Critical mass

Saturday, October 4, 2008 by

On 19 December 2007, I was blogging about the press launch for Doctor Who: “Voyage of the Damned”.

The Writer's Tale

The Writer's Tale

As well as sliding in my own, vaguely negative opinion of the episode (“Lots of fun, not the most cerebral slice of Who ever, but terribly exciting, and with one real groaner they could only get away with on Christmas Day” – I wasn’t all that keen) I was, I guess, grandstanding about being at the event and chatting to the “representatives of various Who offshots also along for the ride (Lis Sladen, Naoko Mori and Peter Davison – who was told by someone who’ll remain nameless, ‘You’re in my top four Doctors: obviously there’s Eccleston ahead of you’).”

Later that same day, Russell T Davies was emailing his friend Ben Cook from Doctor Who Magazine, about the same launch. “I hated it,” he said. “Hated it. I still feel sour”. He went on to describe the party afterwards. “I can’t relax. It’s all work.” And then: “The one time I do get five minutes to myself, one of the sci-fi magazine men* is drunk and won’t leave me alone, while I’m fending off his sly, smiling insults (‘That was a fun episode, wasn’t it? Just fun!’).”

And so it goes, as revealed in Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale (turn to page 353).

None of this will be news to anyone really interested in Who. They’ll have devoured the book anyway – as have I. And it really is a brilliant read. Candid, lucid and an all-too painful evocation of the challenges inherit in writing and running perhaps the most important show on the BBC.

But back to that “Voyage of the Damned” launch. And Davies’ comments are sobering. Personally they prompt me to think about we who orbit TV; writing about it, building empires (perhaps tinpot ones) out of who we’ve met, where we’ve been and what we think about it all. It’s that smarmy drip of negative opinion that you – well, I say “you” – I mean, I, have to watch.

But hey! On page 354 of that book, as Davies is in full despondent flow, there’s a photo of David Tennant being interviewed. And look! That’s me, all blurry and out of focus, in the background. And a bit later on in the evening I’ll be chatting to Lis Sladen, Naoko Mori and then Peter Davison…

* The same nameless chap who told Davison where he ranked him in terms of Doctor Whos, I suspect.


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