« Damn you, reality... | Main | Choose your own adventure - Dr Who style »

Mar 31, 2005

Reasons to be Cheerful: Number Ten

NotmycupofteaBeing a Doctor Who fan has never been easy and last night was no exception. A roller-coaster ride through all of our emotions: euphoria - a second series of 13 episodes and a 60-minute Christmas special - swiftly followed by anxiety and depression when Eccleston quit.

It got to the point where I was afraid to go to bed. As I logged off at 4am I had visions of Tom Baker dropping dead just as some bloke found the remaining episodes of The Evil of the Daleks stuffed behind the back of his sofa. It doesn't help that my poxy narrowband connection means it takes a good 3 minutes to reload a page on Outpost Gallifrey.

And why is this kind of news always reported in the middle of the night? What are they frightened of? People taking to the streets? And will the BBC ever find a way to announce *anything* before the tabloids do. Just once?

Anyway, to put it mildly - It's been mad.

I  understand that a lot of people of feeling pretty pissed off at the moment. Some people are even feeling angry. Some of the nutters on the OG forums are practically foaming at the mouth. As usual.

Me? I'm feeling pretty optimistic about the whole thing. Let's take a look at some of the complaints and worries, and let's put a positive spin on them instead. Remember, the Doctor always looks for the good in every situation. Why shouldn't we?

I'm pretty sure RTD always knew that it would be unlikely that Chris would return for a second series. Russell had a choice back in 2004: he either casts David Tennant as planned, or he takes a gamble on an actor who he later admits is "out of the show's league". I think he made the right decision.

Signing Chris did many things: it put a stop to the Paul Daniels is the next Doctor school of journalism (look at the papers today - big name actors have been touted as the 10th Doctor (oh, and Alan Davies)); he pulled in a floating audience because he is such a big name; he played the Doctor magnificently (or so it seems on the evidence provided so far); and he brought the damn thing back to life again! Casting Eccles wiped out dozens of cliches overnight and for that we should be eternally grateful.

TennantFace facts: David Tennant has been down to do this for months. Look at the evidence! Why on earth did they get him to narrate the New Dimension documentary? Why is Casanova moving to BBC1 so quickly after it's BBC3 airing (it usually takes months).

And why do you think episode 13 is called 'The Parting of the Ways?' fer christsake!

The writing has been on the wall for a while now. Chris' interviews, his body language, hell, even stuff he said on the set ("I'm the Doctor... for now!") have all pointed to one thing. We even know how it happens (he practically spelt it out on Jonathan Ross) - and this was all shot a good month back now.

The argument seems to come back to one thing: one season just isn't long enough.

Well, 13 episodes for a drama series on BBC1 are practically unheard of these days! When the news originally broke we all expected 6 episodes - tops. Now that Chris has done 13 (and maybe even 14) he's done the equivalent of two seasons plus change! He's probably going to be on-screen more than Colin, Sylvester and Paul combined! How anyone can call him the shortest serving Doctor when Paul McGann was on screen for less than 50 minutes amazes the hell out of me!

Another problem: the toys will be a flop and the BBC will lose a load of money and the series will die! Right, I admit that this is a bit embarrassing,. You license loads of merchandise with Chris' mug on it and then you go and change the actor - about a month after they finally go on sale. It's not great timing. All we can hope for is that the kids will end up buying both dolls (or perhaps they make interchangeable heads?) and the BBC will rake in the cash!

Another bone of contention is this: Chris leaving will kill the audience figures stone dead. This is why I reckon the Beeb will announce David Tennant as the next Doctor in the next couple of days (or maybe when we all go to bed tonight). What is unfortunate is how it has been reported - "Quits after just one episode" is misleading at best and flat-out wrong at worst. It implies that Chris left because he didn't like the show, and I think we all know that's just bollocks.

Will it hurt the ratings? Well, look at it this way:

a) if we lose 30% of the audience we are still well within Jane Tranter's 6.5 million target.

b) if it slumps to less than 6 million we can blame the PR department instead of the series.

c) if the ratings rise or hold steady we can put all of this behind us and move on.

PassingthroughThe news itself isn't all bad - the way it happened, is. Perhaps the PR department should hang this on the office wall: It's About Timing. It should have all come out after episode six but the f***ing tabloids got there first. What can you do? The only thing the BBC could do was announce season 2 early in order to take the sting out of the tail. We should count ourselves very lucky indeed. Imagine how worried we'd be right now if they hadn't.

And look at it this way - if ratings really do tail off by episode six it won't matter - we still get another 14 episodes anyway! It's a win win situation!

So, be happy. Doctor Who is back and it's headline news again. The programme is bigger than any of the actors and try to remember that regeneration is a selling point, not the kiss of death. Anyone would think it's never happened before..

And the best news of all? We'll probably get the most moving and beautifully written regeneration we'll ever witness. And if a new Doctor doesn't make for a great Christmas present then I don't know what does...

But if you thought waiting for the ratings last Sunday was bad, you ain't gone through anything yet...


Well said oh mighty sage - splendid points, all of them.

Amen. I don't get the argument that next years change of actor will affect this years toy sales. If kids or fans want an action figure for Christmas, they'll want Eccles' ears on it. Is anyone really going to be griping on Christmas Day afternoon if their toy has become a collectible?

If RTD's choice was between a regular Tennant-class actor who'd commit to a few years, or an Eccles kickstart, I think he went completely the right way, as the ratings should testify.

Of course, it's also possible that the punishing schedule of modern DW will mean that actors don't last as long in the role now.

I'd still have liked a season-ending cliff-hanger though without knowing via the press that it was Eccles' last. Shame they couldn't manage that.

Not sure I get the screen-time argument, though, surely Colin did the equivalent of 22 45 minute episodes?

Point a) Jane Tranter said she'd be (secretly)happy with 4.5 million!

An early regeneration gets the kids used to what the show is about - the fact that the Doctor can and will change. It may make The Original Series (to coin a Star Trek phrase) more accessible to them - which can only be a good thing all round.

Good points there. I have to say I was quite depressed by the news - simply because I expected one more season with CE. I had disregarded the previous worries about his committment just as paranoia - until maybe the quote on Project:Who part 2, but it just seems such a shame all round. He's a great actor, and I'm definitely not going to jump on the bandwagon of absolutely slating him for abandoning the show - but it just seems that he wasn't quite prepared for it all...and the timing was just bad - prompting headlines that make it sound like he's actually quit after one episode...

On the bright side we do have a new series to look forward to, but for me the rest of this series is just going to ring a bit hollow - but I suppose the end will be quite emotional...

I just hope that (apart from some fans who've already started) everyone doesn't descend into criticism - either by CE or RTD or anyone else...

All very good points Neil, and doubtless they'll all turn out to be true. But I still can't shake this slightly sick feeling. I'm not foaming at the mouth, it's more in the "my cat's just died" sort of league of sadness, but it's still there. It's like someone's just burst the balloon with the drawing pin.

Am I the only one who thinks that the Beeb have forced Eccleston's hand in this matter?

Wednesday - following huge viewing figures, the BBC commision a second series of Who with still 92% of the first one to go. (I won't go into the worst-case scenario of the veiwing figures dropping dramatically; although ten million for the next three months would be unlikely).

Thursday - Eccleston announces he will not be doing the second series, prompting all manner of conspiracy theories as to his motives and reasons.

Likely scenario - Eccleston never, ever intended to do more than one series. The Beeb - somewhat prematurely, in my opinion - recommission the series after just one good night's viewing figures. Eccleston, concerned at the Who-hype bandwagon, feels obliged to come clean about his plans, before the public assume he will be on board.

Result - Beeb left looking squeaky clean for having faith in Who; Eccleston made to look uncommitted and aloof by qutting for 'typecast' reasons.

The conspiracy starts here...

Good points, all, but as a Yank, I'm most concerned with how this will effect overseas distribution of the show. I can hear American network execs now wondering why they should buy a show that can't hang onto its star.

Even my non-fandom following girlfriend thinks that this changeover has been planned right from the start. RTD is no fool and must have known what Chris was prepared to commit to.

I'm in agreement with a lot of people that the close of episode 13 will see a cliffhanger where we don't know if the Doctor is alive or dead.

Wisdom beyond your years, one and all.

If only we had seen this kind of rational discussion over at Outpost Gallifrey, rather than vitriol and spite that seems to have spewn forth from what I hope is just a minority, I am sure that they would have avoided the suspension of their forum. Life as a fan is indeed good, and one thing that Doctor Who has proved over and over again is that the whole (the show) is greater than the sum of its parts (the cast and crew).

For my money, I am a little disappointed but not overly surprised to see CE decide to hang up his leather jacket. One thing of which I am fairly certain is that we'll get some great story-telling around the whole regeneration.

For a program that is all about change, surely this is a time to rejoice!!

God yes, the hate emanating from some of the forums around the web is frightening.

I browsed through the threads on the Digital Spy forums and some comments went along the lines of : "How DARE Christopher Eccleston do this! This is an insult to all Doctor Who fans! I will NEVER watch anything he is in ever again and I hope he never works again and his penis withers and dies!!"

Scary stuff. No wonder the media has a bad view of fans.

Chris quitting - the BBC News website suggests it was so unlikely it's almost like an April Fool:


The news just got a mention on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross with the emphasis on the toy debacle.

Best quote: "It only took them 10 years to change the last one, so fingers crossed."

And we can confirm that Eddie Izzard is *not* the Doctor. Phew.

Anyone know where I can download The jonhathan ross show where he interviewed Christopher Eccleston? If so Email me it please.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Doctor Who: Series One
Doctor Who: Series Two
Doctor Who: Series Three
Torchwood: Series One
Torchwood: Series Two
The Sarah Jane Adventures: Series One
The Eighth Doctor BBC7 Audios
The Eighth Doctor Novels
The Tenth Doctor Novels
Stripped Down Series 1
Stripped Down Series 2
Stripped Down Series 3
Stripped Down Series 4
Stripped Down Series 5
Stripped Down Series 6