This week we celebrate the 50th birthday of Doctor Who, and while we remember all the good times and happy memories, we also have to keep in mind that 15 year dry spell when the BBC was cranking out no new episodes of Doctor Who. The series was cancelled after a 26 year stretch due to low ratings and production cuts, and aside from the one, singular TV movie that aired on Fox in 1996, the Time Lord was not seen in new adventures on TV screens again till 2005.
In a new issue Radio Times, current Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat waxed on those dark times calling the BBC’s move to cancel the show as “outright stupidity,” due to “unforgivable blindness.”
“Ah, 50 years. What can one say about 50 years of Doctor Who? Well, first of all, one can be pedantic. Doctor Who hasn’t been on for 50 years – owing to the outright stupidity and unforgivable blindness of the BBC (sorry guys, it needs to be said), there was a 16-year gap.”
But looking at things from the “glass is half full” angle, Moffat says that Who’s international appeal and the passion of the fan base can be directly linked to those dry times between 1989 and 2005.
“That gap is important. It confers something very special on this most special of all shows: immortality. Doctor Who, for once and for all, is the show that comes back. Axe it at your peril, someone like me is going to call you a fool, and lots of people like you are going to read along and nod.”
Moffat also points out that those 16 years were hardly Doctor Who free, and there was plenty of material in other media for anyone that wanted new adventures of The Doctor.
“While the BBC folded its arms and shook its head, there were books by the likes of Russell T Davies, Mark Gatiss and Paul Cornell. There were audio adventures, starring all the old Doctors. There was an action-packed American tele-film, and endless rumours of Hollywood movies. Doctor Who Magazine, whose purpose was to document the making of the TV show, carried on perfectly happily without the TV show being made.”
I don’t know, but I think Moffat might have sabotaged his own argument there by suggesting that there doesn’t have to be a Doctor Who TV show for there to be good quality and engaging Doctor Who. That would put him out of a job of course, but hey, he’s still got Sherlock, and it’s not like that can be duplicated in any other medium… Oh crap.
“The Day of the Doctor,” the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who, airs this Saturday, simulcast worldwide.