Donovan was born in Canada on June 26, 1954. He grew up interested in science and film, and earned a B.Sc. in Physics from Dalhousie University, and graduated from London Film School. Lexx was a hit in Germany, Russia and Eastern Europe. This Canadian-German co-production went on to become a lucrative money-maker through international sales and was one of the first shows to develop a cult following almost exclusively through the Internet. Fans of Lexx nicknamed Donovan and the show's other main writers, Lex Gigeroff and Jeffrey Hirschfield, "The Supreme Beans".
Brian Downey has been a regular in Donovan's work since the '80s, dating back at least to George's Island in 1989.