if Steven needs more time, that's ok

TV BBC Merseyside's Religious Editor Wayne Clarke dropped this bombshell in his twitter feed four hours ago and no one seems to have noticed. That is until @TVSatelliteWeek just retweeted it so I'm also posting it here in an attempt to look current. There's nothing on Google News yet:
"Danny Cohen says there won't be a full series of Doctor Who in 2012, but a special run for the anniversary in 2013. #cmn11"
First of all, oh for fucks sake.

Next of all Pete Philips, Researcher @ CODEC, Durham Uni, added (I'm paraphrasing) that Cohen explained that it's because Moffat needs more time to work on Sherlock and that there are scheduling issues to do with the Olympics and that they can't fit everything in.

That Cohen's chosen to announce all of this at the Church and Media Network conference is bizarre; the BBC Press Office is there for a reason and this has all the gaffiness of Catherine Tate announcing Tennant was quitting Doctor Who on the Jonathan Ross show months before we were supposed to find out.

Calming down, if Steven needs more time, that's ok.  It's understandable actually having lately been rereading in The Writer's Tale, the hell RTD went through in his final years.  Dealing with all of that and a family really must be difficult, especially in relation to producing scripts on top of everything else. (see below)

It also explains why he and the BBC were being cagey last week about when the next fourteen were being broadcast.  Some have suggested that they might wait until the Autumn, run six, then the rest the following year.  The special run, apparently.

But I can't help my sinking feeling.  When Cohen took over and went about cancelling perfectly good series whilst simultaneously renewing abject rubbish I said that we'd best clutch the franchise to our chests while we still had it.  I'm getting that vibe again.

Fans will suggest this is cash related too.  Luthor's back tonight with just four episodes and there are other shows which would have previously had longer runs making do with just six.  If Doctor Who has become too expensive to produce in this climate, I wish they'd be honest about it.

There was a time that Doctor Who began at Easter and ran for thirteen episodes and that happened for four years on the trot.  That time feels quite distant now.  We're just going to have to make do with what we have now.  Let's just hope no one uses words like "rest" and "hiatus" shall we?

Still, there's always this to contemplate.  I'm sorry, I don't have a provenance for it, but damn ...

... proper story point or has the prop department in Cardiff only got one brooch?

Either way, all of this has nicely derailed the evening.

Update! The Danny Cohen interview was mentioned in this Media Guardian report, but they did't seem to think the Doctor Who thing was important enough to enunciate on.

Meanwhile, Sam Hodges, the BBC's Head of Comms has said in his twitter feed (after a question from John): "Situation stays the same - 14 episodes commissioned, starting in 2012. How they will play out will be revealed at a later date."

My assumption now? Two Christmas specials, six in Autumn 2012, six in 2013 = 14. Eeek. Perhaps they're all an hour long. Yes, that'll be it. (shrugs)

Update! 9:52pm   BBC Entertainment Correspondent Lizo Mzimba's finally writing about it on his twitter feed.  Says the comment about Steven Moffat needed to time to work on Sherlock wasn't to be taken seriously.  Which makes this all the more bizarre / infuriating / amateurish.

Mzimba also sort of confirms mine and Ian's assumption (see comments) that it'll be half in Autumn 2012, the rest in 2013.  Hopefully it just means that they're changing the production/commissioning schedule and we will in fact know about another fourteen which'll start playing out come Autumn 2013. 

Plus as Nat points out, this whole thing could just be so that a special episode runs on Saturday November 23rd 2013, which I agree would indeed be awesome.  Idea: total homage to An Unearthly Child.  Two school teachers follow a young girl home.  Find junkyard.  But instead of Hartnell, it's Matt Smith.

Update! 23:27pm The Doctor Who News Page has round up the story. It means the Private Eye story may well have been somewhat accurate, but we don't know what not a "full series" really means, in other words, how many of those thirteen plus Christmas special will be shown. Could be ten for all we know.  We await the inevitable BBC press release with great interest.  Night night.

Update! 15/6/2011 Steven's posted:
"Dr Who: misquotes and misunderstandings. But I'm not being bounced into announcing the cool stuff before we're ready. Hush, and patience."
Quite right too. As it should be and should have been all along.

Update!  16/6/2011  BBC News have posted a story on this with the full quotes, internal corporation politics laid bare.  They've gone with "Sherlock's success means less Doctor Who in 2012" headline even though their own entertainment correspondent has said those comments were meant to be a joke.

Although you can't blame them because, they don't look like he's joking.  They're not the throwaway comment most of us assumed them to be the other night. They're in depth and with a genuine belief behind them. Cohen specifically says "He [Moffat] needs enough time to get that done and then start work on the next series of Doctor Who". Familes are mentioned.

The Moff's not happy:
"The scheduling of Dr Who has got NOTHING to with Sherlock. On the plus side THE BBC SPELLED MY NAME RIGHT!!!!"
What if Cohen assumed that was the reason and Moffat's just as frustrated by what he's said (the misunderstandings of the earlier tweet) as the BBC News story for going with that angle.  But text can't capture tone of voice (unless the writer includes some indication) so for all we know this was some lengthy routine and the audience were giggling throughout.

If you think this looks like an over analysis, you should have seen Twitter over the past couple of days (although lets face it most of you did).  Not since AC Bradley writing about Hamlet have so few lines been analysed in such depth, lines which it turns out might not even have been accurate.  The Zapruder film looks all but ignored in comparison.

Meanwhile, The Guardian has also posted about this, and oddly as though they didn't have a reporter at the same conference, relying on the BBC story instead. I've asked in the comments why they didn't think to mention it in the earlier story since they would have had the same transcript.

Update!  17/6/2011 The following exchange took place on Twitter today which I'll post without commentary because now I don't know what to think. Darren Waters is Social Media Producer in the BBC Wales newsroom and ex-tech editor at BBC News site.  I've removed twitter names for clarity.

Neil Gaiman:
Er... is it my imagination or are you being shafted by BBC online news?

Steven Moffat:
It's not your imagination. Unbelievable, unacceptable.

Darren Waters:
What's unbelievable? That BBC News quoted the BBC One controller?

Steven Moffat:
Out of context and not being clear that he was joking.

Darren Waters:
Then that's poor. The editor there is v receptive, I'll pass on your comments.

Steven Moffat:

Update! 18/6/2011 Someone has uploaded the audio of Danny Cohen's comments to YouTube [via].

Best bit? The lady who begins with the serious voice as though she's going to finally ask a serious question about something serious and then ... "Gillian McKinnon from the Church of Scotland ... I just wanted to confirm does that mean no Doctor Who in 2012?"

Not that this isn't serious, of course.

The giggling seems related to the number of people asking Doctor Who questions, seeking clarifications as to what he means -- fans all turn into journalists when a programme head in the room -- or they think the future of the programme is in doubt.

Is Cohen joking? He sounds like a man answering a question with the situation as he believes it to be. The key phrase, which hasn't been included anywhere else is "That's the genuine reason" (admittedly said after the whole eating and sleeping thing).

But as I discovered in the many, many training sessions that are given in call centres, verbal communication is a tiny proportion of the overall impression that someone might want to be giving. I think we're going to need video.

Which is joke by the way. This has probably gone on long enough. We probably really won't know what's gone on here until the Ed Stradling documentary in twenty years in which the whole thing is described through the half remembered anecdotes of the participants.

19/06/2011 Yesterday's Two-minute Time Lord rounded up all of this and mentioned my comments below in the comments section about the show's influence. Always strange hearing a near stranger saying your name out loud. But thank you! 

It also makes the very good point about the knock on effects these shorter seasons may have in terms of international sales, especially in the US where viewers are used to massive runs of episodes.  Six or seven seems insubstantial in comparison to a BSG tranche of twenty-two.

In The Writer's Tale, RTD notes that one of this issues they had to deal with for the 2009 specials was giving BBC Worldwide less content to release that year which made them less able to provide funding backwards to make the shows which led to The Waters of Mars almost being dropped at one point. Hmm...

05/07/2011 This couldn't be from a more vaguer source but Doctor Who TV is reporting that a convention attendee at Comic Con France asked Steven about the number of episodes next year and he's reported to have said:
“Contrary to some rumours you may have heard, there will be the same number of episodes.”
DWtv then say: "Later adding that there will be a change in transmission. But not on the number of episodes."

As with everything else, we await confirmation on this, but if true it does seem most likely to be the transmission has simply been shifted to the Autumn leading to a gap somewhere for Christmas.

29/8/2011 In an interview for The Daily Beast, Steven clarifies this comment even more:
"Absolute nonsense. First of all, we are airing in 2012. The only thing that’s happening is that we’re moving a bit later...There’s lots of reasons for that that will become clear quite soon...It is certainly not a reduced episode count. Do you think the BBC would really let that happen? With an average audience of 10 million?…Doctor Who’s international profile is huge. It’s never been more successful. You’re not going to reduce a show like this. The opposite is going to happen, in fact."
So there we have it. On later in the year, usual number of episodes, reasons soon.

23/09/2011 Doctor Who Magazine editor Tom Spilsbury has confirmed when the next series of Doctor Who will be broadcast in his editorial for Doctor Who Magazine:
"I can tell you now there are huge plans for when the show returns next autumn, not to mention the programme's 50th anniversary just around the corner."
So there we have it, the show is moving completely from an Easter start. I know a couple of people who'll be very pleased with that. Still no official announcement of course ...

10/10/2011 Den of Geek reports that the new Doctor Who: The Brilliant Book 2012 has an interview with Steven Moffat in which he also (just about) confirms an Autumn start:
“The truth behind the delay next year is: why are we killing ourselves and risking compromising the show, in order to go out in the middle of summer? I’m sick of it. I’m sick of standing in the blazing sunshine, with a barebecue fork in my hand, knowing that Doctor Who is coming on any minute.”
It is possible they'll run thirteen episodes in one chunk in the lead up to Christmas starting at the beginning of September and ending the first week in December.  Everyone (including Gen of Deek) are assuming a split because of Danny Cohen's comments but with more time, they won't need to.  The Christmas special wrapped this weekend.

17/11/2011 As an aside, today the BBC advertised for a "Commercial Director" to work on the Doctor Who brand, presumably because with the upcoming 50th anniversary it's going to become bigger than the combined efforts of the BBC's own press office and Cardiff will have time for.  One of the paragraphs contains something curious in terms of role:
"As a Commercial Director you'll create and execute a five year plan for the Doctor Who brand and manage the overall brand P&L. As well as approving products and communications relating to the brand, your role will be to oversee all aspects of brand management and protection. In addition, you'll identify and develop new business opportunities for the brand and ensure that they are executed."
Which seems to suggest despite all of the tooing and frowing with the scheduling and all that implies, the BBC are planning for some form of the show to be around right through 2015.  Which is amazing.

18/11/2011  Moffat has finally addressed the gap in his Production Notes column in Doctor Who Magazine this month.  He repeats what he says above about noting liking to see Who in the Spring/Summer and how the afternoons getting darker used to signal the return of the series.   He also implies it's so that the show is on during the anniversary in 2013 and that the show "is going to enter production for the longest sustained period we've ever attempted, and the biggest and best and maddest time ever to be a fan of this wonderful old show is rumbling towards us."

Then:  "And yes, you got me.  We needed a little more time to prepare for everything we've got planned.  That, above all, is why we needed this little gap. Just be a tiny bit patient, and trust me, we'll make it up to you."  (my italics).  Which perhaps implies there was a grain of truth in what Danny Cohen said earlier.  There just wasn't the time to start production properly for Easter and the happy coincidence means the kids will finally be able to understand the sense of anticipation which used to be part and parcel of being a fan in the olden days when we were young.

21/11/2011  Matt Smith was on BBC Breakfast this morning.  The interview was trailed earlier in the morning as "And we'll speak to Matt Smith on why he's not ready to leave the Doctor just yet" and well, as seems to be forever the case, as SFX reports, not everything went to plan:
"Matt Smith told BBC Breakfast this morning that filming starts in February for 14 new episodes of Doctor Who, including a full series, a Christmas special and a 50th anniversary special, which will be a one-off."
Yes, well, hum.  SFX try and get their head around that and decided that either Matt's got his maths wrong or we're entering an even more fallow period than previously discussed.  When Steven says it'll be "the longest sustained period we've ever attempted" he's not wrong, though the 2008 season (documented in The Writer's Tale) was pretty long with a whole series and a Christmas special at either end.

My own guess is that there'll be all of this production, then a gap then production on the next season after that and for accounting reasons it's cheaper for them to make the 50th Anniversary as part of this production block.  Or the 50th anniversary story is so massive that it's consuming the budget of an entire series.  Or a series in and of itself.  Not really helping this, is it?

Later ... We have video:

Matt says he's about to start filming the fourteen episodes. He's then asked if that's two series (clearly the whole s6.1 and s6.2 thing is still confusing Bio-Turnbull) and Matthew says it's a series then a Christmas special, then he mentions the 50th but it seems to me like a different unattached thing, a "we're doing this as well" thing. So nothing to worry about there then.

18/01/2012  Happy New Year!  Moffat etc collected an award at the Radio Times cover party and was asked a few pertinent questions.  They have video, but the thrust of it is to confirm that there will be "at least" fourteen episodes, which will begin broadcast in the Autumn and that the Christmas special will be "part of the run".  Moffat also says that knowing "some" of the plans for the 50th anniversary he can tell us "there'll be no better time to be a Doctor Who fan".

Never mind the Olympics, it sounds as though (from these comments and other bits and pieces in the party newsletter and elsewhere) the anniversary is going to be something of a media blitz.  As well as the actual drama itself, whatever that's going to be like, we already we're going to have a ton of new past Doctor novels, and my guess, and this is just a guess, Gatiss will finally get to fulfil his long-standing wish to produce a "Road to Coronation Street" style drama about the origins of the series.  Hope so.

21/03/2012   Amid the companion announcements this morning, the BBC's official Who twitter feed finally revealed the information this whole post has been about:

As expected the Christmas special is sort of embedded in the season, though inconveniently the 25th is on a Wednesday, so this won't be The Feast of Steven for a new generation.

My guess is we'll have a late November start, five weeks in December, the special, then the next chunk running through January and February.

Expect the BBC and ITV shouting at each other again over scheduling as Who and The X-Factor chasing each other around the Saturday night schedule.  This doesn't end yet.

16/07/2012  Well, that was wrong.  Much as it was last year, the s7's being broken up again.  There's a preview screening of the opening episode at the BFI Southbank on August 14, followed by another at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, which takes place from August 23 to August 25 which indicates the premiere will be imminent and Matt's suggested at ComicCon it'll be "some time in August" so presumably within days of the EITF.

Checking the calender, that would put the broadcast on Saturday August 25th as treat before all the kids go back to school which seems really odd consider its high summer.  The more obvious option would be to leave it until the 1st or 8th September, but given the proximity of those preview screenings and not wanting the episodes to feel old before broadcast, I'm going to still my neck out and say s7 of DW will screen 25th August.

Finally.  Of course none of this is over.  We'll have five episodes across September then a gap, which is nice because it gives Amy & Rory a decent send off and gives Jenna a proper opening, with all the pre-advertising, hype and interviews in time for Christmas (plus a handy chronological gap for future spin-offs to fit in) then presumably another gap before the broadcast of the bottom eight of s7.

Here's something to keep us busy in the meantime:

21/08/2012  I was wrong.  It's the 8th September.  Maybe.

22/08/2012  No it isn't.  It's the 1st September.  So I was only a week out and at 7:20 which is nice and late and in a fifty minute long timeslot.  We're opposite Red & Black and the first twenty minutes of The X Factor.  Makes a change from Family Fortunes I suppose.

28/08/2012  New controversy.  The BBC's Who programme pages for Series Seven is only listing twelve episodes.  That's obviously thirteen if you add the Christmas special.  But does it?  It's probably a misprint given all the tweets and confirmations above and directly contradicts this tweet from the official account, but if right it means one of two scenarios.

(1)  Eleven ordinary episodes and a special.  Which means 5 now + Christmas special + 6 next year.
(2)  Twelve ordinary episode and a special.  Which means 5 now + Christmas special + 7 next year (instead of the expected 8).

Does this mean the 50th anniversary is being counted as part of Series 7 somehow?  They're sacrificing an episode to add some extra budget to the anniversary specials?  It is at the end of the this filming block, so it's possible and that wouldn't contradict the Official tweet even if its not entirely what we had in mind especially because it would infer a 2014 start for Series 8.  I knew there was a reason I was keeping this post open.

29/08/2012  Now its been changed to the far more cagey 5 episodes (perhaps after I tweeted the official accounted and pointed it out to them.  It's still not technically accurate really but does at least observe the known knowns rather than the known unknowns.  So either we found out something we weren't supposed to or it was indeed just a typo.  What fun.  Though less so if we consider the idea that these five episodes are Series 7 and the seven or eight after Christmas are Series 8.  That'd be messy.

29/08/2012  Later  Having posted all this predictably to GallifreyBase I was reminded that Moffat included a status update for 14 episodes in his Production Notes column in Doctor Who Magazine, with the Christmas special listed as episode 6.  This does not frankly suggest that 14 is an ordinary episode.  It could be the 50th Anniversary special.  I suppose.  Well, hum.  Again.

12/12/2012  I've been a bit remiss in not including the successful broadcast of five episodes of this series.  The Christmas special is out on the 25th.  News comes now that the back eight will begin in April 2012, presumably with an Easter launch, which puts he finale back in the June area.

New controversy.  By then the 50th anniversary episodes are going to be produced for broadcast in November, which is as expected.  Except there's little news of Series Eight which suggests that's not turning up until 2014 at the earliest and may enjoy the split season pattern of 2011.  Which is speculation, but I really can't see the 50th leading off into another series or being part of one.  Unless all of this is one of the reasons Merlin isn't returning.

23/01/2013  Someone snapped this at the London Toy Fair:

Much wringing of digital hands, "Is that all?", they ask, "Is that all that's going to be on?"

The key bit is of course, "will include", in other words, more to be announced.

Oh and the bottom eight have been confirmed to begin at Easter, 31st March.

But it is a "concern" that series Eight hasn't even had a glimmer of a suggestion of even being filmed.  Remember the old days (all of 2005-2008) when we'd have thirteen episodes in a row once a year like clockwork?

One other thing.  Remember that quote from Danny Cohen which began this whole thing:

"Danny Cohen says there won't be a full series of Doctor Who in 2012, but a special run for the anniversary in 2013. #cmn11"

He wasn't wrong, was he?

11/02/2013  There's still life in this old post yet.

The BBC head of drama Ben Stephenson gave one his speeches today about upcoming commissions bringing with it the unfortunate news that the 30th anniversary special will be in 3D which'll look crap for most of the viewing audience because it'll have lots of things shooting forwards into a flat space and the brilliant news that it'll be broadcast on the 23rd November which happens to be a Saturday thanks to the way calendars work.  Here's the key quote from The Guardian:

"There will be lots of aliens and daleks and things like that – or maybe there won't. There are many different things to take into account and we will also have a Christmas special after that and it all connects. Or maybe it doesn't. There's lots to work out."

Which confirms that there isn't going to be more than the bottom end of seasons seven, the 50th and then the Christmas special, which is still ten episode but also means we've only had one full (modern) series over two years and no idea what's happening with series eight, which I still think is either going to be split in two again in 2014 or might not bother to arrive until the old Merlin slot in the Winter.

Of course the whole thing's rather messed up thanks to the also newly announced Atlantis series, or Clash of the Teen Titans.  If that's filling thirteen presumably concurrent Saturday night slots, how likely is it that Who'll ever get another thirteen concurrent slots for itself.

Again we ask.  What is the BBC's strategy for Doctor Who?

No comments: