Doctor Who returns for the 50th Anniversary in:

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Thursday, 16 June 2011

Is Doctor Who In Trouble? More thoughts in 2012/13

Earlier this month, Private Eye, a UK magazine known for humour and whistle-blowing ran a story about BBC funding, indicating Doctor Who would not be returning properly until 2013. We of course thought this was rubbish, as you don't shoot the golden goose, and soon after, Sam Hodges, the Head of BBC Communications, decided to come out and dispel the rumor on his twitter feed, followed by Steven Moffat, who told us on twitter there was indeed 14 episodes for 2012.

Stepping backwards to an earlier statement, each time the BBC use the Daleks they have to pay Terry Nations estate, and they have been dropped for the foreseeable future, whether for the reason we are told or because of budgeting is a mystery, or perhaps just a convenient truth? Plus there seems to be no returning classic monster this season (the BBC have to pay the monsters creator when they do), is this for budgeting purposes perhaps?

We know Steven Moffat has been struggling to keep the show inside the budget, and asked Neil Gaiman to rewrite parts of The Doctor’s Wife, to cut back on effects (originally, Nephew was not an Ood). Due to disagreements about what to cut, the producers and executive producers had a falling out, seemingly centered on Executive Producer Piers Wegner, who eventually left the show, and the BBC, along with Producers Tracie Simpson and Peter Bennett - who moved to the new BBC program Baker Boys. This leaves just Executive Producer Beth Willis and Steven Moffat in charge of the show.

In order to increase the amount of funds available per episode, the next season of Doctor Who is being split between years, with the first half showing in the Autumn of 2012, then the Christmas special, and the second half at the beginning in 2013.

So is Doctor Who in trouble? Quite possibly. Could it be Moffat has done this to ensure a good 50th anniversary for the fans, and has already decided to leave afterwards to work in Hollywood again, who do not suffer the same budgeting issues? Will this result in the BBC giving up on Doctor Who, passing it to an American production company as with Torchwood? It seems what we have been told and the truth may be poles apart!

source, with extras by me.


bbird said...

Haven't budget issues been part of the day-in, day-out of making the show? Such as, switching out an episode about Vesuvius with one that could be shot around Cardiff ("Boomtown"). I'm not saying that there aren't more-serious-than usual budget issues, just that things like making Nephew an existing monster aren't necessarily evidence of that.

Mark said...

I agree with bbird. Suggesting that DW, a BBC institution, will move to the States seems a bit extreme. I am also surprised at the longer-than-usual hiatus for the show, but the episodes HAVE been commissioned and we know Moffat is interested in bringing the fans a really good 50th anniversary special - hopefully complete with Matt Smith, Alex Kingston, David Tennant, John Barrowman, and the Daleks.

TitusGroan said...

Having merchandised Dr Who as much as possible are they going to off-load it to someone else to make perhaps as a joint venture? Follow the money.

Combom said...

and the money says DW on tv, and they are cutting it back in 2012, so not a lot of merchandising there

Blink said...

Surely if there was a serious issue with money, they wouldn't have had cybermen, silurians and a sontaran in A Good Man Goes to War?

Dr Who creates money from all the merchandise, live shows etc.

Sean said...

Don't forget about when they filmed in America. Basically all of BBC America's yearly budget went to The Impossible Astronaut/ Day of the Moon.

That gave the rest of the season more money.

And your a fan, you shouldn't really concern yourself with that stuff. Just if the programs are quality.

Antony said...

Question 1: What chance is there the BBC want to do a copy of Britain's Got Talent?

Question 2: Of the top twenty locally produced television programs, which would have the highest cost per minute?

Question 3: By what extent have the Doctor Who viewer numbers begun to fluctuate, and where are they now in comparison to the rest of the market?

Question 4: What was the BBC's response and feedback to the 2009 Specials, because I am assuming that would have been a "cheaper" year to produce versus viewer figures?

I can ask more...

bigbradwolf said...

I sincerely doubt there is a problem with Doctor Who, and it possibly is a case of budgeting with the move to new studios, and possibly moving to a new schedule - well, I hope so, anyway - but this whole announcement has been piss-poor. Not only does it instil an idea that Doctor Who is a show in trouble and on its way out - way to make the casual viewer not bother to finally engage in that complicated show everyone goes on about - but it also frustrates loyal viewers (not just fans) but loyal viewers who just want to know they're going to get another series next year, like every other smash-hit series gets when it's rating the way Doctor Who is rating. Really poor way to deal with this whole thing - there should be a firm statement about it. This "teasing" of viewers after four solid years under RTD is just annoying and bizarre. The stories have become complicated enough for the general public, let alone having to face the added complication of keeping track of just when it's going to be back on TV. Frankly, I'd rather they just canned Torchwood and Sherlock altogether.

Abby said...

I think money is likely a big part of this issue. BBC likely knows that they have a fan base that will come back no matter how many episodes they produce in a year. And you don't need that many new shows to keep marketing and merchandise flowing.

I am suspicious that some key players in the series have decided to leave, and that has thrown plans in disarray. The companions are expected. I'm convinced they'll leave at the end of this series - I mean, what mother in her right mind would travel on the TARDIS with an infant, and an entire series of let's find Melody/River episodes would get tiresome.

What concerns me is the repeated comments by Matt Smith that he'd like to relocate to LA and find opportunities there. It seems that he's interested in movie roles. Yes, he signed on for 3 years, but contracts can be broken easily - just a matter of money.

If Matt is feeling restless and if Moffat is also feeling restless (more interested in other projects), then it seems the show may be due for another reshuffle.

Then again, this could all be very wrong. I just don't see why these guys would want to abandon the golden goose for a very uncertain future.

If there is more interest in linking BBC with BBC America productions to save money, a shift to a Fall/Spring release schedule make sense. It is how Americans are used to things. Though, we're getting fairly fond of the short summer series showing on cable. I look forward to those shows more than the regular seasonal shows.

Still, I do wish they'd pick a schedule and stick with it. Kind of feels like the fans are being jerked around.

Dangerously Superb said...

I don't think Stevens going to leave after only 2 or 3 seasons, I've read interviews with him, and he seems extremely devoted, no matter where this takes him. I mean, eventually of coarse hes going to leave, but he appears to enjoy himself. And Hollywood isn't exactly begging him to join them, even though they should.

Lucille7777 said...

Perhaps they'll bring back Russell T. Davis for a while if Stephen Moffat jumps ship, after all Moffat has a lot on his plate with Doctor Who and Sherlock and probably other projects in the wings as well.

At least RTD could put the show back on a path that allows people, who are not Whovians, to be able to watch any given episode and not be completely lost, as has unfortunately been the case in series 5 and 6.

Also, RTD repeatedly has shown he knows how to trim a budget. Remember how Freema Agyeman had no clothes for most of series 3? Freema got by with a few pairs of jeans, a couple of jackets and a lot of tank tops.

Wizzer10 said...

Having to cut stuff from episodes has always happened in every TV show ever, get over it. Gaiman's episodes are always a little bit high brow and it looked like an expensive episode anyway so they had to cut it somewhere.
And Doctor Who, while being rather expensive to make, is probably the BBC's biggest money maker. I admit it's viewership hasn't been as great this year but it is still a very popular show. While it is getting a little pricy, they must make SO much more out of merch. It's also one of the few shows which they can release merch for and trust it will be successful.
If they cancelled it or loaded it of to a big American company then it would be their biggest financial mistake ever.

RabidPuppyDesign said...

This should be a big slap in the face for the BBC and give the stubborn bastards instentive to FINALLY allow adverts during their transmissions and ablosih the god gamn license fee!

they will make ALOT more money, selling ad time during a highly watched show like Doctor Who. think how much people pay to get their ads shown during super bowl!

Blink said...

@RabidPuppyDesign - You want Dr Who to have adverts every 15 minutes? :P

Steve H said...


Yes, because what DW really needs is to be interrupted every 5 minutes.

If the BBC had moved to an advertising revenue base, DW would have become the sort of mindless shite that ITV pump out every night.

Steve H said...

The clutching at straws is becoming even worse. Are we now trying to fool ourselves that it's all a clever plot to give us a big 50th anniversary?

They can keep their anniversary special if it means losing half a season. I mean what is it going to be? Maybe 15 mins longer and with a pile of old faces shoehorned in for the sake of it.

GORdon said...

Come on Britain!

Not seeming so "great" over there!

An said...

From Twitter:


The scheduling of Dr Who has got NOTHING to with Sherlock. On the plus side THE BBC SPELLED MY NAME RIGHT!!!

Mike Jackson said...

When I watch the behind the scenes things for Who on DVDs or Confidentials they seem to have an army of people working or standing about that can't be cheap. It made it look like more money goes into paying & feeding them than ends up on the screen.

I remember a 'behind-the-scenes' bit where they were showing the crew being fed from one of those giant lorry/caravan things all day long. It seemed rather like all they do is hang about & eat all they can eat when I saw that. I didn't see any vouchers or money changing hands so the catering to me looked like it was a HUGE expense. Start counting all those trucks & stuff. It looked like a mega-metric ass-load of money being spent to me.

I've never seen what one of these episodes or whole series/season is spent on "Who", but it's got to be a lot, maybe more. Can they really recoup all that in BBC America or international airings on more commercial based tv & merchandising?

It's not just the Moffat era, but back into the RTD era that they'd pull out all the stops for episodes with location-shooting of less than stellar episodes where a lot of money is spent just getting the crew out there, housing & feeding them presumably.

"The Rebel Flesh/Almost People" shoot looks like it cost way more than a few days in America with all the locations & getting set dressing to all those castles. I'm not sure it was visually worth it in the end.

Why a fictional monastery mining acid? Why not invent a reason why they processed acid rather than drill for it or whatever dubious nonsense was going on in the broadcast version. Shoot outside an oil refinery & do the rest in a derelict warehouse setting. Just keep the acid more plausible by making it the by-product of some horrible chemical plant process that's hurting the environment.

It was a dumb, preachy story that only served to get us to the Flesh switcharoo & tease us with a 2nd Doctor, but wasn't memorable for any other reason...

Who wants to watch the Flesh episodes or that other two parter last season with the Sontarans again once they've seen it? What kind of ratings can a re-run of those shows really bring in?

It is business & if they can't manage the money they are spending versus what it earns back for them it doesn't surprise me that they are having these sort of problems. Especially since consumers are probably not really spending on the merchandise like they might have in the past given the current depressed world economy.

Then again since the current season was budgeted last year, they may just be meeting reality that has drastically changed.

Somewhere around the late 80's - early 90's tv 'drama' changed from 'nothing much changes episode to episode' to on-going soap-operas. I think this was appealing early on, but now cliff-hangers have to go to breath-taking heights pushing the cost of making an hour of tv into the stratosphere.

Before the Doctor & Romana #1 embarked on the dubious quest for the Key to Time, you could randomly shuffle any previous serials containing the Doctor & then companion around in any order & it really didn't matter. Each week was like amnesia about anything that happened last week. And then as now often when they got daring about doing some big set piece with giant rats in the sewer or something they bit off more than they could chew. And it just looked silly like skinny men in leather with RHINO HEADS; unwatchable once, much less many times over.

Moffat says he wants the stories be scary so that you can imagine them happening to you; monsters that could jump out of your closet or from under your bed. He's sort of done this with "BLINK", but really he too goes for over-the-top stories that cost lots & lots of money. Less money-wise could be so much more.

And it could be they could afford more episodes of Who in 2012.