Russell T. Davies On Bringing 'Doctor Who' Back To Our TVs & Hearts
Cucumber and Banana, two new shows about aspects of LGBT life from the brilliant mind of Russell T. Davies, premiered on Logo TV on Monday, April 13. Need proof of just how brilliant that mind is? Davies is responsible for bringing Doctor Who back to television after a 16-year hiatus. The 2005 reboot of the series brought a whole new generation of Whovians into the world, and we have Davies to thank for it. David Tennant's Tenth Doctor is my personal favorite (though I'm definitely not alone in that) and he and Davies actually finished their Doctor Who tenure together in 2009. So Davies' time as showrunner inevitably holds a special place in my heart. Although Davies no longer works on Doctor Who (Steven Moffat took over after he left), Davies tells me he has "enormous happiness" looking at the success of the show. And though Doctor Who is an iconic series, it is a testament to Davies that his reboot was so well-received and is such a massive hit.
Davies says that Doctor Who "was my favorite show since I was a child," so I have to ask which of the episodes created under the the mega fan-turned-showrunner is his favorite. "Gosh that's hard. I think I have a different favorite everyday," Davies says. "But I particularly like the story I did called 'Midnight,' which was David Tennant on his own...the power of speech was taken from him and I was so proud of that one. Obviously, tomorrow I'll come up with a different one. I like them all, to be honest. I do like them all." (The man wrote over 30 episodes of the show, so it's understandable that it's hard to choose just one, but I'd have to agree with him that "Midnight" was a standout.)
As important as the Doctor is (he may be the most important creature in the entire universe), we can't forget another charismatic time traveler — Captain Jack Harkness. Although Captain Jack first appeared in an episode written by current Doctor Who showrunner Moffat (Season 1's "The Empty Child"), Davies did have a hand in creating him, saying, "I wanted a loose, bisexual, fun character on television."
The swashbuckling character was one of the first bisexual characters on TV — and definitely the first bisexual character on Doctor Who. Stories about the LGBT community are near and dear to Davies and though Jack wasn’t the main character on Doctor Who (but he was the main character on Davies' Who spinoff Torchwood), seeing a man who was sexually interested in men, women, and even alien species, was a refreshing take for a show that first premiered in 1963.
"It's an extraordinary cultural event, Doctor Who. It's been on for 52 years now and is written into people's DNA," Davies says. "So to introduce John Barrowman...as a fun, bisexual — or omnisexual — character was very cheeky. But brilliant when welcomed. And the most wonderful thing was to see children appreciate that. A great big children's audience took Captain Jack as their hero and I kind of very happily thought to myself, 'Job done there.'"
Now Jack is one of the most lovable characters of the Doctor Who reboot (and possibly the entire Doctor Who universe in general), but unfortunately, not every fan of the show felt that way. When I ask if there was any backlash to Jack’s sexuality, Davies explains that "there's always some idiots."
"I was harangued by a woman at a wedding very upset that Captain Jack had kissed the Doctor," Davies explains. "But I just argued with her until she left the wedding. It wasn't even my wedding — I just made her leave. I was so furious with her."
Even before Doctor Who, Cucumber, and Banana, Davies was bringing LGBT characters to TV with Queer as Folk. And he used the 1999 original British series to advocate for bringing Doctor Who back to TV with the character Vince's love of the classic series. "Doctor Who fell off air for 16 years, so while it was off air, I was using other programs I was writing to try and promote Doctor Who to make sure that BBC brought it back. And it worked in the end, I just wore them down," he says. Check out a young Aiden Gillen — aka Littlefinger from Game of Thrones — in the below Queer as Folk clip.
Although I'm still mourning the fact that Davies left the Who franchise, I'm happy that he has continued his quest of bringing sexually diverse characters to TV with Cucumber and Banana. And I can't wait to see what Davies will bring to our televisions next.