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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A review of the second edition paperback
I loved the original Writer's Tale - lovingly presented and fantastic content - and it became one of my very favourite non-fiction books, so I was eagerly looking forward to this extension of the correspondence. When flicking through, my first feeling was slight disappointment - but I'll come back to that.

Firstly, to put that bit about "300 new pages" in...
Published on 16 Jan 2010 by Ian

versus
25 of 64 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Self-important
At the risk of setting myself up to be shouted down by all the millions of RTD fans out there... I hated this. Doctor Who itself has become very smug and cliquey over the past couple of years, and this book is much the same. There isn't a shred of modesty here, which becomes very wearing after a while - how many times can RTD say how fantastic, marvellous and wonderful...
Published on 9 April 2009 by MJP23


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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A review of the second edition paperback, 16 Jan 2010
By 
Ian (Walsall, UK) - See all my reviews
I loved the original Writer's Tale - lovingly presented and fantastic content - and it became one of my very favourite non-fiction books, so I was eagerly looking forward to this extension of the correspondence. When flicking through, my first feeling was slight disappointment - but I'll come back to that.

Firstly, to put that bit about "300 new pages" in context. In its new paperback form, the original book runs to 340 pages, and there's 340 of new stuff in addition - so you've got a new book's worth on top!

But, I do feel that it loses something in a black and white paperback edition. The original was vibrant, with illustrations by RTD dotted throughout plus lots of little photos - so when you read a piece of correspondence or a script extract you could instantly relate it to what you saw on screen. This reprint of book one loses a lot of that.

More than that though, most of the actual scripts that were dotted through the correspondence in book one have been removed in the reprint 'to make space'. (These were the RTD first drafts - you can now get the final versions for some free online.) I felt they added a lot in explaining the development of episode ideas and scripts.

For these reasons, if you're new to this (and can afford the considerable extra expense) I'd recommend buying the beautifully presented original and then this in addition for the new stuff.

As to the new stuff - well the correspondence is as revealing, intimate, witty and fascinating as before. There's no sign that the comments are more self-conscious given the knowledge this time around of their ultimate publication.

So, overall, a slight sense of initial disappointment in the cheaper paperback - I'd have happily paid for a shiny hardback volume two - but the brilliance of the correspondence has to win out overall, so it stays five stars for me.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the ultimate window into the frantic world of Doctor Who, 1 Oct 2008
By 
Sensible Cat (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale (Hardcover)
There's no shortage of glossy "Doctor Who" books on the shelves but this is by far the most revealing. It digs deep and gives the reader a fascinating insight into the exhaustion, exhileration and relentless hard slog that goes into the flagship show. Read it, even if you don't care for DW, if you want to know the truth about a writer's life. It's very warts-and-all, at times very funny, and always comes over as being honest. You won't get closer than this to finding out why things turned out the way they did. In particular, RTD's thoughts on "Journey's End", the S4 finale, are intriguing and reveal how he copes with the inevitable gulf between his first concept of how a story should end and the version that reaches the screen, subject to the limitations of budget, time, actor availability and overall tone.

Like the Doctor himself, RTD clearly feels under pressure as the man everyone looks to for answers, he finds it almost impossible to relinquish control of his beloved show, yet a part of him longs for a break from the constant creative demands on his energies, preferably before the stress kills him.

There are certainly a few dark nights of the soul here, but also complete versions of the scripts of "Voyage of the Damned", "Partners in Crime" and the explosive two-parter finale, including the early drafts and absorbing explanations for the way things changed later. An extra bonus is a plethora of photographs, some from deleted scenes, and RTD's unexpectedly witty and professional cartoons of cast and characters.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!, 28 Sep 2008
This review is from: Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale (Hardcover)
An astonishingly enjoyable read. If you've ever even toyed with the idea of writing, this gives you huge insights into the sheer grind and self doubt that goes into trying to get a script out, and it's a fascinating read. The email exchange structure gives a frankness that any other style would probably skirt around and you get a feeling of a genuine professional friendship between the authors. Some of the content might be a little too frank if you were thinking of buying a "Doctor Who" book for the kiddies, because it's not really a "Doctor Who" book - it's a book about writing, and the writing happens to be "Doctor Who". You do end up worrying if Russell EVER sleeps and whether this writing lark is good for his health, you do wonder how anyone finds the time to do that job, and you do get to see another side to the cheery upbeat soul who appears on TV, but that just makes it all the more intriguing. And on top of all his other work, Russell's found time to provide a large number of very inventive cartoons to illustrate the text - you'd have to hate the guy if he wasn't so good at it. The book looks fantastic, too, beautifully laid out. All in all, a big fat Hooray!!

The paperback edition THE WRITERS TALE: THE FINAL CHAPTER followed in January 2010, and all that I said in my review of the original remains pretty true, although the format has been changed radically for that edition. It is a smaller book format and whilst there are full colour photo inserts, the bulk of the reprinted text pages are now black and white, so maybe whilst it's not quite so beautiful to look at as the original, the written content is still as great as it ever was. The biggest surprise with the paperback edition is the addition of 300+ pages of brand spanking new content - making it a stonking doorstop of a book - which covers the period from the end of the last book to the end of Russell's time working on the show - the production of the 5 specials and all the surrounding Who-hah! - which actually quite probably makes it very worth buying all over again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I've really, really, really enjoyed this one, 14 Jun 2009
By 
Jim J-R (West Sussex, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale (Hardcover)
Review of hardback "The Writer's Tale":

'The Untold Story of the BBC series' is what the cover says this book is, but I don't think that quite does it justice. This contains the daily thoughts and feelings of Russell T Davies, the genius behind the new Doctor Who. This is the story of a year in the life of Davies, a man with the craziest life livable, and it's actually truly comforting to know that he's a real person after all - and not some sort of alien genius writer sent to earth to lull us into some sort of TV slavery.

But I digress. Reading this is like seeing the whole of Series Four evolve from the roughest ideas into the finished product. And although you know it will all be okay in the end, the correspondence still generates an urgency and building tension as Russel's deadlines get closer and closer before he has started writing.

In my head, Doctor Who's production was perfect. All the stories were planned out way in advance, the scripts written long before filming commenced. But now I know the truth of it is far more exciting than that - and no one knows how it is going to end until the last possible minute!

My only quibble with this tome is the length of some of the script extracts. These are first drafts of four of Russell's scripts reproduced, bit by bit as they were written. In hindsight though they are vital to the plot - to see how the ideas changed from the beginning to the finished product on our screens.

I can only hope that Russell and Ben continue to communicate, and that they feel it appropriate to publish again! Also, the hints of Who to come are tantalizing... and annoying knowing it's still another year before series five.

Review of expanded paperback "The Final Chapter":

This second book is just as good as the first, although that is partly because the first half of this volume is the text of the first book, just without the scripts. The second half is brand new and covers the time from the end of the first book to the end of Russell T Davies' tenure at Doctor Who in the form of an e-mail exchange between Davies and journalist Ben Cook.

For someone dropping into this without having read the first part there are a few places where the first half doesn't make sense. In the original, scripts in progress were included at the points where Davies sent them to Cook, but to save space these have been removed from this volume. The text still makes reference to these extracts though, and no notes have been added to explain where they were meant to be.

Honestly, I didn't find the second half to be as enjoyable as the first. The two authors seem to be more comfortable with each other and Ben is less 'invisible' than before. The discussion tends to be less about writing Doctor Who and more of a biography of Davies - both his history and day-to-day life. The e-mails become longer and longer throughout, which isn't a bad thing but loses some of the informality of the original book.

Overall though it's still a good book. It's absolutely huge, and addictive reading - it almost makes you feel like you are part of the conversation and actually know the participants. I'm just hoping that the story doesn't stop here, and that Ben can continue to correspond with Davies though his next projects, or with Steven Moffat who has taken over Doctor Who.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading, 29 Sep 2008
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale (Hardcover)
Predictably witty and honest, this is a book that will be enjoyed by Doctor Who fans and aspiring writers alike. What really comes across is that Davies is passionate about the show he resurrected and is often tortured by his perceived shortcomings as a writer. I can well understand why he's had enough, although I suspect he won't in fact be able to stay away for long.
The e-mail format and excerpts from Doctor Who scripts mean this is a book you can 'dip into' quite easily rather than reading from cover to cover and the writer's own cartoon illustrations are an unexpected bonus - is there anything this man can't do? This would make a fantastic Christmas present for those of us who don't know how we'll make it through 2009 without a Dr Who series.
Of course everybody knows that Swansea produces the best writers in the world, but it's nice to have a bit more proof.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Insight Into the Making of Doctor Who, 19 Jan 2010
By 
A. Foxley (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The idea behind the original 'Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale' hardback was simple - head writer and executive producer Russell T Davies corresponded with journalist Benjamin Cook over the course of a year or so, the end result being a kind of diary of the process of writing and overseeing such a large-scale and complex show. The paperback edition, 'The Writer's Tale: The Final Chapter', retains this correspondence, but also continues it, almost doubling the page count and bringing the story up to July 2009, effectively the end of Russell's time on the programme. So, as well as getting the inside story of episodes from the Kylie-starring Christmas special 'Voyage of the Damned' right up to the end of Series Four, this edition includes the 2009 specials, David Tennant's departure, and the making of the 'Torchwood: Children of Earth' mini-series amongst other things.

Unlike a lot of the 'Doctor Who' tie-ins (and frankly, TV tie-ins in general), this is a pretty frank account of the nuts-and-bolts of a writer's life - struggling to come up with fresh ideas, the long, hard process of writing and rewriting according to the needs of the production, as well as the mayhem that comes from being a very visible presence at the heart of the media circus surrounding the programme. It's often surprising to see Russell T Davies, who often comes across in interviews as supremely confident and in control, plagued by self-doubt and finding himself staring at an empty page with time running out. Benjamin Cook's involvement is as part-interviewer, part-sounding board - at times he's responding to Russell's comments and suggestions (sometimes in a negative manner, and in at least one instance, prompting a complete rethink on the part of the production team as to the ending of an episode), at others leaping in with great questions for Russell about his life and work, which help to make the book less 'The Thoughts of Chairman Davies'.

As someone who had read the original hardback, I was unsure about the prospect of an expanded paperback edition - but the sheer amount of new material here means that this feels more like two books in one, a sequel of almost equal length bundled with the original. As such, it's well worth a read even for those who've got the hardback - the new stuff is particularly fascinating as it tells a slightly different story, not so much the production of a series that has, to an extent, settled down to a regular kind of schedule, but a mad scramble to assemble and write a series of specials whose format seems to be constantly in flux in the run-up to production, owing to concerns about scheduling, budgets, the logistics of production and so on. Add to this the cloak-and-dagger activity of announcing David Tennant's departure, and innumerable public appearances including the promotion of the original 'Writer's Tale' book, and it becomes a considerably more varied volume than the original.

Both fascinating for would-be writers or 'Doctor Who' fans alike, 'The Writer's Tale: The Final Chapter' is probably the most enjoyable book on either subject that I've ever read. It's refreshingly frank, full of insight, and is terrific value. Whether you've got the original or not, this really is essential reading.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, 29 Dec 2008
By 
Mr. J. L. Silk (Berks United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale (Hardcover)
A very compelling read that you will find very hard to put down. Partially due to interesting subject matter but also the easy to read 'e-mail' format and exchanges.

This is not a book for all Dr Who fans. The text can be very adult and Russell's 'constant' homo-erotic feelings about actors in the shows would not suit all, although I found it very funny.

The big strength of the book however is Russell's honesty. This is really honest stuff, with high angst, stress and doubt all the way through. Clearly Russell has too much 'on his plate' (he says on several occassions it is killing him) and this book explained to me why series 4 of Dr Who was so inconsistant in it's quality. You can see that the end of the series was really a reunion/say goodbye and much of it had the feeling of being 'cobbled' together and being pulled in.

You also get the idea that Russell has no one to bounce ideas off, and at times he regrets this. All the while dismissing any criticism and opinions he finds on the net, in the media etc. But what he says goes, and although he has sought this, he does at times seem to regret it.

If you wish to read the 'raw' thoughts of a writer through his year then this book should be top of you list. It is honest, amusing and thought provoking. Russell is a very interesting man who makes for a compelling read.

If you worship the series and all contributors then this is not really for you. It is not a slick 'are we not fine' book. But it all opens up in such a unique way that that most should love it...warts and all.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for everybody - but perfect for those it's for, 13 Dec 2008
This review is from: Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale (Hardcover)
First thing: If you're looking to buy a book for a younger Doctor Who fan, and you're thinking this looks like a nice glossy coffee table book for them to flick through - don't get this. It's really intended for older readers: there's a lot of prose here to wade through, the language and innuendo is quite adult, and it's really all about the nuts and bolts of the writing which may be a bit dull for anybody younger than, say, 14 or 15.

But for those who are interested in writing, and writing for television in particular, it's unputdownable. I wouldn't be surprised if in 10-15 years time there are young script writers who cite this book as a major influence in their career decision. Russell T Davies, whatever you think of him (and I finished the book thinking of him really quite fondly) really doesn't hold back in telling his co-author how he works - and indeed, a lot of the time how he doesn't work. He is nothing if not honest about himself and others, and he's frequently very funny.

Although RTD does take centre stage, credit is due to his co-author Ben Cook for his side of the correspondence, which keeps asking most of the questions you want to hear the answers too. I suspected on occasion he was actually not quite in full agreement with RTD, but he hid it well (did I detect a lack of enthusiasm about Catherine Tate?).

Credit also due to the book's designer(s), who have produced a book that is impeccably laid out and beautifully illustrated, not least with the cartoons by RTD which are deservedly praised in other reviews here.

I really can't remember when I've enjoyed a book more. If you're at all interested in writing for TV - get it.

One final thing: some of RTD's comments about online reviewers and the effect they can have on writers really gave me pause (around page 74-75, I think.) Particularly since one of the writers he mentions I've met, and who was personally very helpful to my own writing. I felt rather guilty about some of the cavalier negative comments about books and films that I've littered around cyberspace. I'll be more careful from now on. But for this book at least I can enjoy giving it a near-unconditional thumbs up.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Into a Writers Mind - A Must Read, 26 Jan 2010
This is such a fantastic book on so many levels. It is a brilliant charting of the development of the last season of the most recent Dr. Who told through a series of incredibly insighful (and sometimes stress filled )late night emails The creator of this recent series of Dr. Who - Russell T Davis allows an insight into the mind of the genious behind some of the best television we have ever seen. We get to hear his initial thoughts about what are now iconic episodes of the series and it is very interesting to see how these story grow, change and face the test of production budgets and the dreaded tone meetings (oh if only we had seen Russell's original ideas for the Shadow Proclamation)- but what we also get is a virtual masterclass on how to develop story and characters and create and bring this world to life. It is a page turner (will Russell get episode 4.13 done in time) and he allows you to see all the worry, angst and hard work that he put into these scripts. As an American I now want to watch all the episodes of Bob and Rose!!! A must read - I hope we see more of RTD's genius in the near future - and bravo to Ben who is the fanboy questioner who manages to draw out of Russell T Davis these incredible insights (ususally beween 2-4 am in the morning!) A rare treat!!!!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Hooray!", 9 Oct 2008
By 
Mr. C. J. Limb "chris_catmachine" (Brighton, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale (Hardcover)
A fascinating insight into the mind of a TV writer. I hadn't realised that RTD worked so hard - heavily rewriting almost everyone's scripts (apart from Steven Moffat's) including the much lauded Human Nature/Family of Blood.

What I also found interesting about this collection of emails between RTD and Benjamin Cook is that it could almost be said that RTD was using the exchange as therapy - who could have thought that the talking head crying "Marvelous!" and "Hooray!" during Doctor Who Confidential was so wracked with self doubt and self criticism during the creative process? Whatever you may personally think about the episodes he wrote, reading this will give you massive respect for the man.

Despite Russell's disclaimers in the text, in my opinion this book would be useful for *all* budding writers, even if they have no interest in Doctor Who...
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