Easter weekend, 10 Easters on from Doctor Who… ITV played another 1960s card. But has it proved to be a Hood-like ruse?
BRITISH TELEVISION’S HAD A TOUGH DECADE STRUGGLING TO REPEAT DOCTOR WHO’S TREMENDOUS SUCCESS. That show didn’t have a Vortex-given right to reclaim its Saturday family crowd, let alone continually prove through its continued and growing popularity and proof that weekend evenings could sustain drama. It’s not mean feat, and in the 10 years that have passed since 2005’s Rose only Merlin has come close, after Robin Hood had first fizzled in BBC One’s evening slot. ITV had worse of it, with Primeval trying hard, only to face extinction within five staggered years, while Demons failed miserably in one. And to make things worse, Who’s wake wasn’t limited to Saturday evenings. It immediately triggered a fresh torrent of new fantasy and science-fiction to British television across many timeslots, from Being Human to In the Flesh to the rather unfortunate Outcasts.
But in April 2015, as Atlantis reaches its solemn final half-season, times are quite different from those deadly mid-zeroes. Who remains at a sublime peak of course, alive and urgent as ever, with the rather woolly and pointless promise of another five years recently made. Unfortunately and crucially such a promise may have some weight, as the BBC is in far different shape than it was a decade ago. Although its budget didn’t rival that afforded an equivalent American 45 minutes at the time, Doctor Who’s return was a risky and considerable investment that could only have been made by a rather flush and secure organization. The same is true of its diminutive online precursor and canon-mate, the 40th anniversary webcast Scream of the Shalka, an outrageous undertaking for a website at any time. Ten years on, scandal, mishandles, poor defences, resignations and a right-leaning government mean the present day BBC most likely couldn’t consider either of those things.
That five year promise may have a hidden truth, and Whovians should be ready for a very different BBC come 2020. Fellow mega-brand Top Gear’s plight might have a slight impact, as will the spilling out of BBC Studios and the success of BBC Worldwide. It’s likely that a form of license fee will remain in five years, but it may be as radically different as the UK’s state broadcaster is herself at the end of the next parliament. All things considered, it can’t be dismissed that the Doctor Who brand could be sold for a pretty psychic penny…