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TV: Doctor Who – The Waters of Mars

November 15, 2009

 

Around about four years ago (I can’t be exact) I sent an email to Doctor Who Executive Producers Julie Gardner and Russell T Davies asking them for an interview for inclusion in my modestly titled Thoroughly Good Podcast.

This was par for the course, I reckoned. Here was I a mere outsider to the BBC, reckoning I was the big man, attempting to rub shoulders with the big guys in the hope of an interview. I wanted to find out about the show, find out about their new series Torchwood. I was sure they’d be accommodating.

I heard nothing from either of them. Nothing. Zippo. Silence. A couple of other people (their names, rank and file escape me at the present time) did contact me. I can’t say they were particularly pleasant. They weren’t exactly rude, although they did make it quite clear to me, my line manager and his line manager in no uncertain terms that me recording a podcast in my bedroom about Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner, Torchwood or Doctor Who wasn’t allowed.

I was heartbroken, it has to be said. I dealt with things in the way I continue to deal with things now.

I threw my toys out of the pram. I formally announced the end of my love affair with the programme and promptly put my DVD box set of season one up for sale on the interweb. Nobody bought it. It still resides on the bottom shelf of DVDs alongside the classic series collection of Doctor Who I look upon adoringly.

Any new Doctor Whos I’ve watched in the intervening years have been through an incredibly critical eye. I’ve been dismissive of nearly everything, spectacularly allowing my prejudices to influence what I’ve seen on screen. Then, when I learnt David Tennant, Julie Gardner and Russell T Davies were leaving the good ship Doctor Who, I confess to feeling pleased. Maybe the next bunch would be agreeable to an interview.

I’m quite a bitter old queen. Really, quite a bitter old queen.

A few weeks ago, however, something unexpected happened.

I met up with someone who used to work on Doctor Who in season two. Shortly after offering me a large glass of wine he, completely unbidden, launched into a series of happy memories about working on the Doctor Who production team. He spoke so warmly of executive producers Julie Gardner and Russell T Davies and Phil Collinson, the disparaging mental image I had of the lot of them wandering around the offices of BBC Wales accompanied by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales playing the Doctor Who theme music behind them began to dissipate.

How could my prejudiced view of all of them hold up against someone who spoke warmly of his experiences when I hadn’t let on about any of mine?

That’s why I ended up buying season two of Doctor Who on Friday – David Tennant’s first series in the role. I’ve watched five episodes from that series this weekend ahead of the latest episode (and first of his last three – The Waters of Mars) this weekend.

Three out of the five episodes I’ve watched have been better than I remember watching first time around. I’ve concluded I must have been drunk or (almost certainly) had the memory of what amounted to nothing but a misunderstanding cloud my judgement. Tennant is brilliant (although I knew this anyway) and there’s some really quite dark writing in places.

But none of that I’ve re-visited this weekend compares to the first episode of Tennant’s last installment. Dark, upsetting and scary, Davies and Gardner have disproved the age old Doctor Who myth that the British can’t do futuristic drama. Scariness is implied when it’s not obvious on the screen and I’ve had my mind tinkered with – something to be applauded. But where the episode scores is its proof that an extra 15 minutes doesn’t mean 15 minutes of filler.

Sure, I’d still want it to go on week after week (the next episode on Christmas Day seems like a lifetime away – the broadcast itself may well eclipse Christmas celebrations too), but I’ve ended an hour’s entertainment feeling suitably satisfied. For critical bitter old me that’s important.

Now, can I have that interview?

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