Nick: So what’s the tone of The End Of Time? How doomy can you be on Christmas Day?
Russell T Davies: “It’s unusual. It’s got that kind of ‘Logopolis’ air to it, and I always liked that, because he knew from episode one that something doom-laden and sinister was on its way.”
With the Cloister Bell…?
“Yeah, the Cloister Bell, and the Watcher watching him… It’s got a little bit of that atmosphere to it. Whereas “Planet Of The Spiders” you didn’t know until everything went tits-up at the end of that last episode! ‘Oh dear, I’m going to regenerate!’ This has got that funereal air of ‘Logopolis’ – but it’s not just funereal. You’re talking about five or six scenes.”
You’re bringing back the Master. There’s such a good dynamic between John Simm and David. Did you want to build on that?
“I think one of the only problems with ‘Last Of The Time Lords’ is that they didn’t have much material together. It’s really, really hard to put the Doctor and the Master in a scene together, unless you start writing nonsense, like they say, ‘Ha ha, let’s team up to save the universe!’ And then the Master double-crosses him behind his back… There are rubbish ways of bringing them together. But really, to put the Doctor in a room with a mass murderer is really difficult, because he’s not going to let him go. And he’s not going to forgive him, he’s not going to let him loose onto other people. So if you treat it as real then you really can’t have them together for long, because either one of them would do something about it. The Master would kill the Doctor or the Doctor would stop the Master.
“But I’ve found ways around it. They have much more screen time together this time. But there’s a limit to it. You can’t have great long scenes of them having a chat together, because they are absolute opposites. And I had no idea that John Simm is such a genre fan! I didn’t realise this the first time I worked with him, but you can sit and have a half-hour conversation with him about Superman and The X-Men. He loves all that sort of stuff.”
So what kind of beats did you want to hit in this final story?
“In a way you want to hit every beat. You want to have really funny moments. In the opening scene the Doctor comes up with one of those rattling, fast Doctor speeches, where every other word is a punchline, and David delivers it at top speed. And there’s one of the cheekiest jokes in the world in there. So it’s your last chance to do that. It’s a rattlingly funny scene. He gets scenes with June Whitfield where I’d be hooting with laughter. So a lot of that’s played to the hilt. I always thought Bernard Cribbins was like discovering a great secret, because he’s so brilliant, he’s so loved by people, you think ‘Why isn’t this man on the screen all the time?’ And to put those two together… because the Doctor and Wilf actually had very little to do with each other in series four. They had some funny scenes together, but not much. So to put those two together, to have an 80 year-old man talking to a 900 year-old man, and talking about the end of their lives basically… It’s like a showreel. You want David’s funniest moments, you want his most emotional moments, and as ever you’re always looking for scenes that the Doctor hasn’t done before, to push him into new areas. There are a lot of those in this.”
And pushing David as well.
“Yes… well, he doesn’t need to be pushed, he excels in those areas, but it’s finding stuff that make him feel like it’s a different day at work. Waving the sonic about and opening doors is not going to be a different day at work. Give him a challenge. Make him take a deep breath and think, ‘Wow, big day at work today…’ And then the camera crew does the same and the director does the same and everyone says ‘This is important.’
“But you know, it’s the death episodes, they’ve got that built into them. It’s the weirdest game to play with the public: everyone knows it’s happening, everyone knows it’s on its way, no one quite knows how, no one knows how they’ll feel at the end of it… it’s brilliant, a really rare opportunity to do that. I hope we haven’t worn it thin! Sometimes you think there must be people thinking ‘Is he still there? Hasn’t he gone yet?’”
There'll be more from Russell in the coming days, but be back tomorrow for day three of our Countdown To The End Of Time
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