Top critical review
Fascinating for Whovians, but a little disappointing at the same time
on 3 July 2015
I found this book fascinating, but also rather disappointing.
It was fascinating to see how some of the ideas came about and also to see how things that never quite made it into the shows in question were re-cycled and later re-appeared elsewhere (e.g. in Torchwood). There are also plenty of "so that's what it means' moments, such as the explanations about the Doctor's mother lending him a helping hand in time that only the greatest of Who addicts would have followed at the time that the show was broadcast. Certainly, it helps to understand the workings of Russell T. Davies's mind.
It is also a somewhat disconcerting book in many ways. A feature of the book is the chronicle of missed deadlines and doing things in a rush at the last minute (and often well after), but you have hundreds of pages of e-mails, many quite trivial, that must have taken hundreds of hours to write, often late at night, when you would have thought that the time would be better devoted to actually getting those scripts finished! In fact, a large part of the book seems to be devoted to finding ways to explain why he has not been doing what he should be doing. It is very much a demonstration of Parkinson's Law!
Anyone who writes seriously will know the feeling of writer's block, or the paralysis that can (and often does) accompany big writing projects, which means that you will move heaven and earth to find good excuses not to start to write. For some writers and RTD seems to be a prime example, it would appear that only the panic of knowing that a deadline is past and that filming schedules are being impacted is capable of putting fingers to keyboard and getting work started. Of course, when started, it comes out in a torrent.
Readers will look at how scripts are prepared and think to themselves that, given the last-minute panic, it's amazing that the quality is not affected. Certainly, the overwhelming impression is that things get done in great haste after months of inactivity. That is probably doing RTD a grave injustice as probably the greatest creative effort is in mentally putting the pieces together and that is a process that does not produce any actual written result, but does mean that when the writing starts it is just a matter of committing all your thoughts to paper.
Another thing that comes across powerfully is the impression that RTD was a control freak with the show. Even changes of a single word that appear in filming need a telephone call and explicit approval from him. Other writers are re-written unmercifully because they don't suit his style, but every RTD word in the final shooting script is sacred. It all comes across as slightly neurotic (even when discounting the constant references to how sexy certain male members of the cast are and his fantasies about them - something that a male Director would never get away with in print if he were talking about female members of the cast - these references become tiresome in the end).
For me though the biggest disappointment is the poor print quality. The text is small, but readable, but the reproduction of the monochrome photographs is very disappointing indeed.
However you take this book, it is a fascinating insight into the world of Doctor Who's revival and the handover to a completely new writing and production team.