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Russell T Davies, OBE (born Stephen Russell Davies, 27 April 1963), is a Welsh television producer and writer. He is known for controversial drama serials such as Queer as Folk and The Second Coming, and for spearheading the successful revival of the popular science-fiction television series Doctor Who. He created the latter's spin-off series Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Early career

Davies was born in Skettymarker, a suburb of Swanseamarker in Walesmarker, where he attended Olchfa Schoolmarker. He was then educated at Worcester College, Oxfordmarker, graduating with a degree in English Literature in 1984. He completed a postgraduate Theatre Studies course run by Cardiff Universitymarker based at the Sherman Theatre. After initially working in the theatre back in Swansea, he joined the staff of BBC Television, working as a floor manager and production assistant before taking the in-house director's course in the late 1980s. He briefly moved in front of the cameras to present a single episode of the BBC's famous young children's show Play School in 1987, before deciding that his abilities lay in production rather than presenting. It was around this point that he began adding the "T" to his name on credits, in order to distinguish himself from the well-known radio presenter Russell Davies.

Working for the children's department at BBC Manchester from 1988 to 1992, he was a producer for summertime activity show Why Don't You? which ironically showcased various things children could be doing rather than sitting at home watching the television. While serving as the producer of Why Don't You? he also made his first forays into writing for television, scripting the comedy dubbed version of The Flashing Blade for the On the Waterfront Saturday morning programme (1989) and creating a children's sketch show for early Saturday mornings on BBC One entitled Breakfast Serials (1990). In the early 1990s, Davies also wrote three episodes of the slapstick comedy children's TV show ChuckleVision.

Children's television

In 1991 he wrote his first television drama, a six-part serial for children entitled Dark Season for BBC One, which comprised two linked three-part stories based around a science-fiction / adventure theme. Davies had written the first episode — with the provisional title The Adventuresome Three — on-spec, and submitted it to the BBC's Head of Children's Programming Anna Home via the Corporation's internal mail system. Home liked the script, and after initially commissioning a second episode to see if Davies could handle the scripting, she eventually commissioned the entire serial when a gap opened up in the schedule for later in the year.

The production was extremely successful, and noteworthy for showcasing the acting talents of a young Kate Winslet. Two years later he wrote another equally well-received science-fiction drama in a similar vein, entitled Century Falls. Although transmitted, as Dark Season had been, in an afternoon children's slot, Century Falls explored more mature themes than its predecessor, and gave some indication of where Davies' future career lay in adult television writing.

In 1992 he moved to Granada Television, producing and writing for their successful children's hospital drama Children's Ward, screened on the ITV network. One of the episodes Davies wrote for this series won a BAFTA Children's Award for Best Drama in 1996. At Granada he also began to break into working for adult television, contributing an episode to the crime quiz show Cluedo, a programme based on the popular board game of the same name, in 1993, and also working on the daytime soap opera Families. He continued working on Children's Ward until 1995, by which time he was already consolidating his position outside children's programming with the comedy The House of Windsor and camp, short-lived soap opera Revelations (both 1994), the latter of which he also created.

Mainstream television and Queer as Folk

After a brief stint as a storyliner on ITV's flagship soap opera Coronation Streetmarker (for which he later wrote the straight-to-video spin-off Viva Las Vegas!) and contributions to Springhill in 1996, the following year he was commissioned to write for the hotel-set mainstream period drama The Grand for prime time ITV. However, the creator and main writer of the series left the production, as did another writer due to contribute, leaving Davies with the task of having to script the entire series single-handedly. This he did, winning a reputation for good writing and high audience figures. He also contributed to the first series of the acclaimed ITV drama Touching Evil, before leaving the staff at Granada and beginning his fruitful collaboration with the independent Red Production Company.

His first series for Red Productions was Queer as Folk, which caused much comment when screened on Channel 4 in early 1999. A short sequel followed in 2000 and a US version, which ran from 2000–2005, was commissioned by the Showtime cable network there. In 2001 he followed this up with another gay-themed mini-series for Red, Bob and Rose, this time screened on the mainstream ITV channel in prime time. He also contributed an episode for a Red series created by Paul Abbott, Linda Green (shown on BBC One). The same year, he was awarded Writer of the Year at the British Comedy Awards.

In early 2003 he wrote the religious telefantasy drama The Second Coming starring Christopher Eccleston, which cemented his position as one of the UK's foremost writers of television drama, winning him a Royal Television Society Award.

Doctor Who and spin-offs

Davies has been a fan of Doctor Who since his childhood, especially of stories written by Robert Holmes, who he has said wrote some of the best dialogue ever written for television. His favourite story was the Fourth Doctor serial The Ark in Space. Davies had long claimed that, independent productions such as his episode of Linda Green aside, he would only return to working for the BBC if he could be placed in charge of their famous, but then out-of-production, science-fiction series. He had in fact been sounded out for such a venture by the BBC One Controller of the time, Peter Salmon, in 1999. Although nothing came of this due to BBC Worldwide's desire to make a film version of the programme, by late 2003 the new Controller of BBC One, Lorraine Heggessey, had persuaded Worldwide to surrender their film ambitions so that she could commission a new television version.

Davies was approached to head-up the revival by Heggessey and the BBC's Head of Drama Jane Tranter in early September 2003, and an official announcement of the programme's return was made on the 26th of that month. A BBC Wales production for BBC One, Davies is executive producer and chief writer of the series, which is produced in Cardiffmarker. The new series began on 26 March 2005 and was an immediate ratings success. A second and third series were announced mere days later with a fourth series, four 2009 specials and a fifth series also commissioned during his time with the show. Davies will work on the show until the 2009 specials.He is the first writer to clearly introduce LGBT characters in the series, a recurring element from some of his other work.

Davies said in an interview with BBC News in June 2005 that he was initially concerned about producing the new series of Doctor Who because he believed that, after the series' absence from television since 1989, it was considered "a joke" with its low budget special effects. However, they now had the budget to match the imagination of the writing. Davies has since stated that most of the new Doctor Who stories are set on Earth because the cost of creating alien worlds is too high and ratings demonstrate that audiences have not responded as favourably to the space-set adventures in the series.

Davies has also defended his decision to cast Christopher Eccleston in the starring role for a single series with reference to the casting of his successor, David Tennant, stating that an actor of Eccleston's calibre had salvaged respect for the role and made it possible to attract good actors like Tennant to the part. In addition, Eccleston's departure made it possible to present the concept of regeneration to a new generation of viewers.

Davies is an outspoken fan of the Ice Warriors, the Zygons (he has said he would want to bring them back in the revived series, and already a 10th-Doctor novel has featured them) and the Yeti, though none of these creatures has yet appeared in his productions.

On 20 May 2008 it was announced that his tenure as Lead Writer and Executive Producer of Doctor Who would end in 2009, and that he is to be replaced by Steven Moffat. Davies will write three of the five specials that are set to air before Series 5 (including the 2008 Christmas special) and co-write the other two. However, he has said that he will not write any more episodes once Moffat takes over, as "it's time to move on and I'd hate to be just a ghost haunting the corridors that I used to walk."

Torchwood

In October 2005 it was announced that Davies would write and produce a spin-off from Doctor Who for the BBC, a more adult-oriented science fiction drama called Torchwood (an anagram of Doctor Who). Starring John Barrowman who had previously appeared in the first series of Doctor Who, the programme features a slightly darker science fiction setting and a lot more sex. The first two series ran for 13 50-minute episodes each. Davies has described the programme as "a dark, clever, wild, sexy, British crime/sci-fi paranoid thriller cop show with a sense of humour — The X-Files meets This Life." The series eventually premièred on digital channel BBC Three in October 2006. Ratings were good enough to ensure a second series which began screening in early 2008 - this time the first half and the finale were shown first on BBC Two. The series and its cast won a "Best Drama" award and a "Best Actress" award at BAFTA Cymru in April, 2007, beating its parent series in both categories. One episode of the first series, Captain Jack Harkness, was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in 2008. Torchwood returned in 2009 with another change of channel, this time to the flagship BBC1, and a change of format to a single story delivered in five parts over consecutive nights. Production began in August 2008.

Davies had not written for Torchwood since its opening episode, but wrote the first and final episodes of Children of Earth, the five-part miniseries which comprised the programme's third series. He also co-wrote the third episode with James Moran.

The Sarah Jane Adventures

Davies and Gareth Roberts have co-written another Doctor Who spin-off for CBBC, starring Elisabeth Sladen as investigative reporter Sarah Jane Smith. This programme, The Sarah Jane Adventures, debuted with a 60-minute special on 1 January 2007, and three full series to date followed, garnering record ratings for the CBBC channel. The series has featured a number of Doctor Who aliens created by Davies, including The Slitheen and the Judoon.

Recognition

Davies has garnered awards and acclaim in connection with his work on Doctor Who. In April 2006 he was given the Siân Phillips Award for Outstanding Contribution to Network Television at the BAFTA Cymru Awards, the premier industry awards for Wales. The following month, at the main UK-wide 2006 BAFTAs, Davies received the Dennis Potter Award for Outstanding Writing for Television, for his work including Doctor Who; the programme also won "Best Drama Series" and the Pioneer Audience Award, the latter voted on by members of the public. Davies was also nominated for "Best Writer" in the BAFTA Television Craft Awards, but did not win. In the wake of the critical and popular success of Doctor Who, The Independent named Davies "the saviour of Saturday night drama". In August 2006, Davies was named "industry player of the year" at the Edinburgh International Television Festival.

In May 2007, the Independent on Sunday Pink List named Davies the most influential gay person in Britainmarker from the 10th position the previous year.

He was the 15th most powerful person in the UKmarker's media, The Guardian reported in its 9 July 2007 media supplement. "The highest ranking TV producer in this year's MediaGuardian 100," he was the highest ranking television producer in the MediaGuardian rankings – up from No. 28 in 2006. "Davies made family television cool again with his award-winning reinvention of Doctor Who... put BBC One back on top in the Saturday night ratings war," said the paper. Davies' starring actor David Tennant was a new entrant in the listings at No. 24.

After several years on Broadcast magazine's "Top 100" list of influential media figures in the writers' category, in 2007 Davies headed the magazine's list of influential producers, for his work on Doctor Who and its spin-offs.

He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours.

He was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from Cardiff Universitymarker in a graduation ceremony held on 15 July 2008.

Davies' gregarious public persona was satirized by radio comedians Melanie Hudson and Vicki Pepperdine in a 2008 Afternoon Play, Hudson and Pepperdine Save the Planet.

Other work

His most recent work before moving on to Doctor Who was another Red mini-series for ITV, Mine All Mine, screened in November and December 2004. Set in Davies' home town of Swansea, it was an attempt to bring a portrayal of Welsh family life to a mass audience, and although the black comedy / drama was well-received by critics, viewing figures were unspectacular.

Other recent projects include Casanova (also starring David Tennant), a Red production for BBC Wales in association with Granada, for whom it was originally commissioned before Davies took it to the BBC. This was broadcast on BBC Three in March 2005, with a showing on BBC One a few weeks later. In 2003, Davies had been announced as writing the screenplay for a film version of the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? cheating scandal involving Charles Ingram, but this project has yet to materialise.

Davies has referred to his next project after Doctor Who and Torchwood as "MGM (More Gay Men)". This will be a "big gay series", revisiting some of the themes of Queer as Folk, but "a bit more 40-year-old".

In July 2004, in a poll of industry experts conducted by Radio Times magazine, he was voted the 17th Most Powerful Person in Television Drama. In December 2005, Davies came in at #1 as "the clear winner" in The Stage magazine's Top Ten list for artists working in British television. Said The Stage, "The triumphant return of the Time Lord and the gloriously camp Casanova to boot, has cemented Davies' position at the head of the holy trinity of British scriptwriters alongside Paul Abbott and Jimmy McGovern."

Outside of television and film, his prose work has included the novelisation of Dark Season for BBC Books in 1991 and an original Doctor Who novel, Damaged Goods, for Virgin Publishing's Doctor Who New Adventures range in 1996. Since the start of 2004 he has written the regular one-page column "Production Notes" for the official Doctor Who Magazine, published by Panini Comics.

The Writer's Tale

In 2008, BBC Books published Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale, based on an e-mail correspondence between Davies and journalist Benjamin Cook spanning February 2007 to March 2008, during production of the fourth series of Doctor Who. Extracts were published in The Times on 16 September and 17 September 2008, and the book itself met with overwhelmingly positive reviews. The Independent predicted that "the fans will adore it. Davies has engaged with the book totally and there is full disclosure from him about everything." In his five-star review for Heat magazine, Boyd Hilton called the book "a funny, revealing insight into the workings of the genius who puts the show together." In another five-star review, SFX Magazine said, "You can douse all the other books about new Who in lighter fuel and spark up your Zippo - this is all you need. It’s the only one that opens a door into the brain of the series’ showrunner." Darren Scott of The Pink Paper (which also awarded the book five stars) agreed: "If you’re an uber fan of the show – affectionately referred to as a 'ming-mong' – or an aspiring (or even established) writer, this book will very, very quickly fall into the 'can’t put down' category." Scott Matthewman of The Stage said: "I can’t recommend The Writer’s Tale highly enough… It’s a genuine insight into the entire television production process." Doctor Who Magazine's Vanessa Bishop said that the book was "unputdownable" and "possibly the best behind-the-scenes Doctor Who book ever written", and observed: "Cook has chosen a choice year for his correspondence. From the fun stuff - Kylie, Catherine Tate and the return of Martha and Rose - to the more serious - press leaks, Tone Meetings, Series Five's hiatus and Davies stepping down from the job - all is fascinatingly discussed." "The Writer’s Tale is an enormous book, but consumed compulsively it doesn’t last very long at all," said Thom Hutchinson of Death Ray magazine. "We learn, brilliantly, the difference between bellowing media personage Big Russell and the apprehensive, chain-smoking obsessive who exists alone and silent in the early hours." The team of arts writers at The Scotsman said: "The Writer's Tale offers a fascinating insight into the writing of one of TV's biggest hits." Veronica Horwell of The Guardian called it "the Doctor Who Annual for adults", suggesting that 500-odd pages "is not nearly enough, should have been 1001 pages, because Davies doesn't need to be writing fiction, shaping stuff retrieved from the flux of his Great Maybe, to be a storyteller. He's the Scheherazade of Cardiff Baymarker." Horwell described Davies as "a total romantic about writing. It's his love, his drug, his force for change: over the year even invisible, unopinionated Cook emerges as a proper companion who challenges Davies over the last image in the series. And wins. Brilliant."

In the blogosphere, Sci-Fi Online's Daniel Salter claimed that The Writer's Tale "could be one of the most important Doctor Who books you’re ever likely to read, even if it’s not always about Doctor Who. Sometimes it’s just about the passion of writing, it’s about the forming of ideas, it’s about stress, it’s about panic, it’s about responsibility, it’s about having to eat cold lasagne for supper because there just wasn’t enough time to stick it in the microwave for two minutes." Feeling Listless confessed that "none of us have [sic] truly been prepared for how honest and apparently uncensored the book is... You couldn’t imagine another journalist to get Davies to write so candidly". Simon Guerrier of Nothing Tra La La? said that The Writer's Tale is "a chance to eavesdrop [on] a long-running conversation between two very smart people. They're such warm, good-humoured company, it is a pleasure to nestle beside them." "Page after page of banter that's just as exciting and suspenseful as the show itself," enthused Sebastian J. Brook of Doctor Who Online. "Cook’s fearless and intelligent approach to asking questions pave [sic] the way for some fantastic responses as he manages to temper Davies' fun, energetic and sometimes insecure narrative with good, solid and sometimes cheeky responses." On his From the North blog, Keith Topping called The Writer's Tale "a quasi-novel full of extraordinary characters, told in a clever and enterprising fashion and concerning themes as diverse as stress, obsession, fame, guilt, redemption and - quite beautifully - magnificence in the cutthroat world of broadcast media in the early years of the 21st Century." Off The Telly‘s Graham Kibble-White summed up the general consensus on the book: "Candid, lucid and an all-too painful evocation of the challenges inherit in writing and running perhaps the most important show on the BBC".

On 10 November 2008, it was announced that Richard and Judy, the couple credited with revolutionising the reading habits of Britons, had selected The Writer’s Tale for their Christmas Presents book strand as part of the prestigious Richard & Judy Book Club. The Writer’s Tale is in the Serious Non-Fiction category. In June 2009, it was announced that The Writer’s Tale has been shortlisted in the Best Non-Fiction category at the 2009 British Fantasy Awards, the winner of which will be announced at FantasyCon 2009 in September.

Repeated names and themes

Davies has a tendency to reuse names in his work. Century Falls and The Grand both featured characters named Esme Harkness, while Jack Harkness first appeared in Doctor Who; characters with the surname Tyler appear in Revelations, Damaged Goods, Queer as Folk, The Second Coming and Doctor Who, and the female protagonists of Bob and Rose and Doctor Who share the first name Rose. The character of Tricia Delaney is mentioned in Doctor Who and Philip Delaney appeared in Queer as Folk; Queer As Folk also featured the character Donna Clarke, while Doctor Who has since introduced companion, Donna Noble.

The town of Ipswichmarker is another favourite, being casually referenced in Dark Season, Doctor Who (in an identical line of dialogue in these two) and Queer as Folk. Gareth David-Lloyd plays Ianto Jones in Torchwood, after playing Yanto Jones in Davies' 2004 comedy/drama Mine All Mine. Jones is also the surname of Doctor Who companion Martha Jones, as well as the prime minister for the first and second series of the show Harriet Jones and Queer as Folk's Stuart Alan Jones. Davies has said that the reuse of names helps him get a grip on the blank page. He took the surname "Harkness" from Agatha Harkness, a supporting character in the Fantastic Four comic book series.

Davies' work also contains some repeated moments and themes: for example Damaged Goods featured a character's meal being laced with poison, which was also featured in The Second Coming. The theme of personal sacrifice and criticism of religion (he is an atheist) also feature in his other works. Davies himself identified the juxtaposition of grand, impossible events and everyday human life as a recurring theme in his work: "I like taking big, high-concept ideas and pulling them down and making them real. The impossible can become very believable. Every story is ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Even if you take falling in love, which, although it's very common, feels extraordinary when it happens to you."

Personal life

Davies is 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m) tall. He divides his time between his home in Manchestermarker, England and a flat in Cardiff Baymarker, where he stays while Doctor Who is filming. Presently, he is living in Los Angelesmarker, California, in between projects. He is openly gay and has been with partner Andrew Smith, a customs officer, for several years.

Davies has incorporated elements and themes from his own life in his television work. Queer as Folk was in part a dramatisation of Davies' own experiences in Manchester's gay clubbing scene, in which Davies participated heavily before meeting Smith. Emotional themes from Davies' personal life have also surfaced in Doctor Who; for example, the themes of loss and loneliness in Davies' Doctor Who work have been linked to the death of Davies' mother in 2002.

Selected Writing Credits

Programme Episodes Broadcaster
Queer as Folk
  • 10 episodes (1999-2000)
Channel 4
Bob & Rose
  • 6 episodes (2001)
ITV
Linda Green
  • "Rest in Peace" (2001)
BBC One
The Second Coming
  • 2 episodes (2003)
ITV
Mine All Mine
  • 6 episodes (2004)
ITV1
Casanova
  • 3 episodes (2005)
BBC Three
Doctor Who BBC One
Torchwood BBC Three

BBC Two

BBC One
The Sarah Jane Adventures BBC One

CBBC


Bibliography

  • Dark Season (BBC Books, 1991) ISBN 0-563-36265-0
  • Doctor Who: Damaged Goods (Virgin Books, 1996) ISBN 0-426-20483-2
  • Queer As Folk: The Scripts (Channel 4 Books, 1999) ISBN 0-7522-1858-1


Further reading

Television:
  • Documentary: Russell T Davies – Unscripted. BBC Four. Monday 11 April 2005.


Newspapers:

Web pages:

Notes

  1. The pink list 2007: The IoS annual celebration of the great and the gay - This Britain, UK - The Independent
  2. http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/tv_and_radio/article4759150.ece
  3. Linley, Julian (Ed.). Reviews: Books, Heat 499
  4. http://www.sfx.co.uk/page/sfx?entry=book_review_doctor_who_the
  5. http://news.pinkpaper.com/Feature.aspx?id=388
  6. http://blogs.thestage.co.uk/tvtoday/2008/11/russell-t-davies-on-writing/
  7. http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/features/Struggling-to-find-the-perfect.4785670.jp
  8. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/oct/04/tvandradio
  9. http://www.sci-fi-online.com/2008_reviews/book/08-09-25_who-writerstale.htm
  10. http://feelinglistless.blogspot.com/2008/10/badgering-davies.html
  11. http://0tralala.blogspot.com/2008/10/we-hold-line.html
  12. http://www.drwho-online.co.uk/index.asp?spage=http://www.drwho-online.co.uk/reviews/reviews-books-thewriterstale.htm
  13. http://keithtopping.blogspot.com/
  14. http://www.offthetelly.co.uk/?p=3009
  15. http://www.thewriterstale.com/news/?p=292


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