Sometimes on Unreality Shout, we wait until all the information is available before we share a news item. But I’ve got to admit, the cloud of confusion rising over the next series of Doctor Who deserves some comment.
Last week, Steven Moffat confirmed that the BBC had confirmed a full series order for what will be the seventh series of Doctor Who. By all reasonable standards, that should have led to a full series in 2012 plus the usual Christmas Special. That’s even if they continue this peculiar practise of splitting the series in half.
Private Eye seem to have put the cat among the pigeons by suggesting that the BBC weren’t being entirely honest and that The Doctor wouldn’t be returning for a full series next year. After citing budget and scheduling overruns as the reason for splitting the [[Doctor Who Series 6|current series]] in half, the Private Eye article goes on to claim:
Programme chiefs in London were horrified to learn recently that BBC Wales is proposing not to make a full series of Doctor Who in 2012, but instead to put the programme on hiatus and merely bash out four “specials” as it did in 2009. This will leave an enormous hole in the BBC1 Saturday night schedule and a bigger one in the profits of BBC Worldwide, and will mean the corporation will be paying lead actor Matt Smith to spend most of the rest of this year doing nothing.
Of course, the entire Whoniverse was in uproar about this, particularly since High Lord Moffat had already proclaimed:
14 eps + Matt DEFINITELY. I’ve got a plan and I’m NOT TELLING YOU WHAT IT IS. Now hush or River shoots you with her Spoiler Gun.#formaqueue
In the last few days, things have obviously changed, because the BBC seem to be backtracking furiously. The latest received wisdom is that 2012 might feature a series of specials just like in David Tennant’s final year (and I wonder if that’s a sign that Matt Smith’s collar and sleeves might be about to explode with regeneration energy). And since 2013 is the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, we’re being told that there’ll be a “special run” to celebrate.
Lizo Mzimba, a BBC insider who seems to have a good deal of knowledge about the Doctor Who production went on Twitter to clear up the confusion, saying:
Bit of confusion, to summarise: no FULL 13 episode series of Dr Who in 2012. So some episodes will still go out in 2012. Remainder in 2013.
He goes on to say:
No further details about what more’s happening in 2013 yet. But it’s the 50th anniversary, so of course there will be some great stuff!
Now, what’s not clear is whether the episodes that air in 2013 will be in addition to whatever episodes would have aired that year. Let’s assume that because of the 50th Anniversary, the BBC might want a blow-out extended run of episodes. For instance, might they add six episodes from 2012 to a fourteen episode 2013 series? That would make an AMAZING 20 EPISODES of Doctor Who – all in one year!
The Opinion Bit
I don’t know if the BBC like to treat the Doctor Who fans mean in order to keep them keen. But considering Doctor Who is one of their biggest series, the Beeb loves to mess the audience around a lot.
I mean, we’ve seen Doctor Who bounce around different timeslots, making it difficult to watch live. Then we had the Great Doctor Famine of 2009, when the BBC decided to air four ‘specials’ (assuming they used that word with irony) in the lead-up to David Tennant’s departure.
Next, Steven Moffat and chums decided that what the viewers really needed was a series split in half and airing at different parts of the year. No, Steven, I prefer my Doctor Who in one great big string of 13 episodes, good and bad.
Honestly, after making such a fuss about raising Doctor Who’s profile in America (successfully, I think), you’d imagine that the BBC would want to keep a consistent output to satisfy the growing transatlantic audience. Apparently not. And I’m not particularly happy that the BBC released one announcement and then backtracked on that. You cannot say you’ve renewed the series for 14 episodes in 2012 if half of them will air in 2013.
Thus begging the question: what the hell is going on at the BBC? We know they’re taking their budget cuts seriously. They’re even selling Television Centre.
Now, the impact on Doctor Who could be because of budget constraints. Or it could be a failure with the current production team on Doctor Who – overrunning on filming and writing episodes. We know that producer Piers Wenger has left BBC Wales, and there’s some speculation that it’s been under acrimonious circumstances. The fact that Private Eye appeared to be right with their claims makes it seem that there could be something wrong behind the scenes. I’m speculating myself, of course, but it doesn’t make sense to me that a series as big as Doctor Who could be sidelined, especially with the value of merchandising related to the show. It’s a massive money spinner for the BBC.
On a personal note, I hope that the real reason behind this is that someone at the Beeb is questionning the current direction the series has gone in. I’ll write about this in a separate post tomorrow, but my personal feeling is that Doctor Who has lost a lot of the heart that the Davies/Tennant team brought to it. I don’t love the characters the way I did with Rose and Donna and the Tenth Doctor. So personally, I hope that somebody is taking a look at a distinct lack of mojo inside the blue box and thinking hard about a way to rejuvenate it!
But I’ll allow Steven Moffat the final, enigmatic word – as he refuses to reveal what he seems to think is an exciting announcement:
Dr Who: misquotes and misunderstandings. But I’m not being bounced into announcing the cool stuff before we’re ready. Hush, and patience.
Hmm. What do you make of all that, folks?