It might seem hard to believe now but there was a time, back in the early Nineties, when I thought Russell T Davies would be good for “Doctor Who”! Following on from the excellent children’s serial “Moondial”, he was commissioned to write his first television drama “Dark Season”. Essentially two three-part serials, comprising 25-minute episodes, the lead character Marcie, played by Victoria Lambert, became thought of as a kind of female teenage Fourth Doctor figure with a slight nod to Sophie Aldred’s Ace. Some have said since that this serial inspired Joss Whedon’s “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” in that there is a school, where much of the action takes place, under which is a Behemoth, brought to life in the second story by none other than Servalan herself, Jacqueline Pearce. For Behemoth read Hellmouth. The serial is also notable in featuring an early performance by a young Kate Winslet.
“Dark Season”, like “Moondial” before it, was directed by Colin Cant and lucky enough to have a music score by David Ferguson. David is probably best known for sending shivers up the spine in the second season of “Cracker” as well as having the same effect in the BBC adaptations of several Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell) mysteries (“A Fatal Inversion”, “Gallowglass”, “A Dark Adapted Eye”), again in the early Nineties. Trained as a composer myself, it’s inevitable I’ll regard incidental music of the utmost importance in a drama’s success. I believe one of the reasons Graeme Harper’s two “Doctor Who” serials of the mid Eighties (“The Caves of Androzani” and “Revelation of the Daleks”) were so successful was because of the Roger Limb scores. Anyway, together with RTD, this talented triumvirate went on to produce a further six-part children’s serial, a couple of years later, in the much more adult themed “Century Falls”. Again centring around the activities of three teenagers, the story concerns the inability of the women in a village to conceive, and the possibly paranormal reasons as to why they should remain barren. Sterility being quite a heady subject for teatime possibly explains why this serial has never been repeated. A small point of interest is the inclusion of sisters with the surname Harkness, seemingly popular with RTD and no doubt distant relatives of a certain space-faring Captain.
In the light of the two recent only-moderately-successful (for me at least) seasons of “Doctor Who”, I wonder if I will enjoy “Dark Season” and “Century Falls” quite as much when rewatching them, now that they have become available on DVD? I actually viewed “Century Falls” just before “Doctor Who” returned to our screens last year, from a Beta tape made at the time of transmission, to help get in the right frame of mind for the new series! I hadn’t actually seen any of RTD’s other work since these two productions, not even the most notorious and best known of them “Queer as Folk”, simply because the subject matter didn’t particularly appeal. I do regret still not having seen “The Second Coming” however. “Dark Season” I remember as fun but lightweight with much more meat on the bones of “Century Falls”. I was disappointed RTD didn’t continue to write for this genre and now I’m disappointed that he has! Had he shown us his version of the Time Lord before the advent of “Buffy” I believe his “Doctor Who” would’ve been a completely different proposition. It might’ve been partly directed by Colin Cant with music by David Ferguson! Ironically, if Davies hadn’t influenced Whedon, with his most “Doctor Who”-like serial, who in turn influenced him to create “Rosie, the Alien Ex-Terminator”, we might have actually got a new series of “Doctor Who”!