It’s always interesting to see how everyone hails Private Eye as a brave, fearless and outspoken fighter for the truth right up to the moment when it reveals a truth which happens to be inconvenient for the reader or which the reader would much prefer were not the truth. At which point Private Eye becomes a squalid, muck-raking rag.
That this should have been the reaction of fandom to Private Eye’s recent “revelations” about organisational and budgetary chaos at Cardiff shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to us. Because the capacity for stubborn denial in the face of the evidence amongst Doctor Who fans never ceases to amaze.
It was comical enough when we learned that we’d only get a season of Specials in 2009 instead of a full series. The willingness of some to swallow the most specious guff trotted out from official sources in Cardiff and repeated breathlessly and unquestioningly in the glossy pages of Pravda led the usual suspects on certain DW forums to hold parties with firework displays in celebration of the prospect of getting less DW. Anyone who suggested that DW was being arranged around David Tennant’s theatrical schedule was shouted down as a fantasist and the official line from the BBC that it was to give everyone a much needed rest was swallowed whole.
Parts of fandom have become indoctrinated with the idea that the slightest questioning of anything coming out of Cardiff will instantly result in the cancellation of DW for another 16 years. You suspect that, were the BBC to announce that they’d flogged control of DW to the USA and that the 12th Doctor would be played by Sarah Palin as a gun-toting warrior against intergalactic liberalism and gay marriage, some fans would instantly hail it as the best thing that could have happened to the show.
Similarly, when it was announced that the 2011 series would be split into two halves, most were happy to swallow the slightly bizarre and cloying line from Cardiff that this was to ensure that the nation’s children would never again have to wait more than a few months for their next DW fix.
So, when last week Private Eye carried an article in its Media News section to the effect that all was not well at Cardiff, that the 2011 split was the result of budgetary and scheduling chaos and that there may well not be a full series of DW in 2012, we got the usual three wise monkeys response from much of fandom. La la la la, I’m not listening.
Now it’s been confirmed that the chances of a full series in 2012 are almost nil, the fans once again sustain their unbroken run of wishful thinking. The latest spin being put on the situation is that it could be all a master plan to provide for a 50th anniversary spectacular in 2013. Personally, given a choice between a full series in 2012 and a half-series in 2012 plus an anniversary special in 2013, I’d say sod the special and give us our fix of DW. Especially when you consider the likelihood that any anniversary special will consist of that worst of all DW traditions, the multi-Doctor story.
Leaving aside fandom’s reflex preference for the utterly barking over deductive reasoning, you do have to ask what the hell the BBC is playing at. DW is surely one of its biggest money spinners both nationally and worldwide. An obvious target for budgetary cuts then when the licence fee was frozen. After all, without these cuts, the corporation might not be able to afford the hours of prime time self-congratulation which are the BAFTAs every year. Just imagine the blood which might run down the gutters of Portland Place if Eastenders were not run five days a week.
As for the organisational chaos referred to by Private Eye, I did wonder why, amidst all the cut n paste, you-hype-me-and-I’ll-hype-you that is the Cardiff branch of the mutual appreciation society, the most concrete complimentary thing Moffat has ever been able to say about the new producers is that Beth Willis has nice boots. In retrospect, Piers Wenger’s dodgy shirt collars should have warned us that something was amiss.
On the plus side, given the apparent chaos, it’s amazing that the ropiness of the first half of the 2011 series hasn’t been higher than it has (although all dimensions are relative).
Even the normally reliable Radio Free Skaro dropped a bit of a clanger this week by dismissing Private Eye as “Punch’s little brother”. It’s a scary thought that Canada’s reference point for British satirical and investigative journalism is Punch. Well, that’s hockey fans for you. The last time that Punch laid a blow on the British Establishment was round about the time of Rorke’s Drift since when it went into a long slow decline as a smug toy of the Establishment playing games with itself. To any non-UK residents who may not be familiar with Private Eye, it’s a long running fortnightly magazine which is one half satirical puncturing of the Establishment (sometimes via National Enquireresque parodies) and one half serious investigative journalism. It’s always quite clear where the dividing line lies. Their article on Doctor Who was in its Media News section which is devoted to spreading the latest insider gossip about the media. They may revel in dishing the dirt on media personalities they dislike but they don’t make this stuff up purely for the sake of shit-stirring or publicity stunts (as some have been suggesting this week). That’s not to say that they always get it right. But they’re right more often than wrong and it’s quite clear to a regular reader that its editorial team has quite a soft spot for DW. Witness their tribute to Lis Sladen recently.
It’s possible that what’s happening is that they’ll have a half series towards the end of 2012 and the second half towards the beginning of 2013. Which effectively means returning DW to it’s historic run of Autumn to Spring. That’d be fine by me. No more watching DW with the sun streaming through the curtains. But, if that is the case, why can’t the BBC just say so? Why this pathological need to cloak every decision regarding the scheduling of DW in a veil of half-truths?