Goodbye, Doctor Who: David Tennant's exit interview

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Dec 14, 2012, 4:09 PM EST

What could be better than actor David Tennant, Doctor Who's the Doctor, interviewing the show's master re-imaginer, Russell T Davies? The two sat down and offered up a fascinating interview on BBC Radio 2 called Who on Who? With both Tennant and Davies bowing out of Doctor Who after this Saturday's finale special, "The End of Time: Part Two," it ended up being a very special conversation about all things Who, and some things Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures.

A couple big bits of news came out of the conversation. Both Davies and Tennant are headed for Hollywood, a big loss for British television. And The Sarah Jane Adventures has been picked up for a fourth "series" or season.

You can listen to the entire interview at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b00pclt6. The link is available only until Tuesday, Jan. 5. Here's a sampling of their conversation.

On leaving the series ...

"It's not like you wake up one day ... You're thinking all the time how much further to keep going," said Davies. "It just sort of coalesces, doesn't it? So with hindsight you look back and go, 'We decided.' It was always fluid. You were in a state of flux about it yourself."

"Oh, right up until relatively recently. Absolutely, I just kept hedging my bets," Tennant said with a laugh.

However, Davies said he's not sure how he'll feel about leaving the series next week. "This is all hypothetical. Still, we might be weeping, gutted, dismayed. I don't think so, but it could strike us in all sorts of ways. You just don't know. 'Cause it's still valid now, it's still viable."

"Well, it's still ours," added Tennant.

But would Davies consider writing the occasional episode now that Steven Moffat is taking over as executive producer? "He did ask me, but I sort of, well, for a start I've done 60 episodes. Sixty Doctor Who, plus all the Torchwoods, plus all the Sarah Janes. There are only so many ways to conquer the world. I didn't want to sort of write myself thin, but also they've got this brand-new toy box ... that new team," said Davies. "Who wants to be a ghost hanging out? You wouldn't want to hover over Matt Smith's shoulder, although it's a good idea for an episode."

Matt Smith, of course, is taking over as the 11th Doctor and will make his entrance on Saturday's episode, when Tennant regenerates into him.

As for Tennant and Davies, they are headed to Hollywood. It had been announced earlier that Tennant's doing an NBC pilot for a non-sci-fi series called Rex Is Not My Lawyer, about a lawyer who has panic attacks and begins coaching clients to represent themselves. As for Davies, no word on what he'll be doing yet. In the mean time, he's proud of the work he's done.

"Sixty episodes. I can't see where it went wrong, to be honest. That makes me sound terrible," said Davies.

"Is that why you've gone to America, because you've done Britain?" asked Tennant.

"I'll be exiled and thrown out," said Davies with a laugh. "But that's partly because actually there is no other job to match Doctor Who in this country. I feel I've learned so much about publicity and marketing, the business of television, as well. There is nowhere else to apply that except in America, and also they've got so much more to teach us. That's the real point of going, is to learn. Not that I think their system isn't marvelous and completely brilliant. I'm very quick to realize that. It's as made up and improvised and as screaming mad panic as anywhere else, but there are ways of learning things and ways how not to do things out there. It is good to go and be a small fish in a big ocean. You can just soak it all up and it's fascinating."

On creating Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures ...

"It's not just Doctor Who you've ended up writing," said Tennant. "From that came another two shows."

"We just wanted to make more shows, have more output, and we had adult ideas that simply would never fit into Doctor Who," said Davies. "Torchwood was an idea that had been ticking away at the back of my head as a separate series anyway. Psychic cops, it was in my head. You know that sort of format you dream up now and again? It was all in the right time. It was serendipity. There was John Barrowman, who was leaving Doctor Who, temporarily we thought at the time, 'cause you were coming in, and I thought the Doctor didn't need a space buccaneer at his side. So everything just fit into that place, and lo and behold, there was Torchwood, which is more work for more people."

"Sarah Jane after that," said Tennant.

"Yes, that came about because of the phenomenal children's audience for Doctor Who, and again it was an appetite for more," said Davies. The children department asked them to do a show for them. "They wanted a young Doctor Who. I said absolutely not."

"What was the notion? The Doctor's young years?" asked Tennant.

"Like Harry Potter in the Time Lord Academy sort of thing, you know. It would have been you, basically, but played by a young boy."

"I could have done it," joked Tennant.

"Yes, from a distance," said Davies.

"Exactly, if you just put me in soft focus."

"Pull the camera back," joked Davies. "You can imagine how dreadful that would have been. I was like, 'No way are you doing that.' All the mystery and majesty of the Time Lords would just disappear into high school pranks at the academy."

However, Elisabeth Sladen had just come off of a guest role in Doctor Who, he added. "It was, again, just all these pieces in the right place. ... We are now into fourth year commissioned and fifth, hopefully."

On how Doctor Who has changed his life ...

"There's opportunities you get," said Davies. "Unashamedly doors open within the industry because of those successes, which is good for me and annoying for other people who don't get that. But it is different with Doctor Who because it was always my favorite show. To see it being number one, all the time, to see it just being at the top of people's conversations. You can say to anyone in this country, I think, 'I work on Doctor Who,' and they know what you mean. And that's brilliant. You and I worked on a million shows, and that's not true of any other show, actually."

"No, it is completely unique, the kind of reach it has, cross-cultural generational appeal that it has," said Tennant. However, he added, "Apparently it carries on without us." Doctor Who's fifth season on BBC is scheduled for 2010, with its new team in place.

After toying with the idea of working on Merlin, another popular British show, Davies added, "we will be watching like good faithful fanboys."

Tennant and Davies do their final work on Doctor Who in "The End of Time: Part Two," which premieres on BBC America on Saturday, Jan. 2, at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT.

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