Russell T Davies asked BBC if he could return to Doctor Who
Straight from RTD's fingertips, the story of how it happened.
So, after all these years, how exactly did former Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies and former Doctor Who star David Tennant end up returning to the show? With Catherine Tate as well! We now know how it happened, folks.
If you thought that the BBC might've made the first move here, begging Davies to resume TARDIS-wrangling duties, just as the Chris Chibnall/Jodie Whittaker era was drawing to a close... well, you'd be wrong.
In his 'Letter from the Showrunner' column for Doctor Who Magazine, Davies has revealed that it all started during lockdown, during a series of online watch-along events that were orchestrated by Emily Cook of Doctor Who Magazine. And it was actually Davies who had to ask the BBC if a return would be possible.
As Davies recalls it, "The cast and crew of selected episodes tweeting simultaneously with fans worldwide. Enormous fun! David Tennant, Catherine Tate and I gathered online to watch The Runaway Bride."
Davies continued: "I just looked at my phone. It was 20.01 on 18 December 2020 — Catherine texted me to say how much she'd enjoyed it. I texted back: 'God, let's get David to do some more Doctor and Donna, I loved it so much!'"
Davies went on to note, "until I looked those texts up, I thought Catherine said it first. But it was me! I don't think I really meant it, though. Honestly: no secret plan at work. But then Catherine replied, 'Let's do it! The Doctor and Donna — The Lost Adventures.'"
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Even with Tate seeming keen, Davies wasn't sure if it would actually happen. "I thought that was that", he wrote in his column, "We wouldn't actually go back, would we?"
Davies, by his own account, did nothing at this stage. "But then! Catherine texted on 23 December, 'David said he'd do it again in a heartbeat! Who do we need to speak to? Come on, let's get the old band back together!'"
The reaction from Davies went like this: "Oh. Really? Wow! Merry Christmas. So I double-checked with David, he said yes, and then... Well, I simply had to be professional. As a former producer of Doctor Who, I had a job to do; if David and Catherine had expressed a wish to return, it was literally my job to let the BBC know. It wasn't my choice any more. It was my duty."
Davies added later in the column, "So I just thought, well I'll throw it out there, and since Chris [Chibnall, showrunner for the Whittaker era] is doing the busiest job in TV, I won't add to his workload. I'll email Piers Wenger, the Director of Drama. Simply reporting in to ask: I have no idea about your future plans, but might this fit in somewhere? A Special? The anniversary? An extra? A one-off, maybe? What d'you think?"
And the rest, as they say, is history. Or is it the future? Or a parallel present? All we know for now is that Jodie Whittaker's Doctor regenerated back into David Tennant (with Tennant adding a line during the regeneration) at the end of the latest episode, The Power of the Doctor.
We'll have to tune in next year (the specials are coming in November 2023) to see how exactly Tennant's new/old Doctor reunites with Tate's Donna, who, as you might recall, has something of a condition — her head will explode if she ever remembers the Doctor. How's that for a reunion?
Doctor Who Magazine issue 584 is out now.
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