One of the easily most loved and hated people in Doctor Who is without a doubt, Russell T Davies. Now of course when I say hate I do not in anyway mean any strong negative feelings, but more of a playful love/hate type thing. I know we, The Arrow Of Time, have showed our feelings toward the man and his work, also if you listen to any other Doctor Who podcast you’ll hear the RTD rants, I have heard several myself, you can go to Doctor Who fan forum sites and see the threads like “What Do You Hate About Russell T Davies?”. All these things seem kind of harsh, and yeah they can be. Does he deserve it? Well I can’t say, but us fans love to nit pick, even the most die hard fans. On our podcast we do a fair share of nitpicking, actually, that’s pretty much what we are about, making something out of nothing, but then again is that not the plight of the fanboy, to love something so much that you can’t help but complain about it? In fact that’s what the whole demeanor of these podcast rants and forum hate threads is all about, how would you write Who better than Rusty?
The basic fanboy pattern in pretty much anything is being so critical of the thing you love that no one could ever do this justice even the person who created it. This isn’t solely limited to comic book geeks and sci-fi nerds, it encompasses everyone. I have seen the sports nuts say how much better they could coach their teams or play the games themselves, people critiquing their favorite bands and complaining on how great they used to be and how hard they sold out even though they are still buying their CDs. FANBOYS….or FANGIRLS, I won’t discriminate. Getting back to the man himself, Davies is so fantastic in this because he sets out to write very fun satisfying stories, and then seems to mess it all up with general over-the-top-ness as well as convoluted characters and story arcs that seem to only exist to drag some cockamamie emotion out of us the viewer. Now I could go on and say how Love and Monsters was a silly waste of time, every finale since Doomsday was just ridiculously trying to top it’s self, or even that The End Of Time 1&2 was a self indulgent romp dragging out the 10th Doctor’s regeneration ending with an overly gushy visitation of everyone that the Doctor has encountered since 2005, that it was all just a David Tennant celebration and the Doctor was no longer the focus because they never did it for any other Doctor……..Ok stop, whew. So I’m not here to go into that, this is not the purpose of this particular blog, in this blog I want to talk about all the wonderful reasons why Russell T., despite a few flaws, is a fantastic guy worthy of any Whovian’s respect.
Number 1: He Reinvented Doctor Who
Ok this is the obvious one. Actually every time I find myself on a fan fueled RTD rant, I always bring myself back to this. Of course yes he was the mastermind who decided to reach back into his own fandom and bring back Brittan’s best. It’s not just the fact that he brought it back it’s how he brought it back. Russ didn’t just copy and paste the old show format with catchier writing and flashier effects, he changed the way Who stories and episodes ran. Word on the street was that Russell took his inspiration from the show Buffy The Vampire Slayer. He liked that format and style so much that he wanted to implement it into “his” Doctor Who. I mean I don’t think I’m alone here when I say, Doctor Who has always been a great show but the new format has definitely made it better. No more having to watch 4-8 half hour parts to 1 hour worth of story, and yes I know why they did it, but it seemed to have quite a bit of unnecessary padding, well necessary time wise, but not story wise. You can definitely see this format pre “The Davies” in the much loathed telemovie. A few other things that you can tell he may have lifted was the style for the new opening sequence, following the Tardis through the void as the credits fly past and without the Doctor’s portrait all the while scored by cinematic Who music. So if you ask me I would gladly trade the 8 part filler format with one 45 minute story packed with plot.
Number 2: Through Lines
Having a through line could go either way, personally I dig it and feel that it makes for a stronger series, and so because of this I say it’s a win! In the past there really wasn’t an abundance of series lone through lines among episodes, the only ones that come to mind are the Key to Time episodes and Trial of a Time Lord episodes from both of the Bakers. Davies mind you didn’t have the most intricate through lines, ***SEASON 1-4 SPOILERS BEGIN*** Badwolf, or Rose in the 4th/ and the bees disappearing, always the bees.***SPOILERS END*** The problem is that you can’t always just arbitrarily jump to any episode at random without having seen previous episodes, but for all it’s worth I feel that it pays off more in the end, figuring out what we are supposed to chase and watching it being unraveled a little more towards the end with the big surprise. It can be a little inconvenient to new viewers but over all I say it’s worth it.
Number 3: Emotions
Emotionally strong episodes definitely gets some flak. I will definitely tell you that some episodes are teeming with too much gushy emotion, but the usual amount does a show good. This is in no way a reflection of the classic episodes as a whole, but more the writing of the man himself. I think that having big emotional points within reason, and letting your audience have deep emotional stock in the story is important. Davies seems to chase after this first, he does the fun goofy sci-fi, especially the goofy, but the thing he goes after first is the emotion. The big problem here is being so set to chase ofter emotion that story and characters become secondary. I’m a firm believer that you should tell your story using your characters, and bring the emotion from that, if you create characters or arcs where their purpose is no longer plot but pushing emotion that’s where things start to fall apart. Although you can’t say it’s an awful choice, I mean it can make a story kind of weak but it’s still interesting regardless. Emotion is a great driver that I have always loved, especially when emotion is setup and triggered properly. I’ve always enjoyed that about Rusty, putting in so much emotion and when combined with an equal amount of good plot makes for some really great storytelling.
The problem with RTD is stamina, he has a lot of good ideas and motives, even convictions as a writer. Those are all good things, but the bad comes because even the best having to write over and over being spread so thin things get to seem a bit contrived, you can start to see the same things happening now with Moffat, but that’s a different blog…
Overall you were an important and fantastic part of what we have now. You have made Doctor Who much better than it was before, starting a format to where even more of us Yanks across the pond can obsess over it. Thank you Russell T. Davies, good on you mate.