Ahead of the first episode of his new series, Years and Years, our former supremo Russell T. Davies has been speaking to the Big Issue about life, his late mum, being gay, and ̶ of course ̶ Doctor Who.
I wish my mum had lived to see me making Doctor Who. She loved it too. She would have been thrilled… My dad was gutted when I stepped down from Doctor Who, he said, “You’re yesterday’s man now”. Cheeky thing.
Sadly, it’s not just his mum who Russell has lost. In 2018, Russell’s husband ̶ though he always preferred to call him his boyfriend ̶ Andrew Smith died from a brain tumour. Russell took two years off work to care for Andrew until the end. He even agreed to marry:
“I only got married ’cos he was so ill. I mean, I had to be dragged kicking and screaming down that aisle. Kicking and screaming. It was a hilariously sad wedding, just six people, but that day we had the biggest laugh, because it was so tragic, so wonderful… I knew I would miss the love… I knew I would miss loving him, but what I didn’t know I would miss is being loved. That’s quite hard. That’s hideous, actually.”
Now Russell is back to writing. After scoring a hit earlier this year with his well-received adaptation of John Preston’s book, A Very English Scandal, which documents the scandalous affair between the former Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe and Norman Scott, the BBC are about to broadcast Russell’s new original work, Years and Years. The series has been described as “an epic drama” following a family from 2019 through 15 years of political, economic, and technological upheaval and stars Emma Thompson, Rory Kinnear, and Who alumni Russell Tovey, Anne Reid, and Jessica Hynes.
Except for Emma Thompson, who plays a populist celebrity-turned-politician described as “Katie Hopkins meets Nigel Farage”, the main characters are the Lyons family, who live in favourite Davies locale: Manchester. Also in keeping with Russell’s canon, Russell Tovey’s character is gay and, even though Years and Years is not a “gay drama” like Queer as Folk or Cucumber, Russell is still intent on providing positive depictions of gay people living happy, normal lives. And he has a rebuttal to all those viewers of the Doctor Who who cried “gay agenda” whenever an occasional queer bobbed up in the sea of straightness:
“It’s hard to get across to straight people how massively, fundamentally straight our culture is. Pretty much every main character in every story has been straight. We can look back and add a queer slant in hindsight, but from The Bible on, every lead character for centuries and centuries has been straight. All our history, all of Jane Austen and Shakespeare and the Brontës, straight, straight, straight.”
Years and Years begins tonight at 9pm on BBC One.