Image via BBC
“I do not want to go.” With these words, the Tenth Doctor vanished in a destructive blast of regenerative energy on New Year’s Day 2010. It was the end of an era. Not only was David Tenant hanging up his coat, but Doctor Who Showrunner Russell T. Davies was also saying goodbye to adventures in space and time.
Davies had helmed the show for five years after orchestrating its phenomenal return to primetime television in 2005. Fast forward nearly two decades and the announcement in September 2021 that Davies would be returning to the show surprised most inhabitants of the universe. RTD2 hashtags quickly popped up all over the place as the writer hinted at ambitious and new plans for the show’s 60th anniversary in 2023.
The format of the long-running show, which can essentially be renewed from one week to the next, set the writer back. Like he said Radio schedules:
The reason I’ve worked 34 programs in my life is because I generally don’t like to continue sets. I love watching a new set of challenges and a blank slate every time – but Doctor Who is always a blank slate.
Davies instinctively gets the show. He added:
There are things coming that are all new ways of telling stories that have never been done before, so it just feels new.
Davies did not rest on his laurels in the 12 years between his TARDIS gigs. He has further cemented his reputation as one of Britain’s greatest screenwriters, penning diverse, compelling and uncompromising projects on both sides of the Atlantic. So what has Russell T. Davies been up to over the past decade?
Torchwood: Miracle Day (2011)
After Doctor Who, Davies traveled to America with his former co-producer Julie Gardner. At the time, Torchwood seemed like a logical property to take over and develop across the Atlantic. If only logic always paid off. Maturity Doctor Who spin-off had lasted two conventional series before finding its feet. A third limited series proved successful, and Davies targeted a broad and compelling topic for this 10-part transatlantic series: what if people stopped dying.
The series has garnered brilliant horror, unsettling social criticism, and some genuinely chilling moments. But unlike the Leftovers and shows who explored similar themes in later years struggled to make a mark. Ironically, Miracle Day killed live action Torchwood.
Wizards vs Aliens (2012 – 2014)
The death of the shiny Doctor Who star Elizabeth Sladen closed the doors far too soon The Adventures of Sarah JaneDavies’ second Doctor Who spin-off. Wizards vs Aliens filled the production schedule, taking a similar fantasy concept but dropping any connection to the worlds of Doctor Who.
At the heart of Wizards vs Aliens, a young wizard uncovered the secret plot of an alien race that had arrived on Earth to feast on magical creatures. Her three series covered considerable ground, but they never hit the anchor of Sarah Jane.
Old Jack’s Boat (2013-2015)
Who could blame Davies for working with Bernard Cribbins again? The legendary British actor and Doctor Who The veteran had played a pivotal role in the Tenth Doctor’s final adventures and is set to return in 2023.
Old Jack’s Boat was a preschool show starring Cribbins as Old Jack. Every week, the captain of the multicolored boat The Rainbow would tell his dog Salty a story, although not usually shaggy dog stories. Davies wrote two.
Cucumber / Banana / Tofu (2015)
Back in the UK after Torchwood: Miracle DayDavies orchestrated this three-part experiment for Channel 4. The main show, Cucumberfollowed Henry Best, a middle-aged man, forced to embrace 21st century gay life when his personal life fell apart. Banana was a sister series airing on spin-off channel E4 that took a more anthological approach to spotlighting certain characters that appeared in the main show. The 4oD web series Tofu was an accompanying documentary series examining aspects of modern sex.
If you want to know how they got the names, that’s scientific, but maybe you don’t google it at work. Being Davies, the show’s appeal crossed genders and sexuality. At its heart, it was a study of a midlife crisis that tested the barriers while highlighting hugely important issues and neatly intersecting Davies’ first pivotal series, Queer as Folk.
Dream of a summer night (2016)
Davies faced Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death. His adaptation stayed true to Shakespeare’s play but cheerfully drew new and entertaining ways to look at the text, from the inspired casting to its musical finish.
A worthy and high-level tribute, it’s a great starting point for all Shakespeare beginners. It showcased both writers’ gifts for drama and comedy.
A very English scandal (2018)
A change of pace as Davies tackled a real story, the political scandal that ended British politician Jeremy Thorpe’s career. The script was so good that it tempted Hugh Grant to make a rare small-screen appearance as Thorpe, alongside Ben Wishaw. The effortless way Davies turned these real events into a highly watchable comedic and dramatic story was demonstrated by his half-sequel. A Very British Scandal continued the theme like an anthology but felt much more one-note and melodramatic.
years and years (2019)
Davies had evoked dystopia in his sci-fi scripts, but years and years was the experience he had tried to bring to the screen for two decades. It followed a family for 15 years, following their relationships and inner turmoil as Britain went through political, social and technological upheaval. The future may be dark, but the characters were alive. Be prepared for dark times and another of Davies’ couch jumping moments. It’s a bold and unsettling viewing and perhaps the most significant indicator of how Davies will challenge primetime television when he returns to Doctor Who.
Farewell Sarah Jeanne (2020)
During the 2020 lockdown, Davies returned to Doctor Who to support online events that have brought together fans from around the world. Over the months, thousands of people have watched key episodes in unison, and many former cast and crew have surprised them with Tweetalongs and new content. For fans, it was a beacon during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Davies has participated in a few Tweetathons and contributed to the script for this webcast. marking the death of who legend Elizabeth Sladen, the one and only Sarah Jane Smith, she gathered some former colleagues to pay tribute to her character and confirm her death on the show. Of course, Davies prepared a perfect, joyful and heartbreaking tribute.
It’s a sin (2021)
It’s a sin might just stand out as the most significant moment in Davies’ incredible resume. It reportedly struggled to air, a sad reflection of the lingering attitudes towards its subject matter. When it came out, it was a revelation. The five-part series followed a group of young gay men and their friends in London in the early 1980s as a dangerous disease takes hold.
It’s a sin did not shy away from the horror of the situation facing homosexuals at the time, both from disease and from society. But it was also a joyous celebration of life, paying homage to its characters and to the real people affected by the emergence of HIV/AIDS. It’s not an easy watch, but it’s an essential watch. In the same way years and years, It’s a sin shows how Davies’ writing and ambition have grown since he brought the premiere Doctor Who back to the screen,
Davies’ last job before his new look Doctor Who is likely to be this three-part return to real-life dramatization. Helena Bonham Carter will play actress Noele Gordon, who was one of the most famous faces on British television when she was dropped from a top TV show in the early 1980s under curious circumstances . It is likely to shed as much light on strong women and their treatment by the establishment as it pays homage to soap operas.
Doctor Who (2023)
Very little is known about the direction Davies is taking Doctor Who. The kindness and open-mindedness of the writer and producer are great tools for stopping people in their tracks… But if you want to prepare yourself, Big Finish Productions has a time machine waiting for you. The audio production company, which officially expanded the Doctor Who Audio Universe for two decades, recently adapted the first screenplay Davies wrote for the series.
Only when he wrote The spirit of the Hodiac, Davies was not a showrunner but a very young writer. Unproduced at the time, this adventure starred the Sixth Doctor and his companion Melanie Bush. What better way to prepare for brand new adventures in time and space.