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Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  1,269 ratings  ·  106 reviews
'Writing isn't just a job that stops at six-thirty... It's a mad, sexy, sad, scary, obsessive, ruthless, joyful, and utterly, utterly personal thing. There's not the writer and then me; there's just me. All of my life connects to the writing. All of it.'

A unique look into the BBC's most popular family drama, Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale is a year in the life of the hit te
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published September 25th 2008 by BBC Books
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 ·  1,269 ratings  ·  106 reviews

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Apr 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating insight into the production of a hit tv series through a series of correspondence between Russell T Davis the head writer of Doctor Who and Benjamin Cook a journalist for DWM.

This book predominantly covers 2008 where the show was at its absolute peak, along with spin-off shows Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures.
With a heavy workload and vast approaching deadlines, it was interesting to see how Davis coped under pressure.

Most interesting were the different plans for Season 4, i
Feb 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
Even if you're blubbing at the Doctor and Rose on Bad Wolf Bay in 'Doomsday', you're empathising, you're feeling it, and there's an echo of every loss you've ever had in that.

It's tricky to write about my reaction to The Writer's Tale because it was so mixed. Primarily, it was so honest, and I never expected about 98% of the book (if not more) to be made up of emails between Russell T. Davies and journalist Benjamin Cook. Cook asks brilliant questions, never forced, and Davies has a wonderful ma
Nicholas Whyte
Dec 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
"[return][return]This book is essential reading, not just for the Doctor Who fan, but for anyone who is even slightly interested in the show, or more broadly who is interested in the process of writing for television.[return][return]It is structured as a year-long email conversation between journalist Benjamin Cook and Russell T Davies about the process of writing the fourth season of New Who, from Voyage of the Damned to Journey's End. (Also briefly inc ...more
May 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book was an unexpected delight. I noticed it by accident at my local library, and picked it up expecting some backstage insights into the television show but not much else. What I found was something richer and broader - an insightful and intelligent look at the whys and hows of scriptwriting, and of working in television in general.

"Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale" consists of approximately a year's worth of emails between Russell T. Davies, the head writer and producer of the relaunched Doc
Jan 25, 2011 added it
Shelves: memoir
Pretty much the strengths and weaknesses you would expect. Interesting reading about BBC TV production, which is not as different from US production as I'd expect -- it seems to end up with the same crazed rush at (and well past) deadlines despite the apparently more sensible schedule and more limited seasons.

Davies is surprisingly oblivious to some of his own prejudices/carelessness -- I'd have expected the awareness of how gay men are stereotyped in the media (he complains, understandably, abo
May 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I read the second edition and I.LOVE.IT!

It's as if I had watched Doctor Who all over again. I now know things for sure without having to watch S5 (in regards to River for instance) because I cannot bear it just yet. I cried all over again at how beautifully Ten's and Wilf's final scene in 418 are written.

And most and for all, I am so incredibly grateful to recognize that such an accomplished writer seems to battle the same struggles I have, a pure amateur. At least to some extent. That actually
Oct 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Doctor Who fans, anyone interested in the process of writing
Looking at what I read, it should come as no surprise that Doctor Who is something of a passion of mine. (To paraphrase author Paul Cornell, it's not a favorite TV series, it's a lifestyle choice.) Having said that, Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale is almost certainly the best nonfiction book about the series I've ever read, and one of the best books about writing, as well.

The show collects about a year's worth of email correspondence between executive producer/head writer Russell T Davies and jour
I was pretty disappointed with this. The parts about development and storylining of Doctor Who were really interesting - exactly the sort of behind-the-scenes insights I'd been hoping for. Sadly, they were few and far between. The vast bulk of the book comprised Russell T Davies moaning about how hard it is being a writer, and salivating over Russell Tovey. It's actually pretty weird how much he goes on and on about the incidental character Midshipman Frame, who had, what, four minutes of screen ...more
Andrew Thompson
Nov 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
Whatever your view of Russell T Davies, you cannot deny that the man is utterly devoted to his cause. I'm 3/4 of the way through this at the moment and it's very interesting to see how he writes the series, rewrites other writers' episodes and generally guides the good ship Who through the choppy seas of production. Seemingly awake 24 hours a day, he generates ideas at a scary rate. Not all are necessarily good ideas, it must be said. But those familiar with the show will see how an idea thought ...more
Mar 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Ok, so Davies is a nutter. A wildly creative nutter who is very good at smoking, ogling nice men, making himself crazy with missed deadlines, and a maniac writing practice that involves mapping entire episodes in his head before even beginning. All after red line panic has set in, so he can whip himself into a Phillip K. Dick type frenzy and actually you know, write summat.

He also rewrites everybody else's scripts for consistency. Flagellant. The book left me with a sense of gladness that he is
Tim Mckinstry
May 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing, dr-who
Wow, if you love Dr Who and you love anything writing related you'll love this book.

Not intentionally written as an insight into writing for TV and writing in general it began as email correspondence between Russel T. Davies and writer Benjamin Cook. Don't let that put you off though, that's exactly why it's better than any "how to" books out there.

See for yourself.
Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was put off reading this for quite some time. More than 700 pages of e-mails back and forth between Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook. Really, who'd read that? Well it turned out to be my bad, because this was a riveting work, Ben - or Benjamino, as he's often called in these correspondences - teasing answers out of Russell about the writing process, the pressures, the relentless grind of being the driving force behind Doctor Who from its return to television in 2005 to his eventual departure ...more
S. Downing
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
For writers. For Doctor Who fans.
I loved RTD’s seasons of Doctor Who and this peek behind the curtain to his writing process is a treat. A set of (many,many) emails between Russell and a journalist Benjamin Cook, this is a very honest reveal of the agonies and ecstasies of creating a popular TV show. Russell is painfully honest about his anxieties and very funny in his crushes and naughty ideas. Benjamin pushes just the right amount, chasing up when the writer goes quiet or is hesitant about go
Matthew Fleming
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Honest and instructive. I love that this book exists: what a brilliant record of the ups, downs and doubts involved in the writing process. Yes, it’s creepy that Davies jokes about writing scenes for actors he fancies where they’re only in their underwear, but I’ve just watched the bit in You Only Live Twice where Sean Connery pretends to be Japanese – sometimes you just have to let something go. And this is full of excellent writing tips as well as fascinating insights into Doctor Who itself. A ...more
Helen Hnin
This was really nice. I enjoyed it a lot but I don't think I enjoyed it as much as I hoped. Some stuff just rub me the wrong way. And unlike the majority of the fans, I don't prefer Davies' run over Moffat.

But some parts of this book were just amazing. Especially what hit me very hard were the could-have-been-s of the scripts. It makes me a bit sad but I'm glad that I learned how the series 4 came to be.
Felicity Turner
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
If I could rate this higher I would. An insight into my favourite television series during the tenure of my favourite Doctor and favourite 'new Who' companion. Plus an incredible look behind the scenes at the world of script writing and a very relatable script writer. A book that brings the humanity to sci-fi, which is ironically what Russell T. Davies was brilliant at doing in Doctor Who. ...more
Catherine Harris
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
As a massive fan of Doctor Who, I may be a bit biased, but this is the book that encouraged me to start writing again and for that reason I would recommend it to anyone. It's brutally honest and reveals things about the writers and actors mentioned that is not usually covered in traditional TV or magazine interviews. ...more
Mai Khanh
Sep 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
jumbled at times (after all, they are email exchanges about many things other than DW and his writing career), but as a whole insightful about many things. plus, you've got to have a look at RTD's empathetic heart and intricate mind.
recommended for both DW fans and anyone interested in writing.
RTD's occasional illustrations are nice bonus too.
Olivia Ambrose
Have to admit to some skimming of the actual scripts part, but it's such an interesting look at the work behind the scenes of the writing of season four of Doctor Who. A must-read for anyone who is interested in writing and/or Russell T. Davies's writing process/thought processes. Really interesting. ...more
Jayne Lamb
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Oh my god, if you shrank Russel T Davies and made him a chick (and extracted his writing talent obvs), he would be me. He's incredibly self-obsessed and self-conscious and basically writes his shows around the actors he thinks are hot.
Also in his favour: he's not Steven Moffat.
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A must read for any writer. This isn't just a list of things to think about while writing, this is a look inside the mind of a writer AS HE IS WRITING! It's wonderful. ...more
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fun inside look at the series!
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
The second time through was even more illuminating as to the Doctor Who
Denise White
Dec 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Really interesting to see the writing process
Feb 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 9, library, non-fiction, 2010
This is another book I discovered thanks to the internet (there seem to be a lot of those, which is probably why my TBR pile is so out of control). This time it was discussed on one of the Doctor Who podcasts I listen to. I don’t 100% remember which one, but I think it was the DWO WhoCast. I listened, thought the podcasters’ comments were interesting and didn’t think much more about it. A few weeks later, we were in the library and my husband saw it on the new books stand and pointed it out to m ...more
Chris Turner
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a tabletop book, with a really beautiful layout that makes it engaging. The mix of scripts, light banter and writing tips and experiences makes it a fun read. You do need to be a Who fan to enjoy this and having seen the series it relates to made it more enjoyable. Reading it slowly over a year, the amount of time it spans over, was quite nice. Well worth a read if you are a fan of Tennant era Dr Who.
Jessica Snell
Oct 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
I just got a book that's been on my Amazon wishlist for awhile: Russell T Davies' (and Benjamin Cook's) Dr. Who: The Writer's Tale.

I've been an admirer of his work, and I'm becoming even more admiring of his honesty about his writing process. Some great stuff so far:

When asked if he's ever gone into some tricky situation in order to gather material, he says no, but then says, "Is that true, though? Did I just lie my way out of that? Okay, so I've never sought out an experience just so that I ca
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The ultimate answer to: ‘Where do you get your ideas?’

The all too human insights into writing! YAY! Russell is like one of us! He procrastinates, he deliberates, he worries, he stresses. As a writer, I loved this book. It helps if you are a fan of Doctor Who, but if you ever wanted a balls-to-the-wall honest insight into the thoughts behind the writing process (the forming of ideas, the influences from others) this is the book for you.

600+ pages of bliss!
May 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Holy cow, did I enjoy this. There are so many little tidbits on writing that I loved, like:

"If you're a writer, don't fret away the hours worrying about this structure stuff. All the joy and fear and fun and despair is in the writing, not in the flowchart."

But it's not all about writing, not in the way writing books are these days. It's about the life of a writer at the peak of a crazily successful show, at the possibly most frenzied time in his career, and how the creative process happens at al
Apr 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Having completed a two-month long viewing of the entire new Doctor Who series courtesy of my Netflix queue (I bought them all shortly thereafter, I gushingly admit), and while waiting for the new series with the new Doctor and companion in just a week’s time, I ordered up the second updated edition of Davies and Cook’s email correspondence through Amazon (using a generous Amazon gift certificate I received on my birthday last month) and devoured it in a less than a week. Yes, all 700 pages. Whic ...more
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Who out there watches Dr. Who? 8 16 May 07, 2013 06:18PM  

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Russell T Davies, OBE, is a Welsh television producer and writer. He is a prolific writer, best known for controversial drama serials such as Queer as Folk and The Second Coming, and for spearheading the revival of the popular science-fiction television series Doctor Who, and creating its spin-off series Torchwood. Both are largely filmed in Cardiff and the latter is set there.

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