Russell T Davies on how Doctor Who return gave him ‘comfort’ while grieving his late husband

Russell T Davies

Screenwriter Russell T Davies has opened up about the “comfort” Doctor Who gave him following the death of his husband.

In an interview with Radio Times ahead of the release of his new ITVX drama Nolly, Davies revealed that a big reason he decided to return as showrunner for the 60th anniversary episodes in the next chapter of the hit sci-fi series was to help him connect with his late husband Andrew Smith, who passed away in 2018.

The writer explained that while coping with the loss of Andrew hasn’t got any easier with the passing of time, returning to Doctor Who has brought him a sense of “comfort” because it connects him to a time in his life when his husband saw him working on the show.

“I’m quite glad that I’ve gone back to writing Doctor Who because psychologically I’m thinking, ‘He knows what I’m doing now,’” he reflected.

“It gives me comfort. It’s when you do new things he never experienced that it feels odd and you don’t enjoy it so much.”

Davies, who previously served as Doctor Who showrunner from 2005-2010 before his return to the series was announced in 2021, went on to explain that his late husband’s presence can be felt in a lot of his more recent projects.

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 “In some ways, it has got worse because it’s ‘Oh, you’re still not coming back?’” he continued.

“Maybe it’s why Andrew keeps popping up in everything I write. Even in Nolly with the scenes of her cancer, I found myself visiting hospitals. There’s been death in a lot of the stuff I’ve written over the past few years. I don’t mind that. I’m glad. It feels richer.”

Helena Bonham Carter as Nolly. (ITV)
Helena Bonham Carter as Nolly. (ITV)

Davies entered into a civil partnership with Andrew Smith in December 2012, after Smith was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Smith passed away on 29 September 2018.

To date, Davies has served as executive producer, showrunner and head writer across 31 episodes and three mini-episodes of Doctor Who.

The acclaimed writer also spoke about the impact of the series on his own career:

“I grew up with that show, and I’m here because of that show,” he continued. “And from that, I just span out into all kinds of science fiction. I mean, my favourite science fiction is like The Last of Us where it’s not massive, it’s like, you know, just a twist of fate that becomes our all of our fates, all of our lives. It’s a quick little tiny change.

“And that’s pure science fiction, really, as opposed to science fantasy, like Star Wars, or whatever else, because then it becomes epic and big and wonderful but the humanity is sometimes lost.”

Excitement for Davies’ new Doctor Who era has been steadily building since his return was announced. The next instalment of the series will see David Tenant, who famously played the 10th Doctor, return as the 14th iteration of the fictional protagonist, before Ncuti Gatwa takes over the Tardis as the 15th Doctor.

Gatwa was described by Davies as a “thunderbolt” who blew him away after he walked into the casting room.

“I’d watched him onscreen, and thought I had the measure of him, until he walked into the room,” Davies said. “He’s conquered the world. Now all of time and space is his.”