Wednesday 7 July 2010

Doctor Who at the BBC: A Legend Reborn

An excellent collection of clips from the BBC radio archives; covering everything from Christopher Eccleston’s round of interviews in 2005 to promote the new show to David Tennant’s promotion of the 2009 Easter special, taking in Jo Whiley, Dale Winton, Mitch Benn, Simon Mayo and Barney Harwood on the way.

It’s fascinating to hear Eccleston discussing the programme, knowing now that by this point he’d already decided to quit. At one point he slips, and mentions being naive, having forgotten that Russell T Davies would be constrained by writing Doctor Who, then quickly backtracks to say he’s writing at the top of his game. Discussing incessantly the psychology of the Doctor and the aliens, you get the impression that he’d be very much in agreement with those who bemoaned the sillier aspects of the show. He’s far from humourless, though: asked what the interest of the character is, the answer is that he’s a 900-year-old alien who used to look like Sylvester McCoy! It’s a bit unfortunate that the CD includes a news report claiming that Eccleston didn’t want to be typecast, which was (as I understand it) the invention of BBC PR, quickly retracted.

When the CD moves on to David Tennant the difference is palpable. His enthusiasm for the show, both past and present, is immense. He was obviously very much in sync with his head writer; asked if they had ever disagreed on the Doctor’s characterisation, he said that there was never any need, because no one knows the character better than Russell. Tennant describes it as the “best job in the world”. Other highlights include a song by Mitch Benn about the time when an episode was scheduled after an FA Cup match, an excerpt from Catherine Tate and David Tennant on the ever-brilliant Radio 4 programme Chain Reaction (I wish they’d been able to include the full episode), and a brutally honest comment from RTD on Robert Carlyle signing up for Stargate: “That’s a surprise – has his agent watched it?!”

Doctor Who at the BBC: A Legend Reborn, curated by Andrew Pixley, presented by Elisabeth Sladen, BBC Audio, 2xCD, 1hr35.

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