Featuring interviews with the cast and crew of Doctor
Who, Project: Who? examines why the BBC decided
to relaunch the television series nearly a decade after the
Doctor's last small-screen adventure. Christopher Eccleston
and Billie Piper talk about their experiences, along with
executive producers Julie Gardner and Mal Young, writer and
executive producer Russell T Davies, director Joe Ahearne,
producer Phil Collinson and many others...
It is fascinating to look again at Project: Who?, which
was originally broadcast on BBC Radio 2 in two instalments
around the time of the new series' launch. Then I was too
excited to do anything much apart from listen with glee and
wait with bated breath for the next advance clip to be heard.
Now I can regard this Doc-Who-mentary more objectively.
surprisingly, not a single negative word is said about the
new series. This programme is, after all, intended largely
as a promotional exercise. However, some controversy is stirred
up as the contributors talk about former incarnations of the
show. Russell T Davies' fairly high regard for the 1996 TV
movie is contrasted with former producer Barry Letts' unmitigated
scorn towards it. Both Davies and writer Mark Gatiss agree
that the old weekly series was getting tired towards the end
of its run, whereas I believe that Season 26 demonstrated
a new lease of life that was tragically curtailed.
is surprising - and encouraging - is the apparent ease with
which the new series got green-lighted, once a favourable
controller, Lorraine Heggessey, was in place at the BBC. (Star
Trek currently faces the opposite situation: cancellation
at the hands of an unfavourable new regime at Paramount.)
It is also heartening to know that there are so many evidently
enthusiastic and highly intelligent people working on the
show. Writer Paul Cornell, discussing the subject of special
effects, reminds us that many classic programmes, such as
I, Claudius, had production values that we would consider
cheap-looking nowadays - it's just that the nature of television
and the expectations of its audience have changed over the
years. Russell T Davies makes an interesting point when he
considers how broadcasters themselves have made science fiction
a niche genre by tending not to show it at peak viewing times.
Imagine how different the schedules might look today if Star
Trek: The Next Generation had been launched at 8.00pm
on BBC 1. Davies is also witty and refreshingly honest when
he admits to - indeed, embraces - the importance of viewing
figures. After all, he says, these shows are made to be watched
by people. He remarks upon the creative freedom he has been
permitted, but is realistic enough to wryly admit that that
might have changed had the show proven to be a ratings flop.
also interesting to hear the finality of Christopher Eccleston's
comment, "I've done the long haul," in light of
the revelation about his departure from the series after just
double CD contains half an hour of additional material not
previously broadcast on Radio 2. This material was omitted
for reasons of time or plot sensitivity. Falling into the
latter category is an intriguing examination of why it was
decided to make the Doctor the last of the Time Lords. Davies
also explains the legal reasons why the production team cannot
read unsolicited scripts.
Who? is more concerned with the programme-makers' feelings
about Doctor Who and its production in the broader
sense than it is with the nitty-gritty of the production process
(though there is a bit of that too). Most of all, it projects
great confidence about the future of the television series.
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