Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dr Who - narrowing the audience?

I watched the latest episode of Dr Who on BBC1 last night - presumably still available on BBC IPlayer. Unfortunatley, I don't have much good to say about it.

It seems to me that the revitalised Dr Who had a distinctive combination of qualities which attracted a wide audience.
  • There was lots of simple to understand adventure - attractive and accessible to primary school aged children.

  • Many of the episodes were genuinely frightening - attractive and cool to a teenage audience.

  • The relationships and story arcs carried a real emotional load - keeping the attention of adults.
In pulling this magic trick, the writers managed to buck the trend of modern television - which has moved further and further from general viewing and concentrate on increasingly finely segmented audiences.

So - why do the recent episodes of Dr Who seem to be cutting out the aspects that gave it such broad appeal? Yesterday's episode, Planet of the Dead, was not frightening. There goes the teen audience. The emotional story arc was slight to non-existent. Adults make excuses and leave the room. That leaves the young children who, I must assume, are the audience the screenwriters have chosen to target.

I take it this move towards a re-narrowing of the audience must be a conscious choice by the screenwriters. But I don't understand why. Last night's episode looks particularly flat when compared to classic episodes such as Blink.

Having said all the above, this is hugely subjective and I fully expect there will be many people out there who loved it.


Rod Duncan said...

Just found this article on the BBC news, regarding the viewing figures for the latest Dr Who episode:

Barney said...

When Russell T Davies was the principal writer and executive producer, Dr Who engaged adults, teens and children, as you say. Not every episode was wonderful, but Blink was particularly good (and scary). I haven't watched the latest episode, but I don't think Dr Who (the show) can survive if the audience has been narrowed as you suggest.

I would have hoped that an actor of David Tennant's class could be given some really good scripts to exit on. He deserves a good send off.

Rod Duncan said...

The other bit of evidence that the audience narrowing is intentional is the development of a spin-off series aimed at adults.

One comment I received on this is that the one-off episodes have always been a bit lame, which I think is true. The reason being that the emotional storylines are harder to develop in one-off shows.

So perhaps the coming series will be better. I am particularly encouraged that the new boss is going to be guy who wrote Blink, the Girl in the Fireplace and several of the other best-ever episodes - and the most scary.