Russell T. Davies

Writer and executive producer.


Retrospective: Russell T. Davies by John Seavey 25/9/03

By the later stages of the Virgin New Adventures, word had spread far beyond the fan community about its quality and willing to take risks. Authors with friends and connections at the BBC, such as Ben Aaronovitch and Mark Gatiss, had communicated the enjoyment of writing for the range to other authors who'd not yet done a novel. Presumably it was this that attracted Russell T Davies, an award-winning TV dramatist, to write his novel Damaged Goods for the line. Whatever the reason, he brought a powerful intensity and a darkly different sensibility to the series.

Davies' previous work included the soap opera 'Revelations', and one can easily spot a "soap opera" influence on the novel; not in the pejorative sense it's usually used in, of cheap melodrama and endless shock revelations, but in a setting of all-too-human people, each concealing a life-time's worth of secrets and interacting with each other in a toxic cat's cradle of lies, anger, love, sorrow, and hatred. The Doctor beautifully describes the Quadrant, the housing settlement that forms the setting of Damaged Goods, as "76 fortresses", and Davies makes it seem as though he's worked out a complete life's story for each of those fortresses' inhabitants.

That's not to say that he ignores the science fiction elements of Doctor Who, though. Damaged Goods ties in quite well with the psi-powers arc it's a part of, neatly bridging The Death of Art and So Vile A Sin, even if the Brotherhood themselves play a small part. It also ties in with Gallifreyan history and legend in a way that neatly betrays Davies as a closet Doctor Who fan; no other could know not just about the War against the vampires, but also about the different colleges of Gallifreyan society as well (and the cameo by an ancestor of Benny is just the icing on the cake.) It all ties together with its human elements in a glorious tragedy that tears at the heartstrings.

But to laud the plot and characterization is to ignore Davies' true strength, his ability to generate atmosphere. When I say "glorious tragedy", I mean it; Damaged Goods generates an atmosphere of suffocating horror, despair, and dread so profound that when you finally do stop reading, it feels almost like you're surfacing. This is a book you could drown in, and it doesn't let up for even a moment.

I feel sure that Russell T Davies won't write for the range again; after all, he must have had opportunities in the almost seven years since Damaged Goods has been published. That's unfortunate, since his one novel for the range was a genuine triumph, a powerful and brilliant piece right down to its perfectly apt title. He's exactly the kind of author who needs to be invited back for a repeat performance; even if his follow-up is only half as good, it'd still be impressive.

The Man with the Plan by Antony Tomlinson 27/9/03

Well, things have changed a bit in the few days since John Seavey wrote his review of Russell T. Davies's main contribution to Doctor Who (the novel, Damaged Goods). In the conclusion to his article, Seavey states of Davies that "[h]e's exactly the kind of author who needs to be invited back for a repeat performance; even if his follow-up is only half as good, it'd still be impressive."

Well, spookily, hours after Seavey wrote this review, the BBC announced that Doctor Who would be returning to British TV screens in around 2005; they also announced the name of the author of the new series - Russell T. Davies. Blimey, the guy is not just coming back to do another novel - he's coming back to do the whole bloody series.

So there we go. Anyway, what do I think of Davies's contribution to Doctor Who? I believe that his most important contribution to the series is actually his acclaimed British drama, Queer as Folk. What was important about Queer as Folk is that it featured a leading character who was unashamedly a Doctor Who fan (and who also happened to be gay). This was probably the first time a Doctor Who fan has ever been shown on British Television in a positive light, and the advent of the series certainly diminished some of the stigma that surrounds Doctor Who fandom. I certainly feel more comfortable about coming out as a Whovian these days.

There are some wonderful Doctor Who related moments in Queer as Folk, though. One episode sees our lead character courted by two men. One - a flashy, but rather dull old bore - buys our hero a new car. The other - a man who genuinely understands our lead - buys him a full-sized, remote controlled K9. I know who I'd go for.

What about Davies's one (thus far) foray into Doctor Who proper - Damaged Goods? Well, I have to say that I found the book disappointing. As Seavey notes, the characters in this book are explored in great depth - the problem for me, however, is that I don't really want to know them. They are such a miserable bunch of depressive misfits. For me, the book is just too gritty - it's like a drug/troubled pregnancy-addled version of the last episode of Survival. Then again, perhaps this is my own fault for happening to seek escapism rather than realism in Doctor Who fiction.

The book goes downhill towards the end though. It turns into an orgy of violence which doesn't seem to add anything to the plot, but rather seems to issue out of an urge for some kind of climax. In fact it's the same resort to violence that ruined books like Falls the Shadow and Death and Diplomacy.

And I'm afraid that the Psi-Powers arc stuff was not seamlessly included as Seavey suggests - I had absolutely no idea what was going on from the point that the Doctor moodily whispers "the Brotherhood are behind this." The who?

Still, it is well written for the most part, the characters are well fleshed out and Davies has proved himself a terrific drama writer on television - so he seems an ideal choice to create a new Doctor Who TV series. What will it be like though?

Recently Davies had a new series on TV - The Second Coming. I only saw parts of it, but what I saw was, I think, a good indication of what we can expect from the new series Doctor Who. For a start it was gritty and realistic, in much the same manner as Damaged Goods. It got into the lives and minds of troubled, yet ordinary people, and showed them being destroyed from the inside.

However, The Second Coming also had a clear sci-fi (in a way) element. And what Davies has proved in this respect is that he can produce bloody frightening television on a pretty small budget. During The Second Coming, several characters are possessed by some evil force and - simply through the drama (and some weird light effects on their eyes) - these beings were made utterly terrifying. In fact it was the first time that I've hidden behind the sofa out of fear for about twenty years. So I believe that Russell T. Davies is, in this respect, probably going to perfect as the new creator of Doctor Who.

Then again, if he gets stuck, there are plenty of people around that he can call up for help (Robert Shearman, Gareth Roberts, Mark Gatiss, Ben Aaronovitch etc, etc, etc...)

I just hope it really happens this time.

Some thoughts on current perceptions of Russell T Davies by Rob Matthews 5/4/07

A few days ago I read, via a link on Outpost Gallifrey, a particulary sloppy Observer profile of Russell T Davies. In spite of its laziness, or perhaps because of it, said article got me thinking, and reawakened some old concerns of mine about New Who, and how it's perceived.

Though it's perhaps unwise of me to give this transient piece a kind of immortality in the hallowed archives of the Ratings Guide, I'll quote here two things from the article that hit me like a slap in the face:

1) On a letter Russell T Davies wrote to The Guardian praising cartoon grotesque Mr Humphries from seventies sitcom Are You Being Served:

'The man who helped to rejuvenate the BBC's Saturday evening schedule by reinventing Doctor Who, has undeniable creative clout. But Davies's views also carry weight because professional success has bought a degree of celebrity, and status as a de facto spokesman for the gay community.'
This one's not specifically related to what I'm about to say, but it serves as a useful indicator of the smug laxity of thinking on the part of the journalist involved. Russell T Davies no more speaks for all gay people than any random straight bloke - Richard Madeley, say - can claim to be a spokesman for the heterosexual community. Kindly get a clue, you condescending berk.
  • 2) On Russell's eventual departure from the project:
    'The show has survived the departures of both Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper, but it couldn't outlive its re-creator.'
    What surprised me about this one was its matter-of-factness. Us fans have for some time been blithely discussing who Davies' successor should be when he finally decides to jump ship. Not necessarily because we're all keen for him to leave as soon as possible (though there appears to be a sizeable faction of us who are), but because we're all still operating on the assumption that, as with the classic series, the show is bigger than any one creative force who works on it, and naturally an in-demand writer who likes fresh challenges isn't going to stick around forever. In addition, it's obvious - or so one would have thought - that the BBC wouldn't give up an a spectacularly successful flagship show so easily.

    Indeed, very likely they won't. Still, though, it was startling to discover the assumption still exists that Doctor Who as a 21st century TV show is inextricably bound up with Russell T Davies. The 're-creator' bit galled me particularly; as if the classic series - in all its many permutations over twenty-six seasons from Hartnell to McCoy - were one single entity and Russell T Davies' version another, one that is revolutionary and unique.

    Quoting from myself now, in early 2004:

    'This is the nature of the big schism between fandom and 'the normals' - most likely the new show will be credited with bringing the show up to date and strengthening its storytelling style for a new generation. And most likely I'll be left spitting blood and boring you poor DWRG browsers senseless about how, no, it was the books and audios which did that over the course of more than a decade, and dammit they deserve some credit'
    I'll resist that lovely guilty pleasure of saying 'I told you so', since up until recently I'd reconciled myself to this schism, and in the wake of the utterly fantastic 2005 season, had clean forgotten about my irritability on the subject. Anyway, looking back I see I also confidently noted in the same piece that Christopher Eccleston was going to play the young Tarkin in Revenge of the Sith, and that turned out to be utter bullshit, so my Nostradamus-like qualities aren't all that.

    The thing is, we're now two (nearly three) years into the new show's run. One would have hoped that, even if we go to the extreme of pretending that Doctor Who hadn't existed before 2005, and that Russell T Davies really had created it from scratch, people would see that the potential of the format goes beyond any one writer - in much the same ways as the potential of Sherlock Holmes goes beyond Conan Doyle, or that of Batman goes beyond what Bob Kane has to offer. The description of RTD as Doctor Who's 're-creator' came to me as an abrupt reminder that people outside of fandom still assume that no new Doctor Who stories were told between McCoy and Aldred walking off into the distance and Billie Piper getting out of her bed to go to work (barring of course, what might accurately be described as 'that crap Paul McGann one') - that Russell T Davies really did take a hoary moribund old pig's ear and turn it into a silk purse. Indeed, I'd imagine the majority of viewers who don't watch Confidential or take any particular notice of the opening credits will likely be under the impression that Davies writes every episode. This shouldn't matter because it isn't true, but sadly it does matter because these perceptions count for something. If the perception is that the show is bound to not-be-as-good when boy genius Russell T Davies leaves, it'll become a self-fulfilling prophecy no matter how good Moffat/Gattis/Cornell's/Paul Abbot's first season is.

    This is particularly galling as we're, at the time of writing, about to go into a new season in which an old fan favourite, Human Nature by Paul Cornell, will be adapted from 1990s printed page to 2007 TV screen, apparently in a more literal fashion than the loose adaptations of Jubilee into Dalek or Spare Parts into Rise of the Cybermen. It'll be very interesting to see whether there's any overt mention of this story's origins when the bones are picked over on Doctor Who Confidential; not because your average on the street would particularly care, but because there really should be some credit where credit is due, some acknowledgement that the process of bringing Who into the 21st century did not begin with Russell T Davies - that it has in fact been an ongoing process from more or less the moment the old show ended. I say this now not for the sake of mere fannish prissiness - though this may have been the case a couple of years ago - but because, at some point, a couple of years down the line when Russell hands in his notice, it is in fact going to be very important to the public perception of 21st century Who that he is not considered the only television writer who can come up with the goods.

    Don't get me wrong, I believe what Russell T Davies has done for Doctor Who has been quite, quite wonderful - or was in its first year, anyway, less so in 2006. I doubt anyone could have gotten the new run of the show off to a better start as a popular drama. But it was not as revolutionary as it's portrayed by lazy journos, and neither is the man some kind of televisual messiah. Doctor Who has been talking in a grown-up's voice ever since its adolescence in the New Adventures, and Paul Magrs, Jonathan Morris, Lance Parkin, Robert Shearman and a whole host of others managed to do the witty, knowing and pop-cultural side of things long before Rusty came back on the scene (his initial foray into Doctor Who being, of course, the deeply bleak Damaged Goods).

    The annoying thing for me is that what RTD has contributed to Who is as hugely overrated in the mainstream media as it is underrated in fandom...

    I've never properly understood the hostility towards the man that we've seen in 'the fan community' almost from day one of the new show. I've always assumed it was merely down to the fact that, to misquote Oscar Wilde, every fan hates the thing he loves, and fans are never happier than when they're bitching about the object of their fandom (look at the display of sheer unreason from James Bond fans when that Daniel Craig fella was cast). Unfortunately, some of it - thankfully a relatively minor part - has sprung from homophobia, which, quite aside from being offensive and annoying, is also deeply tedious; but it's usually easy enough to identify when that's the case, and to simply stop taking notice of anything that person has to say.

    Casting my net wider, to people whose opinions or arguing abilities I actually respect, I've found that the particularly odd thing about the fan perception of Russell T Davies is the way people seem to, for want of a better word, 'blame' him for the acclaim he gets. You'd think fans would be happy that the lead writer of their beloved show was winning Baftas for it, but instead they seem to begrudge him them. We accuse him of arrogance for acting like he's in charge of a show that he is, in fact, in charge of. In one instance, which examplifies an obtuse tone I've noticed a lot of fans adopt, a reviewer referred to him as a 'self-proclaimed genius'. This suggests either that I missed a press release somewhere, or that said reviewer needs to look up 'self' and 'proclaimed' in the dictionary.

    And yet, Russell T Davies himself would be the first to tell you that everything that's brilliant about Doctor Who was present in the format created way back in 1963. Amid some very brief introductory notes in the booklet accompanying the 'Season One' box set, Davies took the time both to praise and recommend the classic series - 'and there's nothing old about it, not really - watch it on repeats and look a little deeper, past the obvious 60s, 70s, 80sness of it, and you'll see the sheer imagination and fun of it all' and to downplay the idea that the revival of Doctor Who was a one-man show: 'And I had nothing to do with the show's return. That was decided in some as-yet-undocumented discussion between Lorraine Heggessey (...) and Jane Tranter.' Sounds fairly humble to me. In another newspaper article just last week, evil egomaniac Russell T Davies laughed off the idea that it was he who'd introduced emotion to Doctor Who (it had always been present, he argued) and talked up Who-connoisseur's-favourite Robert Holmes as one of television's forgotten great writers. I'm left wondering if the idea that RTD somehow generates his own hype isn't some kind of fan race-memory throwback from the JNT years when John Nathan-Turner became his own propaganda machine. It's as if we can't accept that praise for Doctor Who could possibly be genuine!

    Unless... and this is the thing that only occured to me recently, so forgive me if I'm being a bit slow here; unless the real reason for this resentment of the acclaim for Russell T Davies' Doctor Who is that the two are seen by the wider world as being inextricably bound together; that once Russell T Davies leaves Doctor Who, the acclaim will leave with him, and we'll be left with a knackered old sci-fi show to which television's resident genius had applied a magical kiss of life before moving on to his next marvel.

    It's a scary thought (and come to think of it, I am being slow because Andrew Wixon experienced this same scary thought himself three years ago). But Russell isn't really to blame for that. He's never claimed that Doctor Who is wonderful because of him, he's always said that it's wondeful just because it is, innately, wonderful. The thing is, the mainstream media still doesn't quite believe him.

    He's under no professional obligation to do so, but as a fan, who presumably wants to see TV Who go on long after his reign is over, this might be something for him to think about addressing a bit more strongly as time goes on.

    Know your enemy! by Thomas Cookson 26/7/10

    The problems and excesses of JNT's era were down to the producer's inexperience and inferiority complex. The blacklisting of old writers who JNT feared would undermine his authority, the forced, joyless tone, cheapening fan-service, sensationalism, self-destructive moral confusion, bitterness, and this inferiority complex being forced onto the Doctor's character.

    Conversely, RTD's worst excesses seemed born of an arrogance occasionally bordering on narcissistic personality disorder (and a Blum-esque complex about fan criticism, meaning he's determined to provoke it). From End of the World I got the sense of a writer believing the narrative art is so easy it's beneath him. The various alien characters were treated with blatant disinterest, and the whodunit murder plot was put on hold till the last five minutes and resolved with impatient cavalierness that felt deeply unsatisfying.

    Each RTD episode made my heart sink at the disrespect for the narrative art and the audience's intelligence. Obnoxious comedy moments were so intrusive they were practically bullish and completely trampled the drama. Emotional moments and character development undercut by an elitist 'selective compassion' that barely extended beyond the two leads. Almost everyone else was treated with contempt. Aliens of London's politicians and military characters were treated as passive, idiotic stooges to the most tedious, asinine comedy. Mickey suffered particularly crude slapstick like running towards a dematerialising TARDIS and hitting the wall. Adam was introduced just so the Doctor could kick him out to assert how he was too 'cool' to tolerate another Adric. A Doctor traumatised by war might realistically become pathologically derisive, insulting and belligerent, but it bugged me how tastelessly this was celebrated, whilst other characters were denied the dignity, spine or wit to be anymore than submissive to the Doctor's patting down.

    Jackie was a stunted loudmouth stereotype who never grew or matured from that. Comparatively, the Australian children's time-travel series The Girl from Tomorrow featured a prominent mother character throughout who I never tired of, because she was a likeable, believable, mature character, and I empathised with her frantic worrying over her daughter. She was everything the horrid, cartoonish Jackie wasn't. Jackie was a turning of a cliche, the irresponsible mother, and a joke that got old fast. Plus, that horribly desperate comedy scene in Army of Ghosts where the Doctor passes Jackie off as an aged Rose and mercilessly insults her. Right till End of Time where randy pensioners goose the Doctor, RTD's era lacked any maturity or dignity and was simply a tasteless exercise in unrelenting humiliation. Attack of the Cybermen had more dignity.

    New Who falls between either aggressive anti-intellectualism or obtuse intellectual conceits. World War Three and The Long Game were insipid, asinine political diatribes, with tasteless 9/11 digs and cut-and-pasted, patronisingly simplified political points that had nothing new to say. RTD's approach to 'satire' was sneering at particular politics whilst making no effort to understand them. Even when debating capital punishment (Boom Town) or bio-ethics (New Earth), he resorted to cack-handed villainy and magic fairy dust solutions to problems, thus easily dismissing all mitigating circumstances and moral dilemmas, and reasserting the Doctor's unquestionable self-righteousness. When Harriet Jones acts to defend Earth against Sycorax invaders, the Doctor scolds her with warped, badly written hyperbole "I should have told them to run because the monsters are coming- the human race." Sorry? Which race was terrorised again? The increasingly godlike Doctor's a law unto himself now, and we're supposed to always agree with him. Whether forgiving the Master on everyone's behalf or punishing his clone for destroying the Daleks. In End of Time, RTD's atheist agenda produces a villain whose very belief in an afterlife makes him a threat to the entire universe, with motivations so badly thought out I doubt even the villain himself knew why he was doing it.

    I hoped New Who would really show the youth how everyone (not just the protagonist) has intelligence, worth, and the capacity and potential to grow and do positive things. Instead, the series seemed aggressively anti-intellectualist and stunted, with an insulting 'this'll do' attitude. World War Three and Gridlock depicted the masses as hopelessly stupid and gullible.

    The exceptions where RTD really tapped into the potential of human endeavour are Turn Left and Parting of the Ways. In the latter, RTD's fondness for Reality TV led to him having more to say than just his usual sneering inanely at the topic, thereby producing a story about ruthless social Darwinism, and how good will and noble stances just aren't as fashionable today as arrogance or attention-seeking bitchiness, which ultimately coalesces with the fight for survival and final moral choice.

    They're sincere love-letters to the Doctor of old. They're rare occasions where RTD embraces rather than represses his inner fanboy. The joy of connecting things and gathering characters together and drawing a sense of history and kinship, producing something genuinely utilitarian, where characters are no longer stunted hedonists and instead they do the right thing together. Briefly, we see mortal people bravely stepping forward in their beliefs and being heroic. Even the gamestation controller defies a lifetime's indoctrination and instinctively does the right thing. Unfortunately New Who's anti-intellectualism requires they all end up dead (or their timeline erased) rather than achieving anything. I guess that's the price for daring to be different.

    Unfortunately, New Who mostly presents people as utterly stupid, spineless, passive and self-involved. It's so degraded it defies realism, but fandom seems blinded by how much more 'emotional' it is. Sometimes RTD drew tragedy and dramatic irony out of this anti-intellectualism, like Donna's fate, but even that's devalued in End of Time. Mickey's character 'growth' into a tough hero was macho rubbish. He gets sick of being belittled and put out by the appallingly cliquey Doctor and Rose, and so decides to prove himself with daredevil stunts simply because he doesn't want to be left out or treated with contempt anymore. Like Rattigan in The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky, sacrificing himself because he couldn't face unpopularity.

    New Who's like an advert for itself, hence the repetition, deliberate irritation, forced zaniness, forced awe and cartoon logic. Most adverts wouldn't get away with promoting insecurities of being left out, but New Who somehow did.

    Remember the Controller in Day of the Daleks, who always believed he was doing the right thing, but the Doctor confronts him with the lie he's been living and shows him another way, so he redeems himself and helps the rebels? Real, mature character development in a proper morality play. But when do we ever see characters with idealism in New Who? In 70's Who they were commonplace.

    Classic Who was more intellectually stimulating, and any dodgy science was covered by pinches of beautiful, 'make-believe' whimsy, like the Doctor and Romana breaking Meglos' time loop. New Who's too cynical, stunted and disposable for such leaps of faith. It doesn't believe in itself or trust its audience. We're told rather than shown how wonderful and magical it all is. Instead of whimsy, it's heavy-handed mawkishness, particularly Last of the Time Lords' anticlimax or Ursula's frankly disturbingly pornographic false happiness and forced horny willingness having been reduced to a face on a paving slab. We invested in Classic Who by invitation and maintained the spell from our end. New Who's so bitchy and sneery, it's completely inapproachable in the same way. It's like our investment's being unrelentingly mocked and we're being kept out on some private joke.

    RTD's endings require the complete shutting down of critical thinking in order to be enjoyed. Perhaps influencing unthinking fascism in its fans, hence the sycophants' psychotic crusade against any dissenters.

    I've gotten much hate and abuse from hysterical JNT apologists, and I theorised that vanity-obsessed, agenda-driven control freaks with an overwhelming media image, like JNT and RTD, can inspire the same fanatical, unreasoning loyalty that Hitler did. However, I begrudgingly respect those JNT defenders. They loved their era so much they got angry and argued furiously for its worth. That's love, so raw, passionate, honest and human. Yet, with the RTD sycophants, I've never gotten anything but the most cold, insincere, slimy vibes off these creeps. It's all about their image as fans being redeemed, it's all about them.

    Society today is overran with the suspicious, petty-minded jobsworth mentality of sucking up to the boss, catching out and harassing 'rule-breakers' and unrepentantly demolishing them. Particularly benefits staff, tabloids, train guards administering penalty fares, and especially our own elitist, power-tripped superfans. Doctor Who's completely antithetical to this mentality. Even the 'conservative' Pertwee era treated jobsworths with a scorn that I once found mean-spirited before discovering how contemptible real jobsworths are. Surely, the sanctimonious, sniffy jobsworth mentality more suits Star Trek's fanbase? Then again, 80's Who was produced by an accountant and stories like Time-Flight resembled the most awkward, soulless workplace-orientation videos, perhaps setting the precedent.

    Fandom's become so business-minded, yet you wouldn't know it from how surreal fandom is, where everything's so exaggerated, pretentious and wrapped in impenetrable cartoonish caricature acts (always hiding a nurtured vindictive streak). Where common respect goes out the window so fast you barely notice its absence. It's truly baffling when these up-themselves fans suddenly get serious and demonstrate a shocking capacity for brutally contemptuous behaviour.

    New Who appeals particularly to superior-minded superfans with a reductionist view of the show and people, and an externalised self-hatred, and shame of being seen enjoying the show (they're elated that they can enjoy New Who, securely knowing that society would approve). The worst are desperately 'controversial' anti-artists who justified their love of the 'crap' show by sneering at anything with worth, and love nothing more than to spitefully tear down and demolish art and people. So they love New Who's tasteless, trashy leanings on par with similar trash they enjoy like Big Brother and Footballer's Wives. They care nothing for talent, art, achievement or potential.

    Since Doctor Who's revival, fandom's become disturbingly cult-like (especially on elitist 'view by membership' forums), with nutjob sycophants obsequiously worshipping the show's 'saviour', cultivating a mood of unbelievable worthlessness, being creepily over-familiar and psychologically profiling any dissenters. Fandom's fixation with ratings and the casual viewers' perspective suggests a frightening collective disassociative thinking.

    Cliques often share a laughable delusion that the whole world thinks like them. They're the worst sellouts, desperate to deflect the 'sad', 'undesirable' label onto other fans, but anyone who gets that vile, vindictive, petty or stalkerish over a TV show (and plays the victim when bitten back) is pathetically sad beyond words.

    These sycophants love pretending they're 'unselfishly' welcoming new fans to their nauseating, plastic 'love-in', whilst repressing and scolding any fannish sense of entitlement, because it's 'for the kids'. Proprietorial fans certainly did the show no favours in the 80s because their demands sorely undercut how essential artistic integrity is. But I don't believe RTD has any integrity, and these poisonously accusatory sycophants have twisted 'fan entitlement' into some unforgivable thought-crime. After all, our modern world sees many vile acts go automatically forgiven, except rocking the boat.

    I believe TV has a responsibility to today's youth, who often lack self-worth. But I can't see RTD's degrading, sneery, condescending, anti-intellectualist show inspiring the youth positively, anymore than Warriors of the Deep's debilitating, disgusting, humanity-hating suicidal appeasement ethos would. Whatever happened to treating viewers with intelligence, or 'go forward in all your beliefs'? If these sycophants truly empathised with 'the kids', they'd give them more credit for their intelligence, patience, curiosity and imagination. But these insecure, trumped-up superfans wouldn't want young fans getting ideas above their station.

    If image-conscious fans behave so reprehensibly when their image is redeemed, they deserved to remain in shame; if Doctor Who really had to become so anti-intellectualist, cowardly and desperate, then I'd rather it had stayed dead. Despite my frequently wishing Doctor Who had ended with Horns of Nimon's uplifting masquerade party, I couldn't erase JNT's repugnant era, because ultimately it made the irreplaceable Big Finish audios possible. New Who has no such silver lining for me. Pre-2005, anything was possible. Now even wishful thinking's frowned upon.

    A Retrospective by Hugh Sturgess 11/8/10

    Not since John Nathan-Turner has one man aroused such mixed feelings in fandom as Russell T. Davies (the "T" doesn't stand for anything, by the way). To some, he's a joyfully uncaring bachelor-uncle figure. To others, he's a very unpredictable, carefree, boisterous individual; in other words, a complete and total bastard who never listens to criticism and has set sail in the good ship Lollipop a long time ago. Not to say he can't be both. Though many have striven to document Davies, evaluate him, classify him and, in some extreme cases, shoot him through the lungs, no one can doubt that his iteration of Doctor Who is certainly distinctive.

    About the New Series and its monolithic creator, there are varying opinions. Some are euphorically upbeat. Others are resolutely downbeat. Other, wiser heads live in the real world and are possessed of objective analysis, and so can approach the series from a rational point of view - oh! Sorry to play my hand so soon, but I might as well elucidate now. The New Series is marked by highs and lows, just as the old series was. Aside from highs like Season Fourteen and lows like Trial of a Time Lord, the paleo-TV, book and audio versions remain generally average. For every "gritty classic" like Genesis of the Daleks, we have a padded snorefest like Revenge of the Cybermen. For every twisted psychodrama like Jubilee, we have a derivative travesty like The Dark Flame. Where we have Alien Bodies, we also have Placebo Effect. Anyone who declares that (say) the old series was better all round or that David Tennant was the bestest best Doctor ever is simply allowing the immediate to override the remembered, nostalgia to clog up accurate memory.

    Now that RTD has left the helm of the "mothership", we can at last look back at his era as an organised whole. A period of dizzying highs and depressing lows, it also boasts an all-too-clear descent into media-whoring, from the angry, crazy Series 1 to the safe and bubblegum-like Series 4. The comparison with JNT is an apt one, as he too produced disciplined seasons with everyone at the top of their game, before descending into the realms of self-parody and defiling of the dead.

    Here, I've decided to lay out ten of my favourite things about or in the New Series, and ten of my least favourite things, alternating so as not to depress or bore you. In no particular order and with no bias, I give you my impressions about the reign of Russell T.:

    1a. The Time War (Good) - Gallifrey is a planet so boring that almost every Time Lord we have ever met has left there for want of something better to do. The Doctor left is because it was dull. Rassilon was so bored that he fell asleep for ten million years. Gallifrey is a planet so boring that it was blown up twice (and even JNT planned to do it back in 1985 in the unmade story Gallifrey), just to make it interesting.

    What the Time War did was make Gallifrey, the Time Lords and the Daleks powerful, mysterious and exciting by removing them from the universe. Things immediately become more exciting once they no longer exist. Readers of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, in which Gallifrey is blown up and the Time Lords become legends, will attest to this. The conflict between the awesome reputation of the Doctor's people and their physically shrivelled nature is resolved by blowing the hell out of everything. The fact that they become something I'd love to be able to say if it weren't a spoiler in The End of Time is a testament to this.

    It also gives an in-universe reason for the series to give a damn about the Daleks. Presented as the ancient evil (EVILLLL!!!, evil from the dawn of time!) that fought the forces of good before history began, they are placed in the centre of the Doctor Who mythos. Again, they are for more powerful and threatening when presented only in retrospect, which is just one of the many reasons for the relative shiteness of Journey's End, given that there's millions of the buggers in that one.

    On the other hand...

    1b. The Doctor's Daughter (Bad) - Ron Mallet's reviews of the New Series would always end with a paragraph saying that, for all the deficiencies of the script (it failed to be The Talons of Weng Chiang, the story didn't make sense unless you paid attention, working-class people might be watching, etc), it was technically speaking very good. This turd of a story is different, in that it really is badly made. This world is, more than any other, just a couple of corridors. It's the kind of place even Terry Nation might have called "one-dimensional". It's badly written ("the hole they left in my life, and the pain that filled it" - yuk!), poorly acted, ill-thought-out, unsatisfying and pointless.

    The opening is rushed. The "hello, dad" comes out of nowhere and vanishes. Jenny changes characterisation every five minutes, "Jenny" is a very dull name for the Doctor's daughter and the thought behind it is risible. The war is fought out inside a single building for about a week; this is meant to be "quirky", but we're all shouting "no, it's stupid" right back at them, because it's not connected to anything else. It's as though there was no editing process of any kind. There are grizzled old soldiers, and we see no fighting, yet these soldiers are born and die so quickly that they think that the war has been going on for thousands of years? Watch the beginning again, knowing the ending, and handwave away the general's grizzledness, and you still can't imagine it.

    Nothing about the Hath makes sense. Did you know that the Hath originally had dialogue, but everyone agreed it was "better" when they just made bubbling noises? Says it all really.

    2a. The Doctor jumping through a mirror into the Palace of Versailles on horseback (Good) - It's pretty damn cool, and it doesn't involve an unlikely piece of technology or an offering of technobabble. It's a physical, reasonably plausible thing for the Doctor to do. It also nicely puts Arthur the horse to good use, when in another story it might just have been forgotten or handwaved. From a technical point of view, it's impressive too, since David Tennant isn't on the horse, the horse isn't in the room, and there's no mirror. What a guy.

    2b. Long, meandering, piss-boring conversations between the companions about their relationship with the Doctor (Bad) - Russell is confused about what "character" means. He thinks that Midnight has a paucity of character development, when I feel that I know what Val Cane is really like by the end much more than I do with (say) Donna. In reverse, he thinks that it's "vital" for the companions to have discussions about themselves / the Doctor / their aunties that utterly stop the plot and indulge Murray Gold's desire to attack us with aural sludge. (Pay special attention to the final scene in The End of Time, where Murray makes one last, poignant abuse of artistic taste: "Boopily-boop, boop-boop-boop. Boopily-boop...")

    The Sontaran Stratagem is an appalling piece of television, and possibly its nadir comes when Donna calls up Gramps from the TARDIS to have a sniffle about how the Doctor isn't here and that she misses him. What possible relevance has this to the plot? Does this make Donna a deeper character? No, cause it's just mingy crap. I don't think that Donna is any more real at the end, because it doesn't feel like a real scene. Father's Day is centred around two characters, Rose and her father, and it gets more development out of them than all the long, meandering, piss-boring conversations in Series 3 and 4. Dalek and The Girl in the Fireplace develop the Doctor much more than the appalling line "the hole they left in my life, and the pain that filled it" in The Doctor's Daughter. It's actually bad writing, and not that interesting the twelfth time around.

    3a. Gas-masked zombies chanting "are you my mummy?" in the Blitz (Good) - Doctor Who, at its best, is something completely and utterly different to anything else on TV. That's what's so depressing about pap like The Sontaran Stratagem: it could so easily be something else on TV. For a start, it could be either Torchwood or The Sarah Jane Adventures, so why do we have to put up with it in the "mothership" series? Gas-masked zombies filing out of an abandoned hospital in Blitz London is a spectacle unique to Doctor Who and having them chant "are you my mummy?" is a great example of Doctor Who's ability to turn something that should be absurd into something terrifying. Another great example is the death of the first weakest link in Bad Wolf. The woman is absolutely shitting herself, and what should be tosh is a gem.

    3b. Hearing about alien planets we will never see cause we're too stupid to understand what's going on (Bad) - Rose went to see an alien planet without us. Instead, we were treated to a visit to Cardiff so that she could tell us and her boyfriend about it. The planet had frozen seas, with ice-waves a thousand miles high. We never saw it. The planet Felspoon has mountains that sway in the breeze. We never saw it. We went to Grey Planet 7. Barcelona has dogs with no noses. We never saw it. We went to the Powell Estate instead.

    This is the biggest disappointment in the New Series. I can appreciate that it would cost a lot to make a giant CGI extravaganza for an alien planet, but - beyond this practical concern - there's a feeling that the production team didn't even consider it. That they felt that we would be happy with invasions of Earth, a few space stations and "traditional" quarry planets. That that's all you can expect from Doctor Who. The Web Planet might be daft and stupid and silly, but what I get from the New Series' technique of offering us amazing sights and never showing us them is a total contempt for the audience.

    4a. "Run!" (Good) - When we all snuggled up to watch Rose, way back in 2005, we spent the first five minutes waiting for the Doctor to appear. We knew it had to happen eventually, and we knew it was going to happen when the mannequins came to life. We all expected the Doctor to rush in, kick some plastic arse and save her. Instead, this hunched, cheeky little man pokes his head around a corner and gabbles "run!" It wrong-foots the audience gloriously, since someone who is set up as a great hero is introduced in an almost offhand way. Truly a brilliant moment, and something that makes Rose watchable again and again. Picture how they'd do it in Series 4, all robo-fog and soaring strings, and you can understand what went wrong with the RTD era.

    4b. The death to demonstrate that things aren't what they seem (Bad) - I've mentioned this in other reviews, so I'll keep it brief here. Basically, when you introduce characters whose sole function is to die to draw attention to Something Alien at Work, you're writing badly. That's not good drama, that's The Avengers. It becomes routine very quickly, so that you know the reporter in The Sontaran Stratagem will die before the opening titles, like the way you know the scientist in Rise of the Cybermen will be zapped in five minutes.

    The opening scene in Rise of the Cybermen is the nadir, managing to open a story that purports to be about a desperate man trying to survive and about humanity's techno-fetishism, with a cackling supervillain declaiming "kill him!" and "how will you do that FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE?!", as though from a mountain. It lacks realism and, more crucially, drama. It's also a kind of dramatic shorthand for "dangerous" that simplifies things for viewers to the point of babying.

    5a. Midnight (Good) - Amid the CGI-inundated crap of Series 4, sandwiched between the smug, safe dullness of Silence in the Library and the self-satisfied over-excitement of The Stolen Earth, Midnight (and Turn Left after it) is fantastic. With basically no money for effects, one set and a limited cast of characters, Russell turns out a script that is not only the best of Series 4, but one of the best of the series. RTD can seem like a self-parody has-been when one watches a story like Journey's End, but here he proves that all he needs for him to lift his game is for someone to crack the whip. CGI makes his job too easy, and this low-budget offering is, as a result, sublime.

    He mentions in The Writer's Tale (a great read, by the way) that the characters aren't very deep. That's wrong. They don't go on about how their girlfriend left them for a rock-person and mummy got killed by space aliens and whatever (well, except for Sky Silvestry, in the episode's least effective scene), but I know, after viewing the episode, exactly what each of them is like. The terror of the situation lets us see who they are in little flashes of insight. Val Cane disregards her son's opinion because he's just a kid, except when he agrees with her; Biff Cane feels inadequate, desperate to prove his manliness in a life that doesn't require bear-wrestling; Professor Hobbes really thinks his assistant Dee Dee is useless, and she secretly agrees with him. It's amazing writing actually, painting whole lives in a few strokes. Amazing acting, too.

    The threat is unique too. Again, Doctor Who takes something that should be absurd or even annoying (repetition of whatever anyone says, like an irritating brat) and makes it supremely unnerving.

    A triumph.

    5b. Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead (Bad) - The Doctor arriving in a gigantic library filled with every book ever written is a great story. Unfortunately, it's Lawrence Miles's example script The Book of the World, briefly available on his blog. There's a great story that has monsters pursuing our heroes, repeating innocuous lines until they become unnerving. Unfortunately, it's The Empty Child. There's a great story where shadows can move around separate from their owners. Unfortunately, it's Peter Pan.

    Everything in this story has been done better elsewhere. Much of it, done better in the series itself. Moffat's decision to end with "everybody lives, Rose, er, I mean River" seems like a glorious salute to The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, but when you remember he wrote that too, it looks like he's basically saluting himself. Including the shuffling repeating monsters almost looks like self-parody. Some said that Doomsday was Doctor Who doing its own fan-fiction. Well, this is definitely Moffat doing his own fan-fiction.

    Plus, the lack of scope is crippling. The library has every book in creation, and yet nothing of any interest is found there. Nothing more exciting that a big hard-drive runs the planet. The Vashta Nerada look like living shadows, but they're really dust motes. River Song is someone really important from the Doctor's future, and yet she's wasted because the Doctor acts like such a moron around her, and the story is just as invested as he is in doltishly solving the "riddle" of who she is. It's telling that in a story set in a library, no one ever reads a single book. The only time they try to, someone tells them not to. The Library might as well be empty for all the use the books are to the plot. It's just a sci-fi setting, not a really location at all.

    What's most galling of all is the central conceit. We are introduced to the Library as a dream in the mind of a little girl at home. But somehow the Doctor and Donna have got in!!! Wow! I've already mentioned Peter Pan, and this idea smacks of that kind of children's folktale. However, having presented us with this unique, magical idea, Moffat then "surprises" us with a lame revelation about virtual reality.


    6a. The Family of Blood (Good) - I don't think I can do better than quoting myself (I know, incredibly arrogant, isn't it?) in my review of Series 3:

    "People have criticised the episode for being just a pale imitation of the novel. That's not merely wrong but unfair: it's vastly superior on almost every level. Paul Cornell may be able to jerk tears at the end of his novels, but his writing style for the first 230-odd pages is unfortunately not my cup of tear at all. Rendered as a piece of television, without the bizarre carnage that ensues partway through the novel Human Nature and without his thin, Terrance-style prose, it is revealed as the masterpiece everyone thinks it is. Away from the printed page, the camp menace of the Family is revealed, and can be revelled in. And David Tennant is never better than in his hysterical pleas for Joan to justify his existence: 'That's all I want to be: John Smith. With his life, and his job, and his love. Why can't I be him? Isn't he a good man?' He makes it seem so easy."
    And I stand by that.

    6b. The tedious Moffat technique of slowly revealing something we should have picked up on if only they'd bothered to put it in shot (Bad) - It may seem odd that I'm listing this under "RTD", when Moffat is going on to become the new Commander-in-Chief and will presumably do more of this. But it was still a thing I really didn't like under RTD.

    In The Empty Child, the Doctor, Rose and Jack are listening to a tape of the child saying "are you my mummy?" again and again. Then there is a clicking sound that accompanies it. The Doctor realises that it is the sound of the tape finishing, and thus the voice must belong to the child standing behind him RIGHT NOW! Fortunately for him, the child has spent ten seconds just standing there not doing anything. Lucky Doctor. Later in the same episode, Moffat repeats the same trick, just with Nancy and a typewriter.

    In Blink, the main characters are facing an enemy that can move so quickly that they can grab you in the blink of an eye. However, when Sally and the SF bookshop guy realise neither of them are looking at the statue, they don't immediately say "oh shit!" and try to look as quickly possible. Neither are they blasted into the past. It seems the statue patiently waited for them to realise what was going on and then moved about a step forward.

    Some examples in Silence in the Library: "That's just a shadow... but what's casting it?!!!!". "Dave... you've got two shadows!!!!". Both of these are delivered in exactly the same manner a few minutes apart. In Forest of the Dead, the villain lets the heroes realise that they have an enemy in their midst before trying to kill the shit out of them. This is reassuring, but it's alarming that the Doctor plays a practical joke on River rather than simply say "skeleton-man's behind you!". Five minutes later, the story does it again. It's so incredibly annoying.

    7a. The cliffhanger to Army of Ghosts (Good) - It's one of the few cliffhangers in the New Series that doesn't seem either false of flat. The music, the script, the pacing, all work to lead to an increasing build-up of tension. First, the Cybermen invade Torchwood. Next, the ghosts appear everywhere and become Cybermen. Earth is subdued. Then, the sphere begins to open, just as the CyberLeader announces that the sphere isn't theirs, and Rose, Mickey and the Torchwood chap stand to face whatever is about to emerge. That, in it itself, is a great cliffhanger, but the appearance of the Daleks - for once - actually gives a shiver down the spine. If other developments were along the lines of "ooh..." and "how will they get out of this one?", the appearance of the Cult of Skaro is a real "oh shit!" moment.

    7b. Technobabble (Bad) - True, technobabble was in the old series too, in particular the Tom Baker era (see The Invasion of Time, where every plot development is driven by a piece of machinery that does something we don't understand for reasons we're never told). That doesn't make it excusable when it happens in the New Series. "Anti-plastic" isn't technobabble, because if a script has an object that performs one single function, it helps to have a simple, symbolic name. "Anti-plastic", we know what it will do. Tell me that something works off transmodrahangelistic energy, and I have no fucking clue.

    Believe it or not, I learnt a huge amount from Doctor Who. For instance, I know that Richard the Lionheart never saw Jerusalem from The Crusade, not from history at school. That isn't "educational", it's just the series' makers thinking history or science can be interesting in their own right. Frequently, the science hasn't been entirely accurate, but it illustrates a real concept. In the novel Time Zero, one character has particles in his body that turn into a black hole, in line with scientific theories about how the universe could be full of microscopic black holes, ready to grow. In "real science" terms, it wouldn't look anything like Curtis, but it's a cheeky, visual representation of a hard scientific concept.

    Technobabble, which has grown in prominence in the New Series, doesn't teach you anything. It's just nonsense, belted out by authors to cover plot holes. If RTD doesn't know how to get from Point A to Point B, he can have the Doctor whip out the sonic screwdriver, move the plot forward and cover the problem with quickly spoken crap. It's lazy writing, it's patronising writing. It's as though the authors don't think we want real plotting, that we'll be looking for the big "character" moments and explosions. (See also Davies ex Machinae.)

    8a. The interior of the TARDIS (Good) - One of the great things about bringing Doctor Who back after so many years is that many of those working on it, at lower levels like design and so on, have only folk memories of what the series was like, and frequently only have what RTD sends downstairs. I don't think that a "die-hard" fan would have been able to break free of old ideas about the TARDIS interior and make what we see onscreen here. However, designer Ed Thomas took the idea that TARDISes are "alive", something said but never visually articulated in the old series, and ran with it. The result is something that looks grown, like the air bladder of some giant beast. The design says "this is completely and utterly alien", far better than the comparatively unimaginative sterile white or the Vernian gothicness of the old console rooms. Again, it's something that has never been seen on TV before, and isn't now either. In Star Trek, something like this would be an "alien" ship, and the organicness would be to indicate how alien and creepy it all was; to use it as the hero's ship, the series' base, is a brave move and a really clever one to boot.

    8b. Endless invasions of Earth (Bad) - There are two kinds of "invasion Earth" story. In one, aliens plan to invade Earth by infiltrating an institution of some sort and turn a piece of mundane, everyday technology against us. In the other, aliens launch an all-out assault and our everyday world is put in danger (in this case, from explosions).

    There's a school of thought out there that holds that this is "classic" Doctor Who. Mark Gatiss, in particular, thinks this is what constitutes a "traditional" Doctor Who story. (See his mind-meltingly pointless novel Last of the Gadarene, which seems to think that it's being nostalgic by filling the book with appalling cliches rather than just dull by definition.) But, umm, the first three years of the show went without a single invasion of contemporary Earth (the closest is The Dalek Invasion of Earth, but even then is subverts the cliche by being set ten years into the occupation). In truth, the invasions of Earth are limited to between The Tenth Planet and The Android Invasion. Most ironically of all, even during the Earthbound phase of the series, the production team strove to avoid an invasion-by-numbers like Last of the Gadarene, simply because it seemed so banal. (Go back and look at the Pertwee years: there are actually very few invasions in the "traditional" sense.)

    And yet, invasions of Earth make up 45% of the New Series output. That's appalling, because it leads to bland, repetitive stories where characters become cyphers and everything is sorted out by an explosion. There's only a limited number of ways you can tell a story about aliens invading Earth, either through subterfuge (The Sontaran Stratagem) or an all-out assault (Doomsday) and, frankly, people have done all of them. A couple of times. By the time you've reached The Sontaran Stratagem, it feels so familiar as to be a pantomime ("don't go in there, Martha", "she's not the real Martha, Doctor!"), and you can join in with the dialogue in The Stolen Earth without having seen the episode before ("ladies and gentlemen, we are at war!").

    9a. Gayness (Good) - While oafs and basic morons may endeavour to uncover the Gay Mafia's evil grip of the media and Doctor Who in particular (and those that rail against it are sure to insist they're not homophobes, in the same way a xenophobic diatribe is always preceded by "I'm not a racist, but..."), it can't be denied that Doctor Who is the gayest show on TV. I don't just mean having overtly man-loving characters like Captain Jack, or "messages" about sexual repression like Algie and the big fat guy in The Empty Child. Minor characters who don't make a point out of their sexuality and don't carry a message bedeck the series. Sky Silvestry's last partner was a woman, and that's never commented on; in The Waters of Mars, the cute Russian boy's brother has a boyfriend. In this way, gay or bi characters become just "characters", not walking political causes, as they were in the Virgin New Adventures, for instance, or in most TV and movies. (Skins doesn't make a big deal out of Maxxie being gay, but because that series was worked out by a bunch of twentysomethings who were more interested in what was "cool" rather than "good", the series basically make a big deal out of how they don't like to make a big deal out of it.) It goes beyond even character, to little asides, like the Doctor kissing Mickey in Doomsday or Shaun giving Wilf a playful peck on the cheek in The End of Time.

    In The Avengers, the writers did not strive to fight sexism when they created Mrs. Peel. (In fact, Brian Clemens was an unreconstructed misogynist who considered the Jo-like Tara to be his ideal girl.) Rather than have a "message" behind Emma, they simply gave her a strong, powerful role and didn't comment on it. In the process, they gave millions of young girls a role model that many still look up to. Emma Peel didn't have to beat up men to get their respect, she didn't have to go around mentioning Women's Lib, she simply existed in a world that wouldn't disrespect her. I hope that, in the future, Doctor Who will be considered to have done the same thing for gay and bisexual people. After all, who could maintain that gays are weak and effeminate after seeing Captain Jack? Who could say that homosexuals are "creepy" (as Nick Griffin said on the BBC) after the heroism of Jack, or the quiet dignity of Ianto? I think that thousands of LGBT (sounds like a sandwich!) children and teenagers now have a strong role model and also a series that announces - without making it an issue - that there is nothing wrong with them. I hope that millions of other children, exposed to this in the context of an adventure, will grow up to be less bigoted, less involuntarily squeamish. Whatever the case, I think Russell deserves a big pat on the back for this one. A children's show with an overtly bisexual action hero? A children's show with many gay characters portrayed without "issues"? In 2005, it was unheard of. Today, it's very nearly expected. Glorious.

    As a side note on Virgin: At the time of writing, there has been an article in The Daily Telegraph, Britain's premier celebration of all things ugly, which exposed Andrew Cartmell's Evil Commie Conspiracy to bring down the Thatcher government with The Happiness Patrol and Silver Nemesis, and Howard Martin has written a surprisingly wrongheaded treatise on the subject on this very site. From the point of view of this reviewer, the idea that Cartmel's membership of a communist cell somehow "explains" everything one may not like about the McCoy era, particularly when it comes from a paper as grotesque as the Daily Telly (claiming to be honest and objective, all the while pumping bigoted and hateful innuendoes into British public life), is so patently absurd that it's a miracle anyone managed to take this ridiculous article seriously. How utterly unencumbered by commonsense and how totally undefended by the powers of reason would you need to be to accept the word of this rag, based on some mercilessly out-of-context quotes? Sometimes words just aren't strong enough.

    9b. The Doctor thinking Martha "brilliant" for noticing the average window isn't airtight (Bad) - "Hey, everyone! Martha's just as good as Rose!" There are better ways to establish that Martha is super-cool without the Doctor seeming so utterly patronising. Smith and Jones is a terrific little story, since it's unlike anything else seen on television. However, noticing that the average window isn't airtight is hardly "brilliant". Perceptive, perhaps. Level-headed, certainly, but I wouldn't be making any Channel 4 documentaries (narrated by Paul McGann, of course) about "The Genius Dr. Jones" just yet.

    Later in the same episode, Martha asks whether the Judoon are angry because the hospital has trespassed on the moon, and she gets another "wow, you are so clever" dance from the Doctor. Given that he's already told her that the Judoon brought the hospital to the moon, because it's "neutral ground" (and thus her suggestion proves she wasn't listening), it's beginning to look like he's taking the piss. Sadly, this is better than her characterisation next episode, where she's a parodic teenager who says things like "you ARE joking..." and "no way!" at everything.

    10a. Wacky goofiness (Good) - At its best, the New Series is something completely unlike anything else on TV. I recall Mike Morris mentioning a TV reviewer who was thrown into a rare paddy because she couldn't work out who was meant to be watching Rose on first broadcast. Mike was sympathetic to her confusion, but I'd suggest she was evidently an obsessive-compulsive box-ticking fool. Doctor Who features aliens, spaceships and battles, and yet it's also partially set in suburbia, and Fear Her is centred around a living drawing threatening a little girl and her mother. It features monsters dedicated to the eradication of all life not their own, and yet it also features a giant green bastard in an obscene black thong called an "Abzorbaloff". At times, it's just so pleasingly mental. This is a programme, all up, that can include songs, sketches and blatant parodies of other TV shows without it seeming weird; it's full of knowing gags, moments of domesticity among the otherworldly, full of famous guest stars and pop culture noise. The incestuous nature of modern British TV works to its advantage here: the presence of John Barrowman on Any Crap Will Do makes the appearance of Jack in Doctor Who seem even more loopy than it would otherwise. It's like the characters are about to say "oh look, it's TV's John Barrowman!" or "wow, TV's Catherine Tate!" at any moment.

    Not merely is it pitched at everyone, with monsters for the kids, spaceships and angst for the teenagers, and intelligent stories and knowing humour for the adults; it's also got something for anyone who likes anything about Doctor Who, or television, or British culture in general. Bad Wolf provides the test case, alternating between screwball comedy with parodies of other TV shows, and mass-murder and disaster on a cosmic scale. That's unique in modern TV, and something to be treasured.

    10b. Davies ex Machinae (Bad Bad Bad Bad Bad) - In the Confidential episode for Boomtown, Russel calls the TARDIS-opening ending a deus ex machina (honestly, he does, just pronounced wrongly). He sounds as though he thinks this is a legitimate way of telling a story. It isn't. If you've written a story that requires a magic wand, you've written an undisciplined story. Russell has always been prone to the sort of cop-outs for which he is justly famous, yet what is alarming is the lengths that he goes to in order to show them off to us. I can make sense of the resolutions to the finales for Series 1 through 3 (Doomsday works if you accept that the Doctor was just wrong when he said that there was nothing in the Void), but by the time of Journey's End, he actually introduces three potential solutions, all of which are intended to be push-button endings, and then pulls the rug out from under us to give us another one. The business with the warp-star, the Osterhagen Key and the DNA-gun-thing is meant to be about how the Doctor can cause bloodshed, but there's also a nasty feeling that RTD thinks that he's acting against type. All these all-powerful objects are whipped out without explanation... and they don't work! Which is all very well, if it weren't for the real ending... which Donna gabbles something, everyone agrees and the story ends. What?! I guess, in retrospect, it was pressaged by the cliffhanger resolution, where the Doctor channels all the regenerative energy into his spare hand and says "where was I?" Now, I didn't expect the New Doctor Who, and I could accept all the energy going into hand. What infuriates me is that the Doctor seems to have been aware that this would happen, and yet acted like he didn't. Like the "alien worlds" promise, the episode ends with an edge-of-seat cliffhanger, screaming "what happens?! Watch next week!!!!", and then the story switches off that plot development with a cynical wave of the author's pen. Indeed, the Doctor is in on the deception of the audience, a cheap trick to avoid writing anything terribly interesting or unusual. When the Doctor cheekily waves at the severed hand floating in energy, you realise that nothing can have any consequences here, so it stops being drama and becomes pantomime.

    There's a feeling that they thought we didn't need a proper resolution to the cliffhanger, and - worse - that we don't care. So long as there are explosions and Billie Piper, we don't care how Russell conveys us between these points. There's a lack of respect for both the story and the audience in the utilitarian lack of imagination with which Russell pushes the story over hurdles. Make all the excuses they might ("it's for kids!"), if we accept this as a legitimate way of telling a story, even to kids, then we might as well admit we're drooling suckers of what Harlon Ellison calls "the glass teat", who'll watch any old crap with Daleks in it.

    More than anything else, there's an unmistakable feeling that they thought we couldn't tell the difference between this and something like Parting of the Ways. The denouement of Journey's End is basically humanism-by-numbers. An ordinary-yet-somehow-brilliant human has the special quality that lets her outwit both the Doctor and the Daleks, and save the day. Yes, very uplifting, but what we get is Catherine Tate gabbling nonsense and everyone looking impressed. Ignoring the sheer risibility of the execution, it still takes a titanic effort of will to see even the dramatic shorthand for a good climax. With all the good will in the world, you're left feeling as though you've only heard someone crudely recount a great, symbolic climax ("Donna, like, becomes half-Doctor, and, like, kills the shit out of the Daleks..."), possibly one you might like to see for yourself one day. Russell genuinely believes that this is all we need, all we want by way of a triumph for Our Heroes. And it's not that it's a load of crap that's the problem: it's that it doesn't think we'll care that it's a load of crap.

    So, in the final assessment, what can we say about the RTD era? I don't know what people will say about it in twenty, thirty or forty years time, when they come to write articles in DWM #1300 or on websites like this one. I could imagine things like Journey's End and Doomsday souring the same way that the JNT era did, but then, no one liked Attack of the Cybermen at the time either, which isn't true in this case. I think fans may come to see Christopher Eccleston as a better Doctor than David Tennant (if they don't already), but the public will barely remember him. The Daleks' continuous appearances may be viewed the way the Master's never-ending comebacks in the '80s are now, as tedious, unsurprising twaddle. The Time War, I think, will be remembered as a good thing, and the idea of the Doctor as the last of his kind might become a basic part of both fan and the general public's view of the series.

    I think, ultimately, that the RTD era is very much like the JNT era, but proceeding in opposite directions. JNT took Doctor Who when it was at the height of its popularity and was stuck on the sinking ship as every rat deserted it; RTD took the series when it was a niche interest regarded with either cosy nostalgia or amused contempt by the public and left it as a national phenomenon. Beyond that, they both have the same interest in the relationships between the main characters, with showbiz (famous guest stars, contemporary TV programmes...), with the series as an entity. RTD even got Daleks V. Cybermen, a level of fanwank beyond JNT's dreams. The greatest difference is that Davies in competent. His series, at its best - and stories like Midnight, Love & Monsters and Parting of the Ways are certainly the best - is JNT's dream, while Nathan-Turner himself simply forced us to live through his nightmare.

    Supplement 23/12/12

    ...I should probably take this more seriously, shouldn't I?

    Russell T Davies has overseen and created more Doctor Who than anyone else, more perhaps than we fully appreciate. Even John Nathan-Turner didn't write or edit scripts himself. And the thing that I think of when I contemplate this isn't the stories, it's the characters. That's appropriate, since characterisation is considered to be Davies's trademark.

    "Character" is apparently what he has brought to Doctor Who, along with "depth". But the way he does this isn't the way you think, which is by filling up space with little puffs of characterisation. The majority of these "character moments", in my opinion, don't work. They're too sharp, too brief, too obvious. Characters either shout out their deepest feelings or very carefully don't in a way that lets us know exactly what those feelings are. Murray Gold takes these opportunities to intrude into our living rooms via the speakers. Take, for instance, the character of Santiago in the Sarah Jane Adventures episode Death of the Doctor: he has a single "character moment" in which he admits that he never sees his parents blah blah blah. Nothing is really made of this and it's really only there as a faint attempt to give Santiago "depth" and make him seem "real". It has the opposite effect, because it draws us out of the story and forces us to acknowledge that this is a work of fiction.

    But where his characterisation soars is in a much more subtle, long-term way that can be easily missed. Jackie seems to emerge in Love & Monsters as a living embodiment of Those Left Behind, but really that development has been coming along, quietly, since Aliens of London. Mickey changes over the course of Series 1 and 2 into a gun-toting superhero. Some reviewers have said things like: "Ah, that character is now Developing!" As though you were going to play it all in five minutes.

    It also stretches to villains. Very few people are either wholly good or wholly bad. In Children of Earth, the politicians, generals and bureaucrats conspire to do something monstrous, but they are never depicted as monsters. They initially refuse the alien 456, and then haggle. Prime Minister Green is clearly a horrible human being, but he isn't evil or cruel, and John Frobisher's epitaph is that he was "a good man". Even the Americans (who usually get libeled to death in a RTD script) seem simply ruthless, and they point out that it is all Britain's fault. The only character portrayed as an out-and-out bitch is Agent Johnson - and yet she emerges from the story as a key ally of Jack and someone vaguely sympathetic. It would be easier to make these people either wholly evil, or to make them more obviously conflicted; instead, we are never allowed to see their angst for more than a few seconds. They take to their task with just as much alacrity as Jack himself.

    Another example is the Master. Of all the psychological probings of the Master since the original series went off the air, the suggestion that he has the beginning of the Ron Grainer theme in his head, compelling him to dress up like Ali Bongo and steal Concorde, is probably near the bottom. Even explanations as trite as David A McIntee's (a good man who just had a really bad day) or as pseudo-mystical as Joseph Lidster's (Death, John, Death!) have more appeal. Almost. The Master ends up being, in The Sound of Drums (that's the name of the whole story, OK?), just another megalomaniacal supervillain trying to take over the universe. Another Master could have done what he does in this story. As Finn Clark put it, this is plumbing the depths of a puddle.

    But that's because we missed the far greater reinvention of the character that was going on in front of our very eyes. Slash fiction involving the Doctor and the Master exploded after Last of the Time Lords, some of it readable, and it wasn't just because people thought John Simm and David Tennant were a bit pretty. The idea that the Doctor and the Master are lovers was previously only used for the purposes of parody ("Doctor, you wouldn't do this to your own... husband") or subtext (Kim Newman notes that the TV movie depicts the newly resurrected Master as looking like the recipient of "a messy facial cumshot"), but here it's done for real. The Sound of Drums is effectively a twisted love story between the last of the Time Lords, with genocide and mutual murder attempts in the background. There is a clear parallel between the Master brutalising his human wife Lucy and his treatment of the Doctor. The worst thing - the very worst thing - the Doctor can do to his archenemy is forgive him. What destroys the Master isn't a Tinkerbell Doctor or the faith of the human race or Martha's love for the Doctor, but a simple statement that the Doctor will continue to love the Master no matter what.

    That's somewhat disturbing, as the Doctor is effectively in an abusive relationship with an awesomely powerful serial killer, but I also think it's fascinating. It explains something about the Master in the old series: if he knows the Doctor always screws up his plans, why does he seem to go out of the way to include him? In Time-Flight, he sets up base in the Jurassic Period, and yet grabs Concorde - and the Doctor - from the twentieth century so he can be defeated. Viewed through the lens of Davies's interpretation of the character, the explanation is obvious: the Master is trying to get the Doctor's undivided attention, like a cat bringing home a dead mouse for its owner: "Look at this lovely civilisation I destroyed for you."

    The Master remains a vile, cruel, nasty person (in his relationship with the Doctor, as in everything, he seeks to dominate), but it makes him a real character without (seemingly) trying. In The End of Time, the Master recounts near-erotic stories of the two Time Tots running (naked?) through the red grass on Gallifrey, and the Doctor pretty much begs the Master to shack up with him - and it doesn't seem weird. It's as creepy as Hannibal Lector asking Clarice whether she's ever thought of telling him to "stop, if you loved me, you would stop" and it's compelling.

    In Queer as Folk, there is a sequence in which a comedy sex scene is intercut with a man dying of a drug overdose and also with (in RTD's words) "the horniest threesome in the world". Comedy, death and sex combined. This might as well be an archetype of Russell's work. As Russell himself said, "you can have a pratfall at a funeral, you can laugh so hard you choke". Davies often uses humour, not necessarily dark but almost screwball, to subvert a situation's bleakness, to make it palatable by lightening it. It's perhaps his greatest strength as a writer and it is part of what has gained modern Doctor Who such adulation from critics.

    Looking back at Rose and The End of the World now, what struck me most is simply how funny they are. But if you strip that humour away, you have a pretty bleak notion: both Mickey and Jackie are really quite unpleasant people ("No point in getting up, sweetheart, you've got no job to go to!") and Rose's life is genuinely hollow. "Played straight" and it would have been nasty, unlikeable and depressing, and viewers would come away with an impression of Doctor Who as a bleak, unenjoyable thing. Those who criticised Davies for "excessive humour" or "turning it into a joke" missed this entirely.

    The bravura performance of this is Love & Monsters. As I said in my review of the episode, this story is unusual by any standards because of the degree to which its protagonists don't conform to our ideas of dramatic characters. Elton, Ursula, Mr. Skinner, Bridget, Bliss and Jackie (who, despite getting some of the episode's best comedy, is virtually reinvented) aren't "unsuccessful" in their onscreen lives, but as characters in a drama. This is a very sad, poignant story of awkward, fundamentally ordinary people fumbling in the dark for some kind of connection and only occasionally, furtively succeeding. Tell this with a straight face and not merely would it not be broadcast at teatime on Saturday, it would be a harrowing nightmare of Social Justice, probably starring Robson Green. Russell, demonstrating the great maturity of a writer who knows that his viewers don't need to have the grimness of life smacked in their faces in order to appreciate it, manages to smuggle this into teatime. I happen to think that this episode is probably Davies's best.

    It's clear that, for all his reputation as a chuckling old media-tart, he's got some very depressing ideas about human nature and our prospects for the future. We've seen the Doctor hug Zachary to show his appreciation of humanity (The Impossible Planet) and Last of the Time Lords has the faith of the human race show itself to be more powerful than a Time Lord and a space-based dictatorship. The post-Earth world of the year 5 billion is a cosmopolitan paradise (until the virus kills everyone on New Earth, that is), but that's matched with a pessimism much closer home. I'm not talking about sci-fi conceits like human enslavement of the Ood, but things much, much grimmer.

    Torchwood's philosophy is that bad shit happens for no reason, and Children of Earth has the governments of the world conspire to commit a crime so vile it can scarcely be imagined. Turn Left reduces Britain to a military dictatorship murdering ethnic minorities in half an hour. Utopia is an uplifting story about the human race's triumph over adversity ("Indomitable!"), but Last of the Time Lords reveals that there is no Utopia and the human race ends up as an army of psychotic severed heads in a dying universe, something that is not resolved at the story's end. This awful future is not averted, just postponed. Lucy Saxon changes from a nice young girl to a sexually deranged genocidal maniac by the sight of the inevitable end of the universe in 100 trillion years. ("And I thought, there's no point. Nothing matters. Not ever.") And we thought Eric Saward was nihilistic.

    In fact, for my money The Sound of Drums is Russell's best season finale. It has richer themes going on than the others (it has a bit more plot too), and for once he manages to craft a story in which the characters and the story are meshed rather than competing (and characterisation is never gonna come off second-best in a Davies script). It's a messy story, in some ways, with Utopia being almost a separate story to The Sound of Drums, and there's a year between that and Last of the Time Lords. There's a "standard" RTD finale in the middle episode, but that's abandoned for the last episode. I'm fine with that. It's meant to be watched week-by-week.

    It's a story of opposites, starting with the Doctor and the Master and working outward in concentric circles. Obviously, one is the good Time Lord, one is the bad, but that's also reflected in every aspect of the story, most notably their relationships with others. Martha joined the Doctor out of a sense of wonder, Lucy Saxon follows the Master out of nihilism. Martha walks the Earth for a year for the Doctor, and Jack waited over a hundred years to find him again; Lucy kills the Master, and the Jones family rift is sealed by their heart-warming desire to shoot him dead. The Doctor gets the human race to unite and show itself at its best; the Master unites the human race as the greatest monsters of them all. The Master broadcasts fear; the Doctor broadcasts hope.

    Even the ending works for me. People have overplayed the Jesus parallels - I think the situations are too different to compare (the Doctor can't really be said to be dying for humanity's sins) - and really the most obvious one is Peter Pan ("Clap your hands if you believe in Time Lords"). But in truth it's not either of those. Humanity isn't "worshipping" the Doctor, or "praying to a spurious God-figure" (to quote Larry Miles); the Doctor doesn't save humanity, humanity saves itself. Martha gets all of humanity to do the same thing at the same time; for one tiny, fleeting moment, the human race is united in one purpose. It's the answer to the Toclafane, which Thomas Cookson felt wasn't "resolved": the human race can be the "greatest monsters of them all", but they can also be heroes. In an episode called Last of the Time Lords, it's the power of the human race that defeats the Time Lord Empire; the Doctor is just the conduit.

    This manages to be probably the best of the Davies Ex Machinae. It works as a thematic move, which can't be said for the others. Rose defeats the Daleks through the Power of Love. Voidstuff is introduced with the minimum amount of foreshadowing, while Donna's transformation into a genius turns the Triumph of Humanity into Catherine Tate gabbling something and everyone agreeing. Davies shows an almost amateurish lack of interest in the way he resolves his great big finales. An unstoppable force meets an immovable object and the story ends. Roll credits.

    A great many people hate this. I sympathise. I agree that a deus ex machina is a sign of an undisciplined story, and that "lazy" could be a word used to describe it. But that criticism has to be tempered by an understanding of WHY Russell does this. He simply isn't interested in plot stuff. What's he always going on about? What's he supposedly brought to the show? Characters! He's interested in how people react in extreme situations rather than the situations themselves. So long as he sees the Doctor refusing to destroy the Earth with the delta-wave (The Parting of the Ways), or has Val Cane mutter "I said it was her" to the Doctor (Midnight), he doesn't mind how the situation is resolved. The things science fiction is known for - ideas, situations, plausible extrapolations of present-day science or wild flights of fancy - leave him manifestly cold. Talking about Children of Earth, he said: "Drama isn't a spaceship turning up. Drama is the choice you make of what to do when the spaceship turns up."

    He's different when it comes to plot: basically, he's not very good at it. The Parting of the Ways and Doomsday barely have plots; they're character moments connected by action scenes. Journey's End is 65 minutes of people assembling in a room and then leaving, while Last of the Time Lords has a plot that could be told in half the time. Their length is a product of their characters, not their plots. His plots have a simplicity about them, sometimes a powerful simplicity and sometimes a tedious one: his stories are like railroads heading towards their climax, perfectly straight and unavoidable.

    Where he does try to write gripping plots that twist and turn all over the place (like, say, a Moffat plot), the results aren't that great. Children of Earth and Miracle Day are both plot-heavy (and both conspiracy stories, suggesting a pattern), but Russell mistakes killing characters for plot development, and his obsession with political assassination squads and trigger-happy bureaucrats is meant to be cynical and mature but is almost juvenile in its desire to shock. One can see something similar in the endless parade of deaths to show that things are Not What They Seem in Who itself. There is more to an intriguing plot that offhand shootings of bit-part characters, but Russell never quite shakes off his conviction that this in itself adds urgency.

    There is also something rather unpleasant about Children of Earth and Miracle Day, almost sinister in fact, and that is that they are fundamentally reactionary. Lawrence Miles had a spontaneous orgasm at CoE, waxing lyrical about how it was "left-wing" rather than "liberal", but in reality it's almost the televisual equivalent of the Daily Mirror. It selects the most button-pushing subject it can - children - and its final episode indulges in some of the most hysterical fear-mongering I've seen in drama. The government behaves in a deliberately stupid way, just so we can see British soldiers dragging British children onto buses while tearful parents scream and wail. Rewatching the series for this review, I found my previous enjoyment vanishing, and the scenes of council-estate thugs taking on the British Army to protect their kids had me fast-forwarding. The series is screaming "protect our kids!", and yet it's virtually a piece of exploitation television itself. That this was written by a man who voted for Tony Blair every time makes it weird.

    In Miracle Day, Torchwood sneaks into the overflow camps and uncovers their terrible secret. Again, the series is almost tabloid in its choice of subject matter, and it never clarifies what is so bad about incinerating the Category 1s beyond "they're burning living people!". Viewers of Miracle Day will know why it isn't exactly surprising that the people are living. Torchwood's argument is "yuk!". This is, in fact, how Larry Miles defined "liberal": the belief that tolerance is good and global warming bad, but so long as you don't vote Conservative all will be well in the world. Russell's work on Doctor Who is the same: in The Sontaran Stratagem, the Doctor wonders aloud why a young man like Rattigan would invest all this time and effort in zero-carbon cars, as though, yeah, he likes the environment too, he goes for nature-walks on the weekend, but why go to all this bother?; in Planet of the Ood, he asks Donna the killer question "who made your clothes?", and then APOLOGISES when she sneeringly reprimands him for making cheap shots. The shots weren't as cheap as your SWEAT-SHOP-MADE CLOTHES, YOU BABY-KILLING BOURGEOIS SCUM, SMELL THE BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS! See, that's a cheap shot.

    The pattern is the same whenever Russell grandstands on issues. Children for the 456, Category 1s to the modules, shooting down the Sycorax on Christmas Day, the destruction of Davros's Dalek empire... RTD's heroes rail against such things, but the fundamental point is this: what would they have done if it was their finger on the button? They stand around declaiming that no one should have that kind of power, but unfortunately everyone else lives in the real world where they have to make those decisions. Russell's TV work for the Doctor Who franchise is astonishingly middle-class, tutting from the sidelines and never getting its hands dirty. Its ultimate solution to problems facing Earth is always to put things back the way they were. Undoubtedly the best option, all things considered, but an option only open to near-immortal supergeniuses from outer space. Judging Tony Blair (Harriet Jones) and George Bush (any American) by that standard isn't very fair.

    Taken together, it has an unpleasantly parochial, conservative attitude. New Who is obsessed with British Nationalism, evinced by a violent propaganda against America (which vanishes when RTD's hero Barack Obama becomes president). Government is always bad. The truth about aliens must be kept from the public, because humans are stupid and would only panic. Imprisonment without trial is cool. New Who is sometimes small-minded rather than open-minded, provincial rather than universal. Doctor Who of the Andrew Cartmel era might look embarrassing in its earnest activism ("White kids firebombed it!"), but it's genuinely taking a position on issues from Dresden to Social Darwinism, and defending it wholeheartedly. Russell has a list of predictable middle-class concerns - the environment, asylum-seekers, Iraq - but no passion behind them, except when it comes to sexuality, because he himself is gay and so knows what it's like to be vilified. Sometimes I think (unfairly) that Davies would be a Daily Mail reader if he was straight.

    Russell is a man at home in modern pop culture, not an outsider determined to rattle it. The companion trope of "bleak, ordinary life" in need of alleviation is as much a dramatic technique as a real expression of Russell's opinion of the modern world, and jibes against compensation-culture or humanity's devotion to television have to be measured against the obvious fact that the universe his "ordinary people" escape into is a grotesque parody of modern Earth already. The Judoon are bureaucratic nightmares, New New York exaggerates everything from mood-altering drugs to traffic jams. Take, for example, Bad Wolf. It might be argued that attacking Our Celebrity-Driven Culture was easy and old even in 2005, but note how careful RTD is to avoid even seeming to do so. Every time something potentially critical of reality-TV culture appears, the story takes its time to disabuse us of any relevance to the real world. The Doctor lambasts Lynda for volunteering to appear on death-shows ("Is it that important getting your face on the telly?"), but Russell makes sure to have Lynda tell him that being selected for the Gamestation is random and the shows themselves are as much psychological terror-tactics as entertainment. This isn't satire. This is doing it for real.

    So determined is he to avoid anything real-world nasty, he actively damages the world he creates. Lynda, Strood and Crosbie don't seem like people who live under the constant threat of government-sanctioned kidnapping and becoming unwilling contestants in a fight to the death. Lynda enthusiastically lists the various shows on the Gamestation, with Jo Joyner's performance giving no hint that she or anyone she knows could be abducted at any moment and forced to take part in these atrocities - as, indeed, she just has been. The idea of a society so inured to arbitrary violence that it doesn't even consider being on the receiving end of that violence to be frightening is potentially cool, scary and/or disturbing, but that's not how it's played. The contestants on Big Brother and The Weakest Link are blase until the verge of death, upon which they blub, and it's Rose's lack of concern in the first round that makes the supervisors realise that she doesn't know that the game ends with death - even though NO ONE inside the games seems to recognise this until the last moment. Lynda's turn to horror and outrage at the Doctor's aforementioned accusation (responding to his outburst that "getting to live" isn't much of a prize with "isn't that enough?!") is so swift it makes her look like a hypocrite. (For more on this, I encourage everyone to read Thomas Cookson's fantastic review of Bad Wolf.)

    Davies's approach to plotting is often generic and predictable. The End of Time is, in some ways, the definitive work of Russell T Davies, as all his favourite tropes come out for a lap of honour: there is the global scale to events, an escalation to the story's villains (from Naismith, to the Master, to the Time Lords), something world-changingly dramatic stemming from a MacGuffin, the Doctor seeming helpless and ultimately a deus ex machina that resolves it all. The plot has been effectively knocked together as a generic "Doctor Who finale", not missing any beats and not making any innovations. Joshua Naismith's love for his daughter is only sketched in to provide motivation, and he is ultimately a plot function. The woman-in-white gives "sinister foreshadowing" so RTD-esque it's almost parodic: "Events are closing. The day is almost upon us." This hits all the Davies buttons, not least in its "but what does that mean?" factor. If she'd uttered a single helpful sentence, the plot wouldn't have happened.

    But, again, the focus isn't on the plot. Russell didn't set out to write the greatest work of science fiction ever. What he cares about - and what The End of Time is great for - is the work he does with the Doctor, the Master and Wilf. These three carry the Earth segments, and it is Timothy Dalton who carries the "black void" scenes that would otherwise have been unwatchably boring.

    Also, the suggestion that he introduced story arcs to the series is, in my opinion, incorrect. Story arcs became the common currency of SF shows while Doctor Who was off the air - Babylon 5 and The X-Files spent years squeezing drops of information out of their "mytharcs" and into their episodes, and Star Trek arrived late at the party with Enterprise's Temporal Cold War (which fans objected to on the grounds that it made it hard to maintain continuity). Doctor Who was so unused to arcs that we fell over ourselves to find them in the New Series. Bad Wolf, an arc? Don't believe it. A couple of references that don't affect the stories and are only noticed by the Doctor in episode 11 and only become important in episode 13 do not make an arc. Really, none of Russell's series contained an arc; there are "easter eggs" for the regular audience, like Torchwood or Harold Saxon references, but Army of Ghosts and The Sound of Drums can still be appreciated by people who missed weeks 1 through 10. Steven Moffat's first season made steps towards a genuine story arc, with the cracks in the universe playing a key role in The Time of Angels, but for the most part they were just a more noticeable equivalent of Bad Wolf. It was Series 6 that truly developed an "arc" in the proper sense of a serialised series in which some episodes cannot be appreciated out of context. Russell T Davies is just too viewer-friendly, too focussed on mass appeal, to include season-long arcs.

    Was Russell Tiberius Davies the right man to resurrect Doctor Who? Well, I think he was. We'll never know what Steven Moffat or whoever would have done back in 2005, but what Davies DID do was almost just right. Rose introduces enough of the set-up to give an idea about what a whole series will be like, but also doesn't care about dumping the information on us. Note that the Doctor isn't established as a Time Lord until next week, and it isn't even clear at this point that he is an intergalactic do-gooder (he explains that he was "just passing" when he uncovered the Nestene's plan). Rose is written to be only the first part in a "set-up story" that also includes The End of the World, and yet it stands on its own. RTD avoids all the problems of the TV movie and makes it look easy.

    Russell's fault isn't so much that he stumbled - indeed, he maintained a high degree of competence and consistent quality throughout, and one need only look at Moffat's occasional (and occasionally severe) missteps to see what could have happened - but that he failed to advance much beyond Rose. In some ways, he regressed: the spiky ninth Doctor was replaced by the safer tenth; Aliens of London, which subverts the alien invasion cliche, gave way to The Stolen Earth, which embraces it; the many jibes at British society in Series 1 ("beans on toast") were replaced by cloying nationalism. The series settled into a formula, to a degree that the programme hadn't since the Pertwee era. A winning formula, but a formula nonetheless, and, like the UNIT era, a future critical reaction in fandom is almost inevitable (with Eccleston as the equivalent of Season Seven, i.e. the one part consistently above criticism?).

    Having amassed (to his obvious astonishment) a colossal audience, he became set on retaining them, whereas a less popular show (which, for instance, received the six to seven million viewers the BBC expected for Rose) might have been more daring. This is the kind of thinking that led to The Sontaran Stratagem, an episode that might stand as a definitive RTD-era Doctor Who episode, even though it is among the worst since the series' revival. By the end, it was the unusual, formula-defying episodes that attracted attention (of this reviewer, at least, and I think of lots of people): Blink, Midnight, The Waters of Mars, Partners in Crime and The Sound of Drums, which play around the formula to the better.

    Steven Moffat has been keener to mix things up on a structural level, experimenting with involved story arcs and split seasons, part-time companions and off-screen adventures, two-part openers and the single-episodes-only Series 7. Moffat is, of course, coming to a show that receives seven million viewers week in week out, and lacks the kind of delicacy born of nervousness that RTD possessed. As the inimitable Finn Clark put it, RTD never breaks out of the box. He may stretch the sides a bit and see how it looks on another shelf, but never gets rid of it altogether. But it's a nice box, all things told, and we shall never know whether Moffat owes his show's survival to RTD's prior safety.

    There are undoubtedly people out there who could have produced a higher level of quality over five years, just as it is undoubtable that Russell has plenty of problems of his own, but ultimately New Who is a Good Thing, and Russell is the man responsible for that.

    Oh, and Russell? Nine out of ten.