Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale - The Final Chapter by Russell T.Davies and Benjamin Cook.

Book Review by Chris Lindsay | 05 May 2010
Book title: Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale: The Final Chapter
Author: Russell T.Davies and Benjamin Cook.

Comprising two and a half years' worth of emails between Doctor Who’s outgoing head writer Russell T Davies and fan journalist Ben Cook, readers are given a behind the scenes account, as Davies oversees his final run of episodes before stepping down. As an insider's view into the production of the biggest show on TV, the book is enough to get even the most casual fanboy/girl/multiform salivating. However, while an exciting prospect for fans, this is an essential purchase for anyone interested in a career in creative writing, sci-fi geek or not. Originally intended as a magazine article on his approach to scripting, the exchanges grew into one of the finest books on writing – in any genre – available. (This expanded edition contains an extra 300 pages more than the original, covering events up to the recording of David Tennant’s final episodes.)

Davies was already one of the most celebrated writers in the UK when he took on Doctor Who and such is the attention paid to the programme that he has become something of a celebrity in media circles and a figurehead for the brand. Witty and warm, he exudes confidence in public, thriving when promoting the show he’s loved since childhood and resurrected to mass acclaim. Yet in these emails he exposes the private bouts of crushing doubt and panic that go hand in hand with the creative process.

Shockingly frank in detailing the punishing schedule and lifestyle undertaken in order to produce the show, it’s a gruelling read in places, but this makes it invaluable to anyone interested in similar endeavours, far more so than the million dry ‘Teach Yourself to Write’ textbooks. Instead of technical theory, the book explores the drive to write; the need to tell stories and the struggle to get those ideas onto paper regardless of the toll it takes on you. Davies' replacement as head writer on the show, Steven Moffat, claims “If you still want to be a writer after reading this, then you probably will be.” I can think of no better encouragement for aspiring writers, fan or otherwise, to devour The Writer's Tale (though a little love for Davros and Time Lords will make the read all the sweeter). [Chris Lindsay]

Out now. Published by BBC Books. Cover price £16.99.