Doctor Who 2010 – Shorter series, twice a year?

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Devastating news: The [[Doctor Who Series 6|sixth series of Doctor Who]] will be seven episodes long. The good news is that there will be further, six-part series in the autumn.

Other sites are reporting that the series will be split in two (and technically that’s correct if you work from a thirteen episode series point of view). But showrunner Steven Moffat is billing this as two separate series – and he says it’ll be great for the viewer because we’ll “never be more than a few months from the next series of Doctor Who”.

Moffat is quoted as saying:

I did think that what this show needs is a big event in the middle. I kept referring rather lamely to a mid-season finale. A huge event in the middle.

It also occurs to me that we do thirteen episodes of Doctor Who. By the standards of any other drama series, that’s two series’ worth. So what we’re gonna do this year is make it two series. Doctor Who will come back for seven episodes at Easter, build to an earth-shattering climax in episode seven. There will be a huge cliff-hanger, a cliff-hanger we couldn’t normally do at the end of a series of Doctor Who because it would be too long until it came back. An enormous, honestly game-changing cliff-hanger for The Doctor, Amy and Rory.

It’ll just change everything for them. In order to give you time to recover, we’ll let you go off, have your summer holidays and come back in the autumn for another six episodes, for what will be series seven, I suppose. The wrong expression would be to say we’re splitting it. We’re making two separate series’ of Doctor Who.

With this, you’re never gonna be more than a few months from the next series of Doctor Who. It now occurs to me that we have two first nights and two finales. Twice as many event episodes than we had before.

I’m gonna argue with Moffat’s logic about a thirteen episode series being two series’ worth. Only in the UK, Steven, which I think you already know. Big primetime event TV in the States can run up to 24 episodes and subscriber shows like [[Dexter (TV Series)|Dexter]] and [[True Blood (TV Series)|True Blood]] usually run for twelve or thirteen episodes, but there’s never any splitting of the series. This is new.

The first reaction is annoyance that the continuous series will be broken. Anyone who suffered through 2009’s ‘specials’ knows how irritating it is when Doctor Who’s format is messed with. And that’s not including the weekly bouncing around the schedules for football and other interruptions.

Also, I’m not terribly sold on the doubling of ‘event episodes’. What does that mean? More spectacle, less character development? Because – and this is a point of hot debate – I felt the slower, more thoughtful episodes of Doctor Who worked better than the often illogical and terribly frustrating ‘epics’ last year.

Why would the BBC want to split the series up? Well, here’s a couple of suggestions:

  1. The good weather and World Cup season impacted viewing figures (something even Steven Moffat acknowledged earlier this year). By sawing the season in half, it’ll end roughly before the summer holidays (another drain on viewership) and resume in the autumn when the weather’s worse and kids are indoors.
  2. By running the series in the autumn, it’ll be in parents’ and kids’ minds before Christmas. What better way to increase sales of those multi-coloured Daleks? Am I being too cynical?
  3. There’s a scheduling conflict because Moffat is heading up Doctor Who and Sherlock, and the work around is to split the series in half?
  4. Or, just maybe, this follows on from the ‘specials’ that led to David Tennant’s departure from the series? Perhaps this is another experiment with the format to see if there are better or different ways of telling the Doctor Who story?

I’m not totally against the idea though – I do applaud Moffat’s efforts to try and break the format of the show and reinvent it in different ways. I hope this opens up new and different methods of telling Doctor Who stories. Let’s face it, they’ve kind of stagnated under the current formula. Perhaps this will return us to the old style of multi-episode arcs, longer tales that span several episodes?

And there’s plenty of logic in Moffat’s assertion that we won’t have to wait so long for the next series. I do like that part. What’s your spin on this news?

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5 Comments

  1. Emperor Gregor

    I thought Moffat has said it is one series, divided by a three month gap in the middle over the summer,  because it is necessary structurally.

    To me, a “huge event” cliffhanger sounds as if someone (River?) is going to kill the Eleventh Doctor, or Rory (a truly good man). Truly game changing. I seem to remember we have also been told that DW’s true relationship with Amy will be revealed. That crack in the universe is still there, and it centres on Amy.

    And I love Sherlock. Superb casting.

  2. Emperor Gregor

    I thought Moffat has said it is one series, divided by a three month gap in the middle over the summer,  because it is necessary structurally.

    To me, a “huge event” cliffhanger sounds as if someone (River?) is going to kill the Eleventh Doctor, or Rory (a truly good man). Truly game changing. I seem to remember we have also been told that DW’s true relationship with Amy will be revealed. That crack in the universe is still there, and it centres on Amy.

    And I love Sherlock. Superb casting.

    1. sgreco1970

      no, in a recent interview he said he’s chosen to do 2 back to back series, shorter series, in one year for the purpose of having double the cliffhangers.

      1. Emperor Gregor

        Maybe he has a reason for having 2 cliffhangers. Killing off Eleven at the end of the first half, with the story still to be finished would be interesting.

        Especially as Twelve would be at the limit of the number of regenerations before the end of the Time Lords. Maybe the whole of series 5 and 6 is about getting round this limit.

        1. Elizabeth Hayes

          In “the five Doctors” the Time Lords offered the master another regeneration cycle in return for helping the Doctor escape the death zone, maybe it’ll be a similar thing.

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