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18 June 2014
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Classic TV | Century Falls
Interview: Writer Russell T Davies

Century Falls: Click for More Pictures

How did you come to write Century Falls?

A project at Children's BBC fell through, and Colin Cant phoned me up, asking if I had a six-parter in a hurry! I said yes, and off we went.

Did you approach the project differently from Dark Season?

It was designed for the 5.10pm slot, whereas Dark Season originally went out at 4.35pm, so I knew the later slot could be tougher and more risky.

What gave you the idea?

Again, another archetype. That dark, sinister English village. Which the League of Gentlemen has now ruined for ever! I like taking those old, classic ideas, and reinventing them - not to spoil them, but to make them relevant to each new generation. It doesn't matter if the story's original or not, it's how you tell it.

Are we just imagining that Century Falls is a coming-out allegory? It does feature a lonely blond boy, who goes out on furtive nocturnal errands to explore his special powers. And he's drawn to flashy lights.

Yes. Nice try. Though in its simplest sense, everyone feels like a lonely fat teenager, and everyone wants to 'come out' of that. If anything, the whole drama is coming to terms with never having children.

Century Falls doesn't feel like Kids TV in approach (especially compared to stuff like Watt on Earth). Did it have a bigger budget? Were there any attempts to make it more childish?

No attempts at all - the producer, Richard Callanan, was wonderfully receptive. Nothing was toned down. He did worry that we'd have to cut the dialogue about Mrs Hunter and her unborn child being 'fused together'. But much to my surprise, it was transmitted intact.

Looking back, I must admit that maybe I went too adult. It could have done with a bit more clarity and exposition. Although sometimes I think I'm still working out what it's about.

Were the three children based on anyone in particular?

Not particularly. One nice, one nasty, one stuck in the middle. Again, it's archetypal. You could use the same description for the Queer As Folk trio.

The character of Ben is very unusual for a central figure - he's grumpy, rude and cruel. Why?

Oh come on. Who doesn't like a bad boy? Better that than some great big wet public schoolboy wittering on about being nice to his mum. That's what I couldn't stand about The Demon Headmaster, all those kids were so nice and sweet and kind and polite. Have you ever been young? D'you remember what it's like?

The character of Tess is not your standard heroine. Was she a deliberate attempt to do something new and to make a statement?

When I say everyone feels like a fat kid, I really mean it. I don't believe there's anyone who doesn't feel out of their depth and insecure and lonely, at least some of the time. And that's Tess. She isn't cured at the end, she isn't 'better', but she does come to terms with herself.

How do you feel watching these shows now? Do you feel they stand up well, especially compared to other stuff of the time?

Oh, I love 'em. Sorry, but I really do. There's no point in doing this job if you can't take pleasure in what you've done. Of course there are faults. But I love them too!

Is there a moment of Century Falls that you're deeply, deadly proud of?

Episode four of Century Falls, as May Harkness remembers the bonfire, when they burnt all the children's clothes.

Apparently you had plans for a third series. Can you tell us about that?

It was only a vague plan - a series set in 1999 (I'm so old!), a six-parter going from Boxing Day to New Year's Day 2000. Very millennial, of course. I never wrote a word.

There was a psychic kid with his own TV show, a girl visiting her brother in a martial-law-London, and an Asian girl whose own dad was out to kill her...! All escaping their families to live rough on the streets, and discovering why so many of the homeless are going missing...

Photograph courtesy of Clayton Hickman.

Century Falls Video Clips
Video Under pressure  The truth will out.
Video It's all our fault  The temple is breaking.
Video No more children  Thirty years ago.
Video We mustn't delay  Off to the waterfall.
Video Century falls  Get out of the temple!
Video Run VT  Century Falls end titles.
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