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Feature: Doctor Who

Regeneration Game

The brief Doctor (Christopher Ecclestone)

After a break of 16 years there’s a new series of Doctor Who. Executive producers Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner discuss the Time Lord’s new lease of life on TV and DVD

They said to me, ‘Bring back Doctor Who’,” says writer and executive producer Russell T Davies, “and I was delighted because I love this show.”

He’s speaking with passion and barely contained enthusiasm at 2entertain’s DVD launch for the new series. The media may have been focused on Doctor Who’s return to the small screen after a break of 16 years, but we’re also keeping an eye on its emergence on DVD. The first three episodes are released on Volume 1 on May 16, just a few weeks behind their transmission on BBC television.

Alongside names like Paul Abbott (State of Play) and Mike Bullen (Cold Feet), Davies is part of a small elite of writers who make British TV drama something worth watching. He tested the boundaries of perceived decency with Queer as Folk, challenged his gay following with Bob & Rose (the story of a homosexual who falls in love with a woman), then outraged Christians with The Second Coming, which featured the Son of God in a drama that questioned our need for religion.

He’s a man who has changed the kind of stories told on TV, and now he’s doing the same for Doctor Who. The show originally ran for 26 years until 1989 (with a one-off TV movie in 1996), starred eight different lead actors, and burned itself into the memory of every child who watched it.

“I loved the old show and the potential that it has,” Davies continues. “However, I put the fan side of me aside, because the professional television maker in me is far more important.

“The entire production team all knew that it had to work from scratch, it had to be a brand new show for a brand new audience. Even the people who remembered it from old would be taken on a brand new journey. It was especially vital that a generation of children who’ve grown up, who were weaned on Buffy and Smallville and Angel, which are all absolutely fantastic, would have a British version of their own.

“It’s a big event show, one-off stories most weeks, told with big, strong production values and great scripts, good one-liners, great dialogue. We needed this to be a big, strong beast to survive in the middle of the Saturday night schedule.”

Fans of the old series have been very pleasantly surprised: as much as Davies has enforced his vision, he’s also stayed true to aspects that were introduced in An Unearthly Child, the very first story broadcast in 1963.

“There were some aspects that we wanted to keep because they’re great,” he insists. “If you change the basis then you might as well invent another show, and I’m quite capable of doing that. But if you say Doctor Who, you have to have the TARDIS, a Time Lord, a female companion, Daleks, the police box, the same sound effect on the TARDIS and the title sequence.

“There’s no need to tamper with those elements. It’s a beautiful, simple idea. Keep that, and off you go and tell your stories.”

by David Richardson

Get the full interview and more on the Doctor Who DVD releases in
Ultimate DVD #66

Photo © BBCtv
Feature © Visual Imagination 2005. Not for reproduction

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Ultimate DVD #66, see below for ordering options
Ultimate DVD #66
May 2005
ships from Apr 14 2005
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