Red Right Hand: THE WRITER'S TALE
*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.

 

THE WRITER'S TALE

Ye gawdz, but I DO love this book.

If you're even a casual viewer of Doctor Who (which I freely admit, I am not. I am an obsessive one) and/or at all interested in the creative process in general or in specific as it relates to television, this book kicks Sontaran ass. Seriously, even if you're not into the show, it's might still be worthreading and this book might be a good reason to get familiar.

What you get in The Writer's Tale is what every interview with a writer and what every behind-the-scenes book completely fails to capture. What goes on in a writer's head. And while certainly every writer works a bit differently and you can never really get 100% in there, this books gets a far into Russell Davies creative head as you're likely to get into anyone's other than your own...with his randomness, spark, self-criticism and development. It's the best quantification of the unquantifible I've seen in a long while, if ever.
"It all exists in my head, but in this soup. It's like the ideas are fluctuating in thisgreat big quantum state of Maybe. The choices look easy when recounted later, but that's hindsight. When nothing is real and nothing is fixed, it can go anywhere. The Maybe is a hell of a place to live. As well as being the best place in the world."
There's a lot of good philosophy on writing and even when you get to the point where you start thinking about whether or not this could (or should) be taken as a book on how to write, Davies completely disabuses you of that notion while at the same time calling Charlie Kaufman on maybe be a little too uppity about himself and/or writing.

The book is essentially a series of emails between Davies and journalist Ben Cook over the course of the fourth season, from pre to post. In doing so you get a clear picture of how this showrunner conceived this particular year and, especially exciting for Doctor Who fans, is you get to see a lot of the false starts and the could-have-beens, both creatively (Mark Gatiss' Nazi episode, space dogs) and on the business side (Dennis Hopper was nearly in the "Voyage of the Damned"). As such, the book is best taken as a companion to the fourth season, but it's also a good reason to go and watch the fourth season if you haven't. It's be kind of a backwards way to come to perhaps the best show currently in production (maybe I overstate, maybe I don't, certainly the best adventure show...period), but whatever works.

What I also enjoy is that in doesn't stay on point. Davies jumps thoughts as one might do in an email, occasionally slipping into what he's really thinking (especially with regards to Donna becoming the fourth year companion) and also the two having brief off-topics (like discussing the Life on Mars finale). There's also tangential peeks into the goings on at Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures as well as some references to Davies past television experiences, what books he's reading and what he had for lunch. As I see it, it's all a part of the the creative whole. Everything shapes everything else.

As a chronicle of the fourth series, it also covers his deciding to step down, Moffat deciding to step up and some network politics and what-not. The only thing left out of the book was Tennant's decision to step down from the role, as that was still a secret for some while into the book's production and, I think, even a little bit after the publication date.

Also notable is the website for the book which features Davies' fourth series scripts, including "Midnight." There's a 42 page scene.

512 pages of school textbook sized harcover goodness. Go get it.
©2016 Michael Patrick Sullivan