We all knew it would happen sometime (not even John Nathan-Turner went on forever) and there have been rumours flying around for a while, but yesterday the BBC confirmed that Russell T Davies will be stepping down as executive producer of Doctor Who. He’ll stay on for the four specials to be broadcast next year but will be gone before the show’s fifth series in 2010.
I don’t think anyone can deny that Davies’ run of the show has been phenomenally successful. Ok, actually, I know that people can (and do) deny that, but a moment’s reflection will hopefully demonstrate the stupidity of that opinion. Over the last four years Davies has resurrected Doctor Who and turned it into one of the most successful BBC programmes of all time. People have warm nostalgic feelings for the “old Doctor Who”, but it was never anywhere near as successful as this new version. Of course there have been some dodgy new episodes (quite often in the episodes written by Davies himself) but no-one can doubt that it was largely Davies’ vision of the show that has made it the success it is today.
I’m not as in tune with Doctor Who fandom as I used to be. But from what I’ve seen there seem to be two main objections to Davies tenure on the programme:
1/ It’s not as good as it used to be
This is, to put it plainly, bollocks. Certainly the old series produced more than it’s fair share of top quality TV, but if you actually sit down and watch the old series (and I mean a whole series, not just your favourite stories) you’ll quickly realise that there was a lot of rubbish there too.
A related complaint is that too much has changed – from the format of the shows (largely single 45 minute episodes as opposed to four 25 minute episodes) to the emphasis on London (or, rather, Cardiff pretending to be London) or the “soap opera” aspects of bringing in the companions’ families. Well, yes, things have changed. But the audience has changed too and people want different things from their Saturday evening drama. Yes, it might annoy the die-hard Who fans or the science fiction audience. But it’s not made for them. If the BBC relied on pleasing those people then there’s no way the show would have been as successful as it has been.
2/ Davies is gay, and therefore the spawn of the devil
Amazing as it seems in the twenty-first century, this is the second most common complaint about the new series that I’ve heard. Yes, Davies is gay. People are. And they don’t hide it any more. And it’s a perfectly normal part of society. Deal with it.
Davies is handing over Stephen Moffat. Fans of the show should be pleased with this as Moffat has written some of the most popular recent episodes – The Doctor Dances, The Girl in the Fireplace and Blink (surely forty-five of the best minutes of TV ever broadcast). Older TV fans will also remember his earlier work like Press Gang and Joking Apart. And, in common with Davies, he seems to be a long-time fan of Doctor Who. The BBC story quotes him as saying:
I applied before but I got knocked back ‘cos the BBC wanted someone else. Also I was seven.
Interesting times ahead for Doctor Who. Moffat has a big task ahead of him following in Davies’ footsteps. But I can’t think of anyone else who I’d rather see taking over.