Doctor Who - Documentary s04e03 Episode Script

The Golden Age

Here we go again.
Apparently, Doctor who -is not as good as it used to be.
-what? -It's too violent.
-what? -Too scary.
-what? Too complicated.
well, that simply isn't true.
And according to the press, there are problems behind the scenes.
Infighting among the people who make it, chronic issues with budgets and scheduling, and of course, the BBC's disgraceful lack of faith in the series.
As if all of this hasn't been said before.
As if there's some lost golden age of Doctor who.
THIRD DOCTOR: There never was a golden age.
It's all an illusion.
DOMINIC SANDBROOK: But what does good mean? Taste is, after all, subjective.
My favourite story is ''The Caves of Androzani'' and my favourite Doctor's Patrick Troughton.
You probably don't agree.
But even if you do, there's sure to be someone who won't.
The television industry tries to Judge programmes obJectively.
One obvious way is through viewing figures.
Since 1 981 , The Broadcasters' Audience Research Board has been in charge of collecting and publishing all the figures.
BARB uses thousands of homes that are representative of particular areas.
TVs in these households are then fitted with gadgets that record who's watching what.
And then these figures are multiplied up to give estimated viewing figures for the whole country.
But there's a big difference between the overnight figure, which is basically all those people who watched on the night, and the consolidated figure, which also includes anybody who recorded it on Sky+ to watch it later, or anybody who watched it on demand within the next seven days.
And even that figure doesn't include people who watched it on the iPlayer, which has been a massive success for Doctor Who.
But given these caveats, here's how Doctor Who's official viewing figures have changed since the series began in 1 963.
There are highs and lows, but it all looks quite healthy.
we're looking at a long-running, popular show.
But of course, a sunny day or a maJor sporting event or even a big news story inevitably means a smaller audience.
Even the first episode of Doctor who was overshadowed by the murder of President Kennedy.
So how can you Judge the quality of an episode? Well, one way is by the Audience Appreciation Index, which the BBC uses to gauge quality and which is marked out of 1 00.
Here's the AI for Doctor Who.
Again, it looks quite healthy and it certainly isn't getting worse.
Of course, many fans will always prefer the show as it used to be, when they first got hooked.
And for those of us who first watched it as a child, nothing will ever quite match the excitement of those early episodes, the sense that what you're watching is real, the sense that nothing else matters.
But then, as a great man once put it, even childhood memories can be less than reliable.
I think that quite often the memory cheats.
I think that everybody who's ever watched the series has an era that is their favourite.
Whether it's the Patrick Troughton era or even the William Hartnell era.
And I think that in a way, maybe 20 years later or 1 5 years later, I think the appreciation of it, in retrospect, is perhaps a little cloudy.
SANDBROOK: But many fans devote a lot of time to watching the show and finding out how it's made.
They've got an investment in its ongoing success.
Like supporters of a football team, we want the thing that we love to do well.
And if we don't think it's doing well, we often take it personally.
Do you not feel very silly? I mean, it is basically a kid's programme, isn't it? You're getting a bit long in the tooth for this sort of thing.
-No, no, no.
-This isn't a kid's programme at all.
This is what we try to sort of aim for telling people, that is why we would like the show to be made a lot more adult because it has the capacity to be very adult, very entertaining, very dramatic.
It's Just a question of taking it there.
SANDBROOK: Young Chris would later write for Doctor Who and produce the spin-off show Torchwood.
Of course, professional critics should be more objective when they engage with the show.
Even when they are, they can still widely disagree.
Just look at the newspaper coverage of Doctor Who in August, September and October 201 1.
And critics can change their minds, even unconsciously.
when the TVmovie was broadcast in 1 996, viewing figures were good and generally, so were reviews in the press.
But perhaps because the TVmovie didn't lead to a new series, it's now spoken of as if it was, as if it always was a failure.
But do critics' views matter? How influential are they? If a critic says that Doctor who isn't as good as it used to be, do they make the rest of us think that? Or did we always think that anyway? And if Doctor who's viewing figures are so newsworthy, isn't that a tribute to its popular esteem? There's one last mark of the show's success.
Doctor Who wins awards.
Popular awards voted for by the public, critical awards voted for by experts.
But Doctor Who didn't win awards in the 1 960s, '70s and '80s.
But then, neither did soap operas.
It's not the show that's changed, it's the critics.
All of this suggests that Doctor who is as good as it's always been.
But even the most devoted fan would surely have to admit there have been times when it's been pretty poor.
Sometimes a brilliant story has a wobbly effect or performance or scene.
Sometimes a brilliant season has one story that's not as thrilling as the others round it.
And sometimes there's a more general trend, a whole season that seems to be struggling.
To judge that, to understand it, we need to look at it objectively and to use a combination of viewing figures, research reports and what critics said at the time.
There'll always be people who disagree with the consensus and that's fine.
But there is still a consensus.
Doctor Who is not a serious documentary.
In fact, it's often very silly.
Ah, Doctor, at last.
Ahhh! -Right, get back.
-Let go of me! SANDBROOK: But there are times when it's rather grownup.
Remember when Dad died? There was someone with him.
A girl, a blonde girl.
She held his hand.
You saw her from a distance, Mum.
You saw her! Think about it.
That was me.
You saw me.
SANDBROOK: There are times when it's complicated.
Lock transfer computation is a complex discipline, way beyond the capabilities of simple machines.
It requires all the subtleties of the living mind.
-Is that not so, Doctor? -Oh, indeed, Monitor, indeed.
SANDBROOK: And times when it seems to push the BBC's own production guidelines.
(SCREAMING) On occasions, questions have even been asked in Parliament.
On the 3rd of February, 1 971 , Just three days after the broadcast of ''The Mind of Evil'', Episode 1 , Baroness Bacon stood up in the House of Lords and asked, ''What has happened to Doctor who? ''Many children must have gone to bed having nightmares ''after watching the recent episodes.
'' The Baroness's comment has sometimes been quoted as evidence of a great public outcry against the show.
But let's not get it out of proportion.
It was Just one aside in a speech about mass-media communications.
Of more immediate influence was the moral campaign of Mary whitehouse, who made a point of being an ordinary housewife concerned about sex and violence on TV.
She criticised Doctor Who for being too violent for children.
The producers might have argued that her criticism actually did them some good.
But we can see changes being made in response.
On the television on the left, Season 1 4, pre-whitehouse.
(SCREAMING) On the television on the right, Season 1 5, post-whitehouse.
(CREATURE BABBLING) There are other examples of a backlash.
Season 23 was specifically meant to be less graphic than Season 22.
(SCREAMING) And in 1 989, a character in the script of ''Survival'' was changed from a policeman to a soldier in response to criticisms of Doctor Who making policemen and figures in authority scary to children.
What are you going to do then? Excuse me, officer, could I see your warrant card? That criticism had been made of ''Terror of the Autons''in 1 9 7 1, 1 8 years earlier.
(JO GASPING) Doctor Who started with an educational remit but its fifth episode stumbled across a magic formula.
(PANTING) (SCREAMING) Ever since, a big part of Doctor Who's appeal has been that it's strange and scary, sending generations of children scurrying behind the sofa.
(YELLING) Let me go! I set you free! It was our plan.
You belong to us.
You shall be like us.
Now, last week, you may remember, we were discussing Doctor who.
Is it too violent for children? Well, perhaps, it really came back to ''Is it too violent for the parents?'' Remember those words.
Because Just look at how the series advertises itself four stories later.
SECOND DOCTOR: This time will be just a little bit more frightening than last time, hmm? So, I want to warn you that if your mummy and daddy are scared, you just get them to hold your hand.
It couldn't be any more explicit.
Watch because it's scary.
Today, new episodes, new seasons and new monsters are heralded as the most frightening yet.
Really, though, Doctor, tell me, who are you? when Doctor Who came back in 2005, there were serious discussions about whether we should see anyone die on screen.
About the Earth revolving.
SANDBROOK: On the TVon the left, an Auton kills someone in 1 9 70.
On the TVon the right, an Auton kills someone in 2005.
(ALL SCREAMING) The violence is rarely explicit.
And of course, the Doctor himself always tries to avoid violence.
And let's face it, many stories are more funny or smart than they are scary.
But let's be honest.
Doctor who is often violent and frightening and complicated.
The show's producers work hard to tell stories that will make us feel something.
We're scared.
We laugh.
We want to find out what happens next.
That's why children love it so much.
And that's why we remember it so vividly.
Doctor Who is the most complicated series to make on TV.
It's got one standing set, the Tardis, and a small regular cast of the Doctor and his companions.
Everything else, the setting, the characters, the plot, is created new for each story.
All this on a very modest budget.
And the show's producers have often been good at making the series seem more expensive than it is.
They often reuse sets and monsters.
Or they have invisible monsters that come free of charge.
Even the distinctive shape of the Tardis was a cost-saving measure.
Originally, it was meant to change shape wherever it went, blending in with its surroundings.
But breaking the mechanism in 1 963 meant that the cost of one expensive prop could be spread across several episodes.
And so the police box became an icon.
In its effort to do more with less, to continue to entertain and amaze us, the show's often been a pioneer of new techniques.
Being in the vanguard means you're effectively practising in public and everybody gets to see your mistakes.
And it's always been a particularly gruelling show to make.
But pressure can be a great creative catalyst.
Well, there is an emergency unit but oh, no, I can't possibly use that.
Oh, but this is an emergency! SANDBROOK: The first episode of ''The Mind Robber'' was a late replacement for an episode that had fallen through.
It uses only the regular cast, the Tardis and an empty set and some robots borrowed from another programme.
It's only 1 8 minutes long, the shortest ever full episode of Doctor Who, a sop to the actors, who had to carry the episode.
And yet, it's utterly engaging.
That vibration Sometimes the pressures show.
And this means there have always been creative differences, even major fallings out between the people who make the programme.
-I've had enough of this drivel! -All right, a compromise.
But the genius of the programme's format is that it's bigger than any one person.
The producer, the director, even the leading man, they're all infinitely replaceable.
And those people who criticise it for changing over the years, for not being the same as it was, for pushing things too far, for being too violent or too complicated, they're missing the point.
It's precisely because it's changed so much that it's lasted all these years.
Before I go, I Just want to tell you, you were fantastic.
Absolutely fantastic.
And do you know what? So was I.
Some things don't work as well as hoped.
Some things are mistakes.
All the money in the world couldn't get me to watch ''Time and the Rani'' again.
But you may well disagree.
And of course, it's that effort to be new and different and surprising that makes Doctor who so compelling.
So, there is a golden age of Doctor who but it's all of it.