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Is the BBC largely to blame for Who’s decline?

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Bernard Marx


What do members here think of the BBC’s treatment of the series since the beginning? And have they always hindered the programme? Dismissing the show’s budgetary limitations due to the BBC’s finances aside, they have a history of mistreating the programme in both overt and covert ways, which can be traced back to 1977 with the BBC caving into the demands of a conservative and inherently anti-intellectual influence in the form of Mary Whitehouse (unless I’m unaware of potential instances beforehand which some of you could be aware of).

Of course, this extends further to their treatment of the series in the 1980s, with the influences of Grade and Powell undermining the programme’s budget and reputation in order to pander to budgeting and supporting more soap-orientated programmes (not to mention the disaster Grade’s influence culminated in when considering the behind the scenes events of season 23), and their willingness to dumb the series down in varying popularist-adhering ways without employing any new, aspiring and creative talents throughout the majority of NuWho’s run is further indicative of the BBC’s lack of investment in the true artistic merits of Who. Note that they tend to rely on writers who rarely take risks, or simply those who are part of the Fitzroy crowd- TruWho tended to branch out towards writers with established records outside of Who, and writers who earned their recognition through the merits of their prior written works as opposed to their status in fandom. The BBC’s conservative mantra has made them reluctant to do the same thing for NuWho, and allow for a fresher, less formulaic and more unique take on the programme.

With all this in mind, has the BBC simply hindered Doctor Who, intentionally or otherwise, for most of the programme’s course?

Tanmann

Tanmann
I think the BBC have indeed been pretty shabby in their treatment of the show, from the moment they started burning a significant stock of the old master tapes.

Their appeasement of Mary Whitehouse and shitcanning of Hinchcliffe, was indeed something that sabotaged the show at its most successful prime, and arguably set in motion a lot of what went wrong after.

Other times however, I don't think the show can rely on that comforting cop-out excuse of blaming those at the top. Grade did sabotage the show from 1986 onward, but he and the BBC didn't make own-goals that pre-dated his sabotage like Warriors of the Deep or Twin Dilemma happen. The JNT production team did, and they did it in the face of all previous wisdom by production teams past. And as much of a douchebag as Grade was, I find it a bit strange that fandom thinks Grade was somehow meant to like the show and see merit in it when it was producing obnoxious wastrel grot like that.

Thinking about it, I'm not sure I could hold it entirely against the BBC that they eventually gave the show to RTD. There were a lot of complicated negotiations in getting the TV Movie off the ground and I imagine after that it was difficult to refocus the effort on getting it made here.

I believe at one point they were considering Paul WS Andersen as a worthy candidate for bringing it back on the strength of his Event Horizon film. Maybe it could've worked out. I wouldn't have minded that kind of look for the series. Maybe it just couldn't happen.

I used to bitterly lament that they should've given it to Moffat sooner, until Series 8 happened and left me regretting he'd ever been given the role at all. I still feel miffed that it couldn't have been Mark Gatiss, but who knows.

To be honest, RTD didn't seem a bad candidate to me before I saw Aliens of London. He sounded in interviews like he got the show. He'd done similar kinds of edgy children's shows in the past like Dark Seasons and Century Falls.

The mistake seemed to be largely leaving him and his ego to his own devices, but this was probably at a point where the BBC plain didn't get Doctor Who, and had to trust this clown did.

The mistakes the BBC made after with the show seem to be down to either commercial interests or austerity measures (i.e. the money-saving split seasons and gap years).

BillPatJonTom

BillPatJonTom
Yes I think so, i.e. the BBC or people employed in a controlling position therein.

I agree with a great deal of the comments above but, at the risk of oversimplifying the rather lengthy catalogue of errors made by the BBC over the years in its treatment of Who, I reckon there's probably specific key failures we can identify as when the most critical damage was inflicted...

1. Cowardice from 1977 with disastrously excessive subservience to the Mary Whitehouse censorship brigade that caused devastating changes to the show's overall tone, reducing previously highly successful horror elements and undermining not only the Tom Baker era but arguably the show itself thereafter.

2. Mismanagement from 1985 when Michael Grade and others allowed personal animosity to adversely affect the perception and continued production of the show, resulting in harmful hiatus, associated cast changes and ultimately the devastating cancellation in 1989.

3. Ineptitude in 1996 when the success of the TV movie was tied too closely to the potential Amercan market instead of seizing the opportunity of picking it up primarily for the domestic market.

4. Adhering to ridiculously dogmatic agenda from 2005 onwards when the perceived success of the show's relaunch encouraged increasingly formulaic deviation from all the core elements that originally made it a success. This process eventually reached its nadir with the recent Jodie Whittaker series.

iank

iank
Yes. The BBC has never really deserved the program. It's brilliance has been entirely down to the hard work of those actually in the nuts and bolts of production. The higher-ups have tried to fuck it up almost every step of the way.
That's management types for you.

Genkimonk

Genkimonk
Yes,and no.

Most of the PC crap we are seeing comes from American culture. And the fact British culture is gradually becoming more Americanised explains the vile culture rising in the UK. I've said for years, Americans don't debate, they shout. Americans don't compromise, they dominate. And sadly, these attributes have infected our society and we are gradually losing our own culture and it's honourable qualities, like how to debate.

The BBC basically towed the line of the young now influenced by this.The BBC has embraced Americanisation. And knowing how volatile the American influenced youth are, given the culture that has influenced them, they simply went ahead.

SomeCallMeEnglishGiraffe

SomeCallMeEnglishGiraffe
Yeah, even going as far back as how they junked 60's Who back in the early 70's shows how scummy they were to the franchise. Plus, the BBC's treatment of actors like Colin Baker, Peter Capaldi, Christopher Eccleston as well as having a show like Doctor Who placed in the same roof as the BBC trying to keep a piece of filth creature like Jimmy Saville under wraps shows that the BBC never deserved Who, and quite frankly they don't deserve most of their shows under the BBC brand.

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