a minority of the millions that derive pleasure from the series that it seems ridiculous that he would even consider their "opinions". With higher than ever audience Appreciation Index figures and growing viewing figures the hard facts are there - Doctor Who is a palpable hit. Yet, he finds himself niggled by comments as they infiltrate his life in other ways. It saddens me, to be honest, that a man so obviously talented, so obviously brilliant, so bottom~huggingly creative that he finds himself bothering with these "people" - he's better than that. I just wanted to give him a big cuddle. Moving on.


For fans of the show, The Writer's Tale: The Final Chapter is the ultimate reference book - utterly indispensable. For those who have any interest in the world of television then it'll serve as a warning and as a helpful guide to the industry. Russell's candour and wit (and his lurve for the show) keep what could have been a dull read, an essential experience - and you will feel his sadness, joy and frustration in equal measures. Full marks must also go to Benjamin Cook for keeping up this correspondence and for keeping it so relevant. One hopes that he and Russell will continue as I, for one, want to know - what happens next?

Blogtor Rating 10/10

Thanks to eBury and BBC Books

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

My copy's just been dispatched from Amazon - can't wait to read it!

richardwatts said...

My copy is also Amazoning it's way down under - very much looking forward to picking up the story where it left off in the first edition - though I must confess to mild irritation that I splurged on the hardcover copy only to find it was redundent a few months later...

Cameron McEwan said...

You splurged on the hardcover?

Durty boy!

jp said...

I got mine on release day and read it in two days, brilliant again.
Although I like to hear what the creative team have to put up with. It makes you appreciate what they actually manage to achieve even more.
I've got to admit that some of my favourite parts of the book were when he was talking about his mother.

Sam said...

I loved "The Writer's Tale" and didn't realise he had penned another! Fantastic news and thank you so much for the info! Trip to Waterstones tomorrow, me thinks!!

Cel said...

A question: is this new edition just a paperback version of the original, with added chapters about the 2009 specials? Or is it a sequel, a separate book entirely? I plan to order it one way or the other, but I'd like to know if I should also pick up the first one while I'm at it.

=)

Karen Funk Blocher said...

Excellent! I'm all anxious now for Amazon US to get the book Stateside and get it shipping out. With the hardback it seemed to take forever!

I, too, get annoyed with the handful of fans for whom RTD can do no right, who refuse to be dissuaded from their complaints by mere facts. It's got to be worse if you're the subject of their guff. But RTD has got to know there are lots and lots of fans who appreciate what he's done. I hope so, anyway!

Cameron McEwan said...

Cel

Answer:
This new version has over 350 pages of new material added to the first edition so it's the equivalent of another new volume and takes up about half of the book.

KevinCV said...

I totally agree with Karen. I'm also sick and tired of thoes so-called fans who continually blamed RTD for the problems that they had with Doctor Who.

I also don't like it when he's accused of being arrogant when he decides to write something that not only pushes the Doctor into doing stuff that we've never seen him do before, like what happened at the end of "Waters of Mars". I actually loved that because it shows that the Doctor may do heroic things, but it shows that he can be a sinner as well as a saint.

That said, I totally appreciate what he's done. It's nice to know there's still at least one sci-fi TV writer out there who's willing to take bold risks and shake you out of your comfort zone. I hope Steven Moffat continues that trend with his time as head writer.