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Confidentially Cancelled

The BBC has announced that this weekend’s episode of Doctor Who Confidential will be the last one ever. The next series of Doctor Who will not have a documentary style companion show with it. Which is fair enough; every Doctor Who fan knows that eventually, all companions have to leave, and this may as well apply to low-budget documentaries as much as it applies to highlanders, savages, future girls and hot redheads.

What’s more interesting is see the reaction of the Who fandom. Sci-fi fans react to the dreaded word “cancellation” in the same way that baby starling reacts to the silhouette of a bird-of-prey; by generating a hell of a din and panicking blindly at the same time. Despite there being no sign of the BBC cancelling its flagship family-friendly drama, the e-petitions1 and twitter hash-tags are out in force. Thanks to the power of the internet, you too can fill the web with sound and fury, and at the same time, signify absolutely nothing.

According to former Doctor Who Producer, Russell T Davies, Confidential started out as a way of squeezing out an additional 45 minutes worth of telly out of a relatively expensive show. After all, pointing a camera at some people and asking them to talk is much cheaper than producing high-quality drama, and the trick was copied elsewhere (Heroes and Merlin, to name but two) as way of making a budget stretch as well as keeping key production staff in employment between filming blocks.

The Clapper Board (c)BBC

As nice as it is, do we really need another ten hours of this sort of thing?

Things have changed. When Confidential first came out, no one was sure if Doctor Who would be a hit. When it quickly became apparent that the Time Lord and chums was here to stay, plans for a permanent studio were laid and the show saw some heavy investment. As production continued and producers changed, they have learned that the show benefits from being shown in short bursts rather than longer ones, and how to market the whole thing to foreign markets. All things considered, it’s safe to say that we should be enjoying the adventures of a mad man in a box for some years to come. The benefits of Confidential are simply no longer required.

Other factors are worth bearing in mind as well. BBC Three, the home of Doctor Who Confidential, is desperate to cut away the apron strings of the larger, terrestrial channels. Three aims to be the channel you go to watch fresh new telly. It has already cancelled the long running (but awful) Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps and the axe is falling on various docu-dramas as well. At the same time, new and different shows such as The Fades are appearing on Three, and if this is a sign of things to come, then it is a very good sign.

Still, it’s going to be missed. This year’s series gave us some lovely insights, such as the episode that let us follow writer Neil Gaiman round the set and watch him glow with delight as he got to caper about the set of TARDIS, and it’s always nice to see how things work. However, all these things will still be around, you’ll just have to pay for them when you buy the DVD, and given that we have been spoilt for this sort of thing in the past, you won’t hear me complain. Or sign an e-petition.


1: Ah, the e-petition, the modern way of showing you care without actually having to do anything.

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  1. September 29, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    I wasn’t a regular viewer of confidential, but from what I saw of it it was interesting. Maybe they could just do one confidential per series instead, or per half series (as we seem to be getting at the moment).

    It was originally BBC2 that was responsible for ‘2 pints of lager’ about 10 years ago, it only got moved to bbc3 later once its viewing figures started to drop – at least they’ve decided to finally ditch it (about 5 series at least too late in my opinion – the earlier series with the original cast were as bad as the later ones.)

    I agree Fades looks good (I’ve seen the first 2 episodes and based on that I will almost certainly watch the rest of the series), and is following the lead of Being Human, another BBC3 show. It’s time BBC3 actually had more shows that are worth watching.

  2. Si
    September 29, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Wait, so you’re complaining on the internet about people complaining on the internet?

    How very meta.

  3. Vicki
    September 29, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t really care about the cancellation. I actually don’t even watch Confidential, at least not until the DVD release. And while it can be interesting sometimes, I don’t think it’s really all that good most of it. And I’m sure we’ll still see something similar on the DVDs anyway because that’s what DVDs are for.

  4. September 29, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    [EDITED TO FIX EMBARRSING TYPOS]

    Well said, and pretty close to my own feelings on the matter.

    At it’s best, Confidential was engrossing, insightful stuff. Increasinngly, though, it was becoming “let’s follow another random prodcution team member to the canteen trailer and find out if they have beans or not”. And the cut-down versions presented on the DVDs were just frustrating for being obviously rushed, shapeless versions of something that was supposed to be longer and – if it had been made for the DVD in the first place – could have been planned better.

    Freed of *having* to produce a 45 minute programe for every week of Doctor Who’s run, hopefully the folks behind it will be able to pop back *when warranted* to give us some better, more focussed behind the scenes coverage (such as the excellent Neil Gaiman-centric one) for the DVD extras.

    But I will be eternally grateful for those all-too-brief interview snippets with Catrin Stewart, from the set of AGMGTW… =:o}

  5. Caz
    September 29, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    I have to admit that I’m not overly fussed about the cancellation of DWC. There have been some very good ones – the one for Midnight was fascinating, for example – and some truly awful ones like the one for Vampires in Venice last year.

    And it seems, over the past two series especially, that it’s been a bit of a struggle to fill 45 minutes each week. They could have trimmed it to 20 mins, or perhaps made one at the end of each series or something similar if they’d wanted to keep it going, I suppose, but as you say, stuff like that will still be available on DVDs.

  6. September 29, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    I feel it’s run its course. The occasional one is awesome but they seemed to be struggling with the hour-long format to me. And I fear that loud complaining will only serve to confirm the stereotype of DW fans being whiney and obsessive.

  7. Kat
    September 30, 2011 at 5:23 am

    I think I saw the writing on the wall where they sent Karen driving and Aurthur swam with sharks. Not exactly riviting Doctor Who Stuff.

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