Home : Archive : TSV 21-30 : TSV 29 : Feature

Can No News be Good News?

A personal opinion on the future of the show

By Paul Scoones

If, as Tegan once said, is a very powerful word. If the show was still in production then about now we'd be starting to get the details of Season 29 - the first story of the season would have gone into production in April 1992 following the trend of the three McCoy seasons. And assuming that Sylvester McCoy was still the Doctor, this would be his sixth year as the Doctor - only one off equalling Tom Baker's record tenure - in duration if not in episodes.

But as we all know, the last season was produced and screened back in 1989 - nearly two and a half years ago, and despite many hopeful 'news' reports, the reality of the situation is that we are still no closer to seeing a new series than when the closing credits of Survival faded from British screens.

To most fans, this situation is, quite understandably, undesirable. The series must come back, and as soon as possible. To a subset of this group the situation is not so much undesirable as unbearable. These fans will do anything to get the show back on - from participating in letter writing campaigns to petitioning and raising money to take the BBC to court.

Whether these factions are in any way successful remains to be seen but to my mind these activities are potentially doing more harm than good to the reputation of the show - do the British public now regard Doctor Who not so much as an institution but as a cult for a group of 'loony extremists'? What good will come from antagonising the BBC with phone-ins, letter writing campaigns and court actions?

In my opinion this will only encourage a bloody-minded attitude among those who are currently branded as the 'villains' - such as Jonathan Powell, Controller of BBC1, who might decide as a result of all the abuse and bad feeling he is receiving, never to bring the show back. If Doctor Who does return, it will be in spite of, not because of the fans.

But consider this - do we want Doctor Who back in production? Yes, of course we do - if it's a quality production true to the established format and style of the series. But look at the bids from independent production companies that we've heard about; an x-rated version, an American series, and even animated Doctor Who adventures! Consider even the latest and most likely-sounding bid, from Darklight; be honest, does Brian Blessed really suit the role of the Doctor?

Few would deny that the show ended in the midst of a revival. An injection of new writers and a script editor with a unified vision had revitalised the show within its last two seasons, and Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred made a dynamic pair who endeared themselves to most of Doctor Who fandom. In short, the show ended on a high, and I think that this more than anything else has kept interest in the show from flagging. But consider what kind of state fandom would be in after 2-3 years if the show had ended with the abysmal Season 23 or indeed 24. I certainly can't see The New Adventures novels being the great success that they obviously are if the Sixth Doctor and Mel were the lead protagonists.

If the show does return then whatever the standard, it will be this new series by which Doctor Who is judged and if it doesn't work, the popularity of Doctor Who inevitably will suffer accordingly.

And yet to survive, Doctor Who must change to keep itself fresh. Fortunately this is already occurring in The New Adventures saga; Ace has been written out (albeit temporarily), and a couple of new semi-regular companions whom we have never seen on screen will make their debut in soon-to-be-published novels. One of these companions will also be seen in the DWM comic strip, which incidentally has featured McCoy's Doctor since issue 130 - longer than any other Doctor's tenure in this format.

The question that I find myself asking is this: is it really such a great tragedy if there is never another television episode of Doctor Who made? Virgin's New Adventures series is continuing to extend the show in new and exciting directions, few of which could ever be successfully realised on screen anyway.

I personally feel that Doctor Who is in some ways more 'respectable' as a series of serious adult science fiction novels than as second-rate television drama, and although I'll no doubt be scorned for saying so, I am quite content to hereafter only experience new Doctor Who adventures on the printed page.

This item appeared in TSV 29 (July 1992).