Currybet's law - 5 reasons why Doctor Who always crops up in BBC meetings
When I was at the #openbbc event at Broadcasting House last week, we nearly got through the whole evening without a single mention of Doctor Who. Just at the last moment, however, someone thankfully did. This rescued my record of not having been to single BBC meeting in the last 5 years-or-so that didn't use Doctor Who as the default BBC example of...well lots of things.
"The more BBC staff that are present in a meeting, the probability of 'Doctor Who' being mentioned approaches one"
Now, unlike Godwin's Law, mentioning Doctor Who doesn't end a debate within the BBC.
However, I've seen it used as shorthand for lots of different things within the Corporation, and I thought it worth posting 5 reasons that Doctor Who is the obvious example BBC people use
It is an example of multi-platform
Whether it was the interactive only story 'Attack of The Graske', the spoof websites that have accompanied the series, the webcasts before the revival or the online Flash games, the re-launch of Doctor Who has been a truly multi-platform experience, including radio and podcasts.
Indeed, the BBC even put on a special internal presentation about the successful multi-platform nature of the show, and the Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures spin-offs.
There are very few examples of true 360° commissioning, but the Doctor Who production base in Cardiff is one of them.
It is genuinely popular and critically acclaimed
I know the BBC mantra is to 'make the popular good, and make the good popular', but Doctor Who hits the holy grail of being genuinely popular and critically acclaimed. It is a programme brand almost universally loved by the British public, in a way that not many other BBC brands are. EastEnders is hugely popular, but divisive. Today is essential, but only appeals to a certain demographic, and so on and so forth. Therefore Doctor Who repeatedly crops up in meetings as something for the Corporation to aspire to.
It is a heritage brand
Doctor Who has a long television history that pre-dates BBC2 and colour. This means that you can bring it up in BBC meetings in lots of contexts.
You can compare how crude the production values were in 1963 to now. You can despair that episodes were junked in the 70s as an example of why the digital preservation of everything is now sacrosanct. You can mock the hand-typed production documents from 1989 that are exposed online as PDFs.
But perhaps, more importantly, as a heritage brand, it gives the BBC hope that all of the bits of an organisation that has existed since 1922 can be reinvented and made successful for the 21st century.
It is a commercial property
The golden rule of the relationship between the public service BBC and BBC Worldwide is 'clear blue water' between the two. The web has kind of muddied that water, because, with advertising now delivered to the international audience, you have to design the public service website in such a way that standard commercial formats can be dropped into it.
Doctor Who blurs that line even more.
The programme spawns a massive merchandising and licensing operation. There are kids who have Doctor Who toys and t-shirts, yet have never watched the show, because they are at an age where it is still deemed too scary for them by their parents. The spin-off novels in shops are legion, and there are action figures, Top Trumps, trading cards and even pub video games.
As a reference point in BBC meetings, it is a great example of a programme where decisions taken for editorial reasons have implications in the commercial sphere. I mean, let us be honest here, no merchandiser was excited about the return of the Macra in "Gridlock", but everybody wins when the Daleks or the Cybermen are on screen.
It is Doctor Who...
I reckon that one of the biggest reasons it crops up whenever I am at the BBC is because most of the people in the kind of meetings that I go to are of an age and inclination to have been exposed to either Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee or Tom Baker as their 'first' Doctor when they were kids.
Like me, they loved it back then, and so they love it now.
Indeed, I'm almost certain that, notwithstanding the production values and the writing and acting talent involved with the series, when it was relaunched with Christopher Eccleston, the majority of the media giving it such a warm reception were doing so based on their own fond Doctor Who memories of the sixties and seventies.
“Who’s Who? The Resurrection of the Doctor” charts how the Guardian has covered Doctor Who since it was revived in 2005. If features interviews with Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith and the men in charge of the show's fortunes: Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat. It also includes interviews with a host of other Doctor Who actors including Billie Piper, Freema Agyeman, John Barrowman and writers including Neil Gaiman and Mark Gatiss. There are contributions from legendary author Michael Moorcock, Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy, and specially commissioned illustrations from Jamie Lenman.
“Who’s Who? The Resurrection of the Doctor” - £2.99 for Kindle & iBooks.