Many of you Doctor Who fans will recognize the name Russell T. Davies as the man who began it all... again. Davies is credited with rebooting the series back in 2005 after it had been off the air for almost two decades. It went from being a fairly obscure science fiction show on BBC to a worldwide cultural phenomenon in a few short years, with loyal fans of all ages and backgrounds tuning in to witness the adventures of the alien Doctor and his companion (be it Rose, Martha, Donna, Amy & Rory, or Clara). In addition to his work with Doctor Who, Davies has been a writer on Queer as Folk, and most recently he has written two new complementary gay dramas set to air on Logo TV soon, Banana and Cucumber. We spoke with the charming and witty Davies about his new projects, his thoughts on LGBTQ characters in television, and his Who legacy.
Her Campus: I'm sure many of our readers will be eager to know: why did you decide to reboot the Doctor Who series after so many years off the air? And what was your favorite episode to create?
Russell T. Davies: I simply brought it back because I am the world's biggest Doctor Who fan and I will arm wrestle anyone who says differently. I will fight for that title! I literally loved it all my life, I can remember watching episodes of Doctor Who when I was three years old; some of my earliest memories in life were of this huge, huge cultural institution. It had been taken off air in 1989, so bringing it back was natural to me, and one of my great aims in life, and I still can't believe to this day I actually got to make it. To choose my favorite episodes... I made 60 episodes and so it's very hard to narrow it down. Very early on we did a story called "Aliens of London," in which these great big green monsters called slitheens invaded Downing Street, killed the prime minister, and then blew up Downing Street. I loved that story, what a cheeky, outrageous story that was. We raised havoc with that story! Happy days, very happy days.
HC: Tell us a little about the two new shows you have airing on LOGO TV, Cucumber and Banana. What can we look forward to in these new series?
RD: First of all there's Cucumber; that's an hour-long drama and that's a story of a man called Henry. It's a gay drama and Henry is 46 years old, been living with his partner Lance for nine years. They're very happy, life seems settled, but then they make the terrible mistake of going out on a date night with each other which turns out to be worst date night in history. There have been quite a few done in TV dramas but that was the worst date night in history, I swear to you it's the worst ever, it's an absolute calamity, pitches both of them into a brand new world where, for the rest of the series, they have to rebuild themselves and find out who they are. And then acting as a companion to that show, because Cucumber by necessity, by being about Henry and Lance, is a very gay male show, and the only way to tell it is to focus on that story, but adding to that is Banana. Banana takes some secondary characters from Cucumber and puts them center stage. Cucumber is a novel and Banana is a short story and these short stories pick up different characters in the background and put them center stage, and a range of characters there instead of focusing on males. There's a story about a young lonely 19-year-old lesbian called Scotty, there's a 62-year-old lesbian called Vanessa and all the terrible things she does to keep her job running, and a lovely lesbian couple who get together. There's a trans story which we have a trans actor playing a trans part for the first time on network television. It's a very exciting, broad, vivid world, also brings about younger gay men who don't necessarily feature in Henry's world (Henry being middle-aged) so we're getting a good constellation, a good picture, a snapshot of gay life in 2015. Everyone's not in the snapshot, we can't get everyone in, but I think there's more voices than you do tend to get, a nice range of ages, different ethnic backgrounds, different sexualities, so if you watch those two together you get a really nice experience I think.
HC:With these shows and with Queer As Folk you've helped introduce gay characters to television. Despite all the progress that's been made in bringing LGBTQ+ characters to television (Orange Is The New Black, How To Get Away With Murder, Glee), do you think there is still more progress to be made?
RD: I do. I would say that I'm biased, I'd be happy if it was gay, gay, gay all day long, I think that would be perfect to me, but of course there's further to go. I also think we get so bound up in these arguments that we fail to appreciate the good stuff that's being done. Think about Ryan Murphy for example, people take Ryan Murphy for granted because he's so strong and so vivid with everything he constantly does. We kind of shrug and put it aside and accept that he does that, it's the kind of thing that Ryan Murphy does. I actually think we need to stop shoving it to one side, and say that man is putting lesbian stories, gay stories, young gay stories, trans stories center stage on major networks and we cannot underestimate that.
Shonda Rimes also does amazing work in the same areas, and you know The Walking Dead is getting gay characters, and if The Walking Dead is getting gay characters then we really know we're getting somewhere. So I would always say there's room for more, of course I would, and also I think there's always room for better. We need to explore ourselves and our lives and our truths in more detail, but we are getting there because there's a lot of gay women and gay men on those writing teams, as producers. I think it's the movies that have got to start shooting now, and they are shooting, but television is at a very healthy state and once the movies start cracking and everything starts falling. I think you'll realize, those great big straight icons staring down—to actually have gay men and women up there instead, that's when we'll really start to change, and it has slowly been coming.
HC:Who are your biggest influences and inspirations as a television writer?
RD: It would probably be, I'm thinking of names that you probably don't necessarily know over there in America, but a friend and a great mentor of mine over the years has been a man called Paul Abott. He did a version of Shameless, that was a huge show in Britain as a UK show, and what a genius he is and an amazing man to know. There's a writer called Sally Wainwright I very much admire in Britain at the moment, I love her, and Chris Chibnall who has written Broadchurch which was made in America. And of course Steven Moffat who works for Doctor Who, and there's a lot of very fine writers who work over here, and I love them, I can't get enough of watching their stuff. The level of talent is very high and very exciting.
As a final thought, we asked Davies if he still watches Doctor Who and what he thinks about it, to which he replied: "Of course I do! I've seen literally every episode you could possibly watch, and I wouldn't miss it, I wouldn't go on a holiday while Doctor Who's transmitting. For those thirteen weeks, I'm here on a Saturday night watching, transfixed. I love it!"
Be sure to catch the premieres of Cucumber and Banana, which air this upcoming Monday, April 13 at 10/9 CT on LOGO TV!