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Russell T. Davies

From Academic Kids

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Russell T. Davies, pictured in 2003.
Russell T. Davies (born 1963 in Swansea, Wales, UK) is a British television producer and writer. He is best known for writing ground-breaking and sometimes controversial drama serials such as Queer as Folk and The Second Coming, and for spearheading the revival of the popular science-fiction television series Doctor Who.
Contents

Early career

Davies was educated at Oxford University, from which he graduated with a degree in English Literature in 1984. After initially working in the theatre in his home town of Swansea, he joined the staff of BBC Television, working as a floor manager and production assistant before taking the in-house director's course in the late 1980s. He briefly moved in front of the cameras to present a single episode of the BBC's famous young children's show Play School in 1987, before deciding that his abilities lay in production rather than presenting. It was around this point that he began adding the 'T' to his name on credits - he in fact has no middle name, but decided to add the letter to distinguish himself from the well-known radio presenter Russell Davies.

Working for the children's department at BBC Manchester, from 1988 to 1992 he was the producer of summertime activity show Why Don't You...? which ironically showcased various things children could be doing rather than sitting at home watching the television. While serving as the producer of Why Don't You...? he also made his first forays into writing for television, scripting the comedy dubbed version of The Flashing Blade for the On the Waterfront Saturday morning programme (1989) and creating a children's sketch show for early Saturday mornings on BBC One entitled Breakfast Serials (1990).

Children's television

In 1991 he wrote his first television drama, a six-part serial for children entitled Dark Season for BBC One, which comprised of two linked three-part stories based around a science-fiction / adventure theme. Davies had written the first episode - with the provisional title The Adventuresome Three - on-spec, and submitted it to the BBC's Head of Children's Programming Anna Home via the Corporation's internal mail system. Home liked the script, and after initially commissioning a second episode to see if Davies could handle the scripting, she eventually commissioned the entire serial when a gap opened up in the schedule for later in the year.

The production was extremely successful, and noteworthy for showcasing the acting talents of a young Kate Winslet. Two years later he wrote another equally well-received science-fiction drama in a similar vein, entitled Century Falls. Although transmitted, as Dark Season had been, in an afternoon children's slot, Century Falls explored more mature themes than its predecessor, and gave some indication of where Davies' future career lay in adult television writing.

In 1992 he moved to Granada Television, producing and writing for their successful children's hospital drama Children's Ward, screened on the ITV network. One of the episodes Davies wrote for this series won a BAFTA Children's Award for Best Drama in 1996. At Granada he also began to break into working for adult television, contributing an episode to the crime quiz show Cluedo, a programme based on the popular board game of the same name, in 1993, and also working on the daytime soap opera Families. He continued working on Children's Ward until 1995, by which time he was already consolidating his position outside of children's programming with the comedy The House of Windsor and camp soap opera Revelations (both 1994).

Adult television & Queer as Folk

After a brief stint as a storyliner on ITV's flagship soap opera Coronation Street (for which he later wrote the straight-to-video spin-off Viva Las Vegas!) and contributions to Channel 4's Springhill in 1996, the following year he was commissioned to write for the hotel-set mainstream period drama The Grand for prime time ITV. However, the creator and main writer of the series left the production, as did another writer due to contribute, leaving Davies with the task of having to script the entire series single-handedly. This he did, winning a reputation for good writing and high audience figures. He also contributed to the first series of the acclaimed ITV drama Touching Evil, before leaving the staff at Granada and beginning his fruitful collaboration with the independent Red Production Company.

His first series for Red was the ground-breaking Queer as Folk, which caused much comment and drew much praise when screened on Channel 4 in early 1999. A sequel followed in 2000 and a US version, which ran from 2000-2005, was commissioned by the Showtime cable network there. In 2001 he followed this up with another popular mini-series for Red, Bob and Rose, this time screened on the mainstream ITV channel in prime time. He also contributed an episode for a Red series created by Paul Abbott, Linda Green (shown on BBC One). The same year, he was awarded Writer of the Year at the British Comedy Awards.

In early 2003 he wrote the religious telefantasy drama The Second Coming starring Christopher Eccleston, which cemented his position as one of the UK's foremost writers of television drama, winning him a Royal Television Society Award.

Doctor Who

Davies had long claimed that, independent productions such as his episode of Linda Green aside, he would only return to working for the BBC if he could be placed in charge of their famous, but then out-of-production, science-fiction series Doctor Who, of which he had been a fan since childhood. He had in fact been sounded out for such a venture by the BBC One Controller of the time, Peter Salmon, in 1999. Although nothing came of this due to BBC Worldwide's desire to make a film version of the programme, by late 2003 the new Controller of BBC One, Lorraine Heggessey, had persuaded Worldwide to surrender their film ambitions so that she could commission a new television version.

Davies was approached to head-up the revival by Heggessey and the BBC's Head of Drama Jane Tranter in early September 2003, and an official announcement of the programme's return was made on the 26th of that month. A BBC Wales production for BBC One, Davies is executive producer and chief writer of the series, which was produced in Cardiff. The new series began on March 26, 2005 and was an immediate ratings success. A second series was commissioned mere days later and a third series has been confirmed by the BBC.

Other work

His most recent work before moving on to Doctor Who was another Red mini-series for ITV, Mine All Mine, screened over five episodes in November and December 2004. Set in Davies' home town of Swansea, it was an attempt to bring a portrayal of Welsh family life to a mass audience, and although the comedy / drama was well-received by critics, viewing figures were unspectacular.

Other current projects include Casanova, a Red production for BBC Wales in association with Granada, for whom it was originally commissioned before Davies took it to the BBC. This was broadcast on BBC Three in March 2005, with a showing on BBC One to follow later that year. In 2003, Davies had been announced as writing the screenplay for a film version of the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? cheating scandal, although the current status of this project as of December 2004 is unclear.

In July 2004, in a poll of industry experts conducted by Radio Times magazine, he was voted the 17th Most Powerful Person in Television Drama. Outside of television and film, his prose work has included the novelisation of Dark Season for BBC Books in 1991 and an original Doctor Who novel, Damaged Goods, for Virgin Publishing's Doctor Who New Adventures range in 1996.

He lives in Manchester, UK.

Bibliography

External links

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