Despite being, according to The Guardian, the “fifteenth most important person in the UK media”, Russell T. Davies, OBE, is sitting outside a kebab shop, just off Trafalgar Square in London, at a rather unsteady pavement table.
“Well, you can’t smoke anywhere civilised these days, can you?” Davies says, lighting up the first of approximately 15 cigarettes. He exhales joyfully, and settles back in his chair. “It’s always funny when you go to somewhere like the Ivy,” he continues, “which is supposed to be this wonderfully exclusive . . . enclave of celebrity and power. No riffraff. And then you go outside, and you’ve got Simon Cowell and me and, I don’t know, God, outside on the pavement, shuffling from one foot to the other and smoking. In the pouring rain! HA! HA! HA!”
“Hahahaha! HA! HA! HA!” is Davies’s most-used word. Nine hundred feet tall, with approximately a million teeth, and the energy of an eight-year-old on Christmas Eve, Davies makes Falstaff look like Mr Burns from The Simpsons, in a coma.
t takes this kind of ebullience, of course, to be the man who single-handedly resurrected Doctor Who – taking it from a national joke, in abeyance in some dusty BBC warehouse, to the biggest British TV show of the past 20 years. Man, woman; parent, child; straight, gay; tabloid, broad-sheet – Doctor Who has set a new standard for “across the board appeal”. And, of course, the show – which Davies is now in his final year of writing and executive producing – has become the centrepiece of the Christmas schedules. Last year, 13.3 million people watched Kylie Minogue, dressed as a waitress, die on an intergalactic fork-lift.
“Well I worry if it is the flagship show, this year,” Davies frets, tamping out one cigarette, and lighting another. He gestures to theMirror’s “We Love Telly!” Christmas supplement, which we are using as our guide to the festive schedules.
“Last year, we would have got the cover of that. Look who’s got it now. Harry Hill.” Davies waves a cartoonish fist at Hill’s victorious face. “This is what we sit in the office and discuss. Not who the next Doctor is – but how to get on the cover of the Mirror’s ‘We Love Telly’ Christmas supplement. HA! HA! HA!” But Hill got the cover, I point out, because he is cravenly wearing a Santa hat, and pretending to eat a large Christmas pudding. Of course they put him on the cover – he is the Slag of Christmas Obviousness.
“Well, yes. Can you imagine us asking David Tennant, a man currently playing Hamlet in the West End, to stand there with a Christmas cracker and a party hat, gurning? We kept our dignity – and didn’t get the cover. HA! HA! HA!” Despite his current publicity disappointment, Davies loves Christmas. “Whatever work is like, I always take the full two weeks off, and watch everything. Every single special – racked with guilt and anxiety, of course, about how much work is piling up. But then, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without anxiety and guilt. HA! HA! HA!” So, what will Davies be watching this year?
“Oh look, Doctor Who – how marvellous. And it is marvellous – hooray! Even though I’m working on the next Christmas special now, so it’s all old news to me. It’s proper Victorian. It’s got turkeys, holly, bonnets – and snow at the end, of course. Imagine how lovely it is having David Morrissey and David Tennant together. It’s a dream match.
They’re two Doctors together, and they become a sort of team. And it’s quite sad in places. I do love a bit of Christmas sadness, HA! HA! HA! And the last ten minutes are outrageous. The Cyber King comes!!! Make sure you put three exclamations marks after that, when you write it. To convey how excited I was when I said it.”
Christmas Day, BBC One, 6pm