While he may have left Doctor Who behind him many years ago, screenwriter Russell T Davies hasn’t given up on time travel just yet, with his upcoming BBC drama Years and Years set to follow one ordinary family into the near future.
“It’s a family saga,” Davies told RadioTimes.com at the Radio Times Covers Party in January. “Family sagas often travel through time, like through World War II or through the 20s, but this one goes into the future.”
He added, “It starts in 2019 and goes forward 15 years, so you see where we’re heading. History and society seems to be mad at the moment; it seems to be quite a fevered time. So it’s trying to capture that, and trying to guess where we’re going.”
While the series will deal with politics (especially focused around Emma Thompson’s polarising celebrity turned politician Vivienne Rook), Davies said he intentionally steered the series to avoid involving current US President Donald Trump, instead opting to set most of the story after he would have left office.
“I’ve had to invent some fictional stuff that is clearly a parallel for what happens,” Davies said.
“It really kicks off in 2024, which would be the end of Trump’s second presidency anyway, which I’m quite sure is going to happen.
“That gives us a bit of a clean slate to see where we’re going, so I hope it works.”
Davies added that he’s aware of the risks of trying to predict the future, which is why he has tried to focus the story on the human drama of his central characters.
“It’s not about the accuracy of the guesses – it’s about how we survive,” he explained. “It’s about how we’re all surviving now as people: as lovers, as families, as brothers and sisters. And where we’re going.”
He added that the cast, including Thompson, Last Tango in Halifax star Anne Reid and Russell Tovey, stops the series from becoming merely a “political diatribe”.
L-R, the cast of Years and Years: Rosie (Ruth Madeley), Stephen (Rory Kinnear), Muriel (Anne Reid), Bethany (Lydia West), Celeste (T’Nia Miller), Ruby (Jade Alleyne), Daniel (Russell Tovey), Ralph (Dino Fetscher)
“It’s not a great big political diatribe. You will love these brothers and sisters, and their grandmother, Anne Reid’s the grandmother to them all. You’ll hope for them, you’ll care for them, you’ll cry for them, you’ll laugh. I hope it works.
“It’s lovely – it’s got Emma Thompson, it’s got Russell Tovey, Rory Kinnear, Jessica Hynes, Ruth Madeley, Anne Reid of course. It’s a great cast.
“We are exactly two thirds of the way through filming. We hope it’ll be out soon – it’s going to be a good few months yet.
“We’re very excited by it; fingers crossed,” he said.