Is the BBC right to axe Doctor Who Confidential?

It was announced yesterday that behind-the-scene show Doctor Who Confidential has been axed in order to save costs. But was it the right decision, Simon asks...?

Yesterday, the BBC confirmed that it was pulling the plug on Doctor Who Confidential, its entertaining and informative peek behind the scenes of Doctor Who that’s been screening on BBC Three after each episode of the show. The news, as you might expect, did not go down very well.

And you can understand why. Doctor Who Confidential is a treat, an unashamed luxury of a show. It means that, for over half a decade, Doctor Who has been in the enviable position of being the only mainstream show (possibly anywhere in the world) with a proper making-of documentary following every broadcast. We’ve been spoilt, and I suspect that most of us know it.

The story of the show’s demise first appeared in the Guardian yesterday, and it’s in line with the necessity to trim 20 per cent off BBC budgets. A BBC spokeswoman subsequently added that, “Doctor Who Confidential has been a great show for BBC Three over the years, but our priority now is to build on original British commissions, unique to the channel.”

It’s not an easy decision to take, certainly. Many, ourselves included, have loved Doctor Who Confidential. And, when shows such as Young, Dumb & Living Off Mum continue to earn commissions, it doesn’t make the news any easier to take.

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Certainly, that’s the point being made by the swiftly-launched Save Doctor Who Confidential Twitter feed, which has thousands of followers already. You can find it here if you want to add your name to the list of those not happy about the decision.

Personally? I’ll be really said to see it go, and yet I’m amazed it’s lasted so long. To have it accompanying six series of the show, along with assorted specials, has been lovely. I dearly hope that the effort that went into the show is put towards something that gives us a good look behind the magic curtain of Doctor Who production. Perhaps the BBC could take a leaf out of the fine work of Blogtor Who, and provide instant commentaries for episodes, for instance, on its website? That’d be possible to do, surely, and a lot, lot cheaper.

After all, it’s not just Doctor Who Confidential that’s going, but the wealth of behind the scenes material, too. Are there ways to replenish some of that elsewhere (a subscription to Doctor Who Magazine is a good start, incidentally).

Being hard-nosed, though, presumably the BBC’s choice came down to this: we can put the money into a documentary about an existing show, or we can make an all-new one. And in all honesty, I can’t say I wouldn’t have made a different decision. I’d dearly love the decision to be reversed (where else can you find such family-accessible programmes that take you intelligently behind the scenes of a production? Perhaps if it did live on, CBBC might be a better home?), but is it not better to, ultimately, invest in a new show altogether?

I write this with the caveat that it dearly depends on what that show turns out to be. I think most of us would be frustrated if the money was spent on commissions such as Britain’s Worst Teeth, Help Me Anthea, I’m Infested and half of the documentaries that seemed to turn up on BBC Three in its early days.

But another Being Human? The Fades? Or Torchwood? Perhaps even put up some cash to encourage and foster new science fiction and fantasy writing in TV? I’m being idyllic, certainly, but it’s a valuable slot in the schedules and perhaps a valuable bit of money that’s suddenly been made available.

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More likely, and this is the grim reality of it all, is that the BBC is having to find savings, not divert funds. The licence fee has been frozen, entire channels and radio stations are under some cloud of threat, and the pot of money is finite.

Reluctantly, then, I can’t help but conclude that the BBC might have made the right decision here, all things considered. Times are changing, cuts have to be made, and luxuries are in the front line when cash needs to be clawed back. The priority has to be the main show, ultimately.

Doctor Who Confidential has been interesting, a gift to the fans, and something really above and beyond what we’d had any right to expect. But it’s also most certainly been a luxury. It’s sad to lose it, but perhaps we should just be thankful we had it in the first place.

There is a petition to save Doctor Who Confidential, which you can find here.

The Guardian

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