I really should be big and ugly enough to get over such news.
I've had worse.
I remember that Christmas such a long time ago as I flipped through my first ever Doctor Who Magazine with its cover of a Cyberman/Dalek war (like that would ever happen), and it's true they were more interesting to look at back then, full of different colours and articles and interviews and fiction. Nowadays it's Confidential novelized with a comic strip.
But I remember that stabbing sense of fear as I saw that picture of the Seventh Doctor wielding that amulet from The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, with that look of desperate fear that McCoy does so well and the caption that read, "The Greatest Show... no more?"
Even back then I knew it wasn't about the master tapes of the story being given the Troughton purge.
And today I feel that stabbing sensation.
I shouldn't though. Doctor Who has suffered through these moments before.
In 1985, the BBC were utterly, utterly screwed. They could have been rehearsing for the stock market crash, only with more pessimism. Thatcher and economics had totally and utterly ruined them. They were at the end of their velco, unable to afford rope. They chose Michael Grade to be their new leader, their Controller who will be obeyed without question. They gave him more power than anyone else had ever weilded.
"Do whatever you want," they begged him en masse, no longer caring that this guy was not what you'd call neutral when it came to TV. He cancelled The Goodies, for crying out. OK, they would have quit soon anyway, but a choice would have been nice. "Just save us!" they continued to beg.
So, Grade sat behind his chair, leered, and then started cancelling all the shows that were more expensive than the revenue they made. Lots of them were axed with no thought or even malice. Doctor Who just happened to be one of them. And it WAS cancelled. The end. No more. Kaput.
JNT (humanity within him) was horrified and set to action while his second in commands Eric Saward and Ian Levine went to sleep and went nuts respectively. One didn't care and the other cared too much, expecting that if he bought a TV, smashed it and dumped it in the lobby, that would somehow bring down the government. It's like Rik the People's Poet, only more pathetic.
JNT however, using a cunning filter of fans and friends caused a popular uprising against the BBC. The Sun, always happy to run a front page, did the infamous "Dr Who Axed in BBC Plot!" and with their usual flair for accuracy managed to convince half the production team that Colin Baker had genuinely been assassinated by some crazed accountant (Nicola Bryant was relieved to discover the truth).
Grade was targetted as the bastard behind all this when it was GENUINELY nothing personal. But after his skiing holiday was ruined by paparazzi (nothing compared to nowadays, but intense at the time) Grade reversed his decision and modified it to an 'eighteen month hiatus'. I think Doctor Who was downhill in Season 22, and others do as well. But Season 23 would be no improvement.
Why? Because Grade's total apathy towards Doctor Who was now becoming a dislike. The thing was in his bad books already for expensive, violent, imaginative... and now he was being heckled for doing his job! The job he was doing well since the BBC hadn't burned itself down for insurance. So, as long as Season 23 was cheaper and different enough for him to claim it had been reformed, he didn't care.
By the time Season 23 had finished, Grade out and out hated the show. With the flimsiest of excuses he gave the team a choice. Either they got their act together with mass ratings or it was the end. And the simplest way to do that was replace the Doctor. JNT was appalled, as he was never afraid to admit, but he realized that if HE quit instead of Colin, there was nothing to stop the show being killed for good. Colin, accepting the dire straits his producer had been put it, agreed to leave and stormed out. After sweating blood, JNT worked out the chance for Colin to reappear in the first story of Season 24 but Colin, understandably, refused as the wounds were too fresh, and the show survived.
THEN, an idiot called Philip Segal had to ruin everything.
Just as Doctor Who was finding its feet, working to its budget with the only person unhappy on it JNT because he STILL couldn't risk leaving, Segal sent a letter to the Controller of the BBC, now Peter Creegan. It wasn't an offensive letter or anything, just a few questions.
But BAD questions.
How much did it cost to make? Would you mind if Americans made it instead? Could this be the way things worked on from now on?
Creegan was delighted. More and more of the BBC shows were being outsourced, made by different companies who could handle all the cash and problems and the BBC could, Chatham-style, take the credit. So, he 'rested' Doctor Who and waited for the American company to take over, meaning it should have been 1991 when the show returned bigger and better than ever - after all, only a total moron would have turned up bragging American backing if there wasn't any...
But there wasn't.
Finally, it was decided that there would be a Doctor Who movie which would spin off into a new series. Every possible production company had a stab, but the BBC thought most of them were crap, were trying to up the offers from the professionals and at the same time milk more revenue from Doctor Who during the all-important thirtieth anniversary. But the BBC wouldn't surrender the rights to Doctor Who, just as they refused to make it themselves. In the meantime, a constant trickle of cash from books, videos, magazines, etc, kept them ticking over.
And when the movie was finally made, Doctor Who had gone off. Hardly anyone was interested in making a series nowadays, and everyone wanted it rebooted from scratch with the amnesiac exiled Doctor being hunted through America by the Master and his Ogron Terminator beasts. Like the BBC, Fox knew that they had the potential for some good stuff even if they didn't know how to use it.
Until, in 2003 Lorraine Heggessy rang them up and demanded "Are you fuckers ever going to do some work?!"
The mumbled voices on the line mentioned they'd thought a bit about Alan Cummins and that they had to wash their hair.
After a stream of abuse, Heggessy got ALL the rights back to Doctor Who and told the three ducklings before her (Russel, Julie and Phil) to get to work. Starting a show is harder than continuing one so all of 2004 was about forging Season 27 with its Doctors, Rosies, Muggseys, Captain Jaxes and of course, the evil Will Fences and his alien captive Toclafane in the basement, and remodelling Cybermen because obviously the Daleks wouldn't turn up.
Since then we've had 39 episodes, three Christmas specials, two special episodes, two Comic Relief sketches, sixteen full length novels, action figures, activity books, annuals, storybooks, a new kid-friendly version of DWM, plus three spin off with Sarah Jane, Captain Jack and K9.
And then this happens.
They're taking a 'gap year'.
I hate that term. I hate the fact I'll get only three hours of new Doctor Who for a whole year. I hate the fact that after waiting fifteen years for a new series, they DELIBERATELY decide to take a year off. And why are they doing it?
Well, apparently, they're buggered. They all need a rest apparently.
And so they should!
One series exhausted Christopher "Dead Northan me" Eccleston to the point of collapse. David Tennant, younger, fitter, camper, managed two series before his mum died (which put a crimp on his enthusiasm, as you can imagine). But the production team are at death's door.
Maybe, just maybe if they were making ONE spin off instead of three, it might have worked itself out.
Has Torchwood really been a success? There's an unofficial guidebook, three books and a DVD. The main writer has placed not so subtle digs at the first series throughout Season 29 - the Welsh are imbeciles, the Hub is stupid and the main character is destined to become a head in a jar, and any mysteries in the show can be explained by a six year old fan of the parent show.
Just why did they agree to make all these spin offs? Why? Couldn't they have just authorized OTHER PEOPLE to do it for them? After Invasion of the Bane, the SJAs should have been handed over to someone else to make. The K9As did. And now this.
Did they not notice that if they weren't making all these spin offs, they could concentrate on the main show? Anyone who says Tennant's first year didn't suffer is lying. Everyone was sneaking off early to concentrate on Torchwood (and so would you if you heard about a serious gritty adult sci fi drama with Captain Jack "Cassanova" Harkness there, wouldn't you?) and we were left with a string of unconnected, uninvolved plots that not even Graham Harper could save, turning the main characters into total gits.
With RTD's rising antipathy to Torchwood allowing him to focus more on the new season of Doctor Who (and you'll be glad to know the finished Season 29 is a vast improvement on the pitch, unlike Season 28 which caused me to sob, "why, why?!?" and lovingly stroke the pages) I can only hope the imminent holiday doesn't cause him to start slacking off. Hell, I probably would in his shoes.
Rumors have been circulating for ages that RTD and DT are some kind of drunken megalomaniacs, lying in decadence demanding peeled grapes and threatening to quit and ruin the show unless they are pampered and fawned over. How I joined in with the mobs that shouted anglo saxon abuse at the rumor mongers! These blokes care too much for the show to deliberately ruin it...
So... next year we get the third year of David Tennant's Doctor, a second series of Torchwood, Sarah Jane Investigates... and the year after that?
Well, does anyone really expect SJ's spin off to make a second season without half the cast being changed? It's taking so long in the production one of the main cast has been replaced. Unless they Round the Twist-style change the cast every series, this show's stated format is dead in the water.
As for Torchwood, Chris Chinball's 42 has just, JUST convinced me he might be able to make the show vaguely watchable. But as it's sold around Captain Jack (who, remember, was hardly in the first series despite being the central character... if you could SAY he had a character), it's likely to be even more difficult for a third season unless John Barrowman quits to focus on whatever the hell he does that stops him being a regular in any established show. Which means we could be stuck with Owen Harper and Gwen Cooper, similar in name, outlook and punchability. Methinks they aren't ready for the 21st century and never will be. And RTD agrees with that thought.
And frankly, the K9Adventures... do we know ANYTHING about it yet? Except that Channel 10 (having woken up in bed finding themself with Torchwood being shown shoved it quickly into a graveyard slot and pretended nothing happened) have bought it. Have the voices been cast? When will it be on?
So, in 2009 we get three 60 minute specials. Not all in a bunch, like Jonathon Creek, but scattered over the year.
RTD's going to write them all. And they're all first episodes, basically. That means it's spectacle, spectacle, spectacle! Watch this! There's a giant ant in Supermarket Sweep! Lord Lucan is found to be a Slitheen! That woman on Malcasserio is, in fact, Morbius with a girly hand! The sort of bollocks you forgive for Christmas specials and opening episodes, in the knowledge subtlety and intrigue is at least offered around the corner.
But not in 2009.
The TV equivalent of a Balowski monologue - abrupt, out of left field and quickly over. And look at the beating the media's been giving Doctor Who while it was regularly on air. It's been cancelled and everyone's quit sixteen times a month! How are they going to react when it becomes three one-off specials? How long before "oh, season five, no more, BBC bosses break wind". The Sun have blabbed every twist from the Doctor dying, to the Dalek/Cybermen war to the Master returning. Now, those are the big parts of three thirteen episode sagas. What are they gonna blow when they only have three plots?
BBCWales has been sweating under the collar about Torchwood losing its 'fan base' (or the looneys that claim to be so, anyway) during their 'gap year'. It won't happen to Doctor Who, of course, but the goodwill of the media can vanish like THAT! Not a single damning review of New Earth was carried out by a journalist who hadn't raved about how great The Christmas Invasion was. Find a criticism of Martha by someone who wasn't bitching aboout Rose all the time.
Season 31, when it arrives... if it arrives... is not going to have an easy time of it.
And while we're left with Big Finish, and the brightening thought of some new material returning to Doctor Who Magazine now they have room to breathe, and those bloody novels I must get round to reading, it doesn't quite cheer me up.
Worst of all is the fact that there will not be enough critical mass of Doctor Who in the year to fend off the spectre of Ben Chatham and the inevitable "if they'd just used the story about the giant otter ripping off lower class housewives' arms, the show would be in a much better state".
And the fact my family have to all concentrate on staying alive to 2010...