Doctor Who – The Golden Years
2003 – 2013
by Nic Ford
And so to the fifth decade of the Doctors’ reign, and possibly the greatest change seen by the series. After forty years of greatness slowly petering to a halt – at least via television broadcast – suddenly the announcement came that the series was to return.
Whatever your view of the modern series – a steaming pile of dingos’ do-do, or a more sane appreciation [that’s enough of the controversy – ed] – it’s incontrovertible that the announcement of the show’s return in 2003 sparked huge excitement amongst we and not-we alike. Similarly, the news that it was to be show-run by TV writing legend Russell T Davies, and that it was going to star Christopher Eccleston did nothing to belie the impression that, this time, it was going to be done properly. Doctor Who back where it was meant to be: at the fore-front of modern, funded and well-produced drama. The roster of writers was equally impressive, with TV script and Who royalty such as Moffat – himself to go on to show-run – and Shearman on contract.
And it didn’t disappoint (look away now, Tony). Visually, the show was stunning and far in advance of anything that had been attempted in its name before: sumptuous, and full of colour. And the scripts themselves – forty-five minute self-contained stories, with the occasional two-parter, as befits modern TV drama – were extremely well received by the public in general (if not all the fans). To the extent that in less than a season, Who was back as the most popular series drama on British television, and then some.
Of course, there was some trepidation in the Who camp. For a start, it was nothing like certain that the formula would still work. And of course, if it did work, it would spell the end for the likes of Big Finish and their little audio empire.
In fact, the reverse was true if anything, with the popularity of the TV series boosting sales and recognition of Big Finish exponentially. With CBC co-production money for the first series, and increasing sales around the world as the years passed, Who became a truly international phenomenon: to the extent that it some quarters it is now considered to have moved beyond being a British production, with America seen as the main market. Utter nonsense of course: but slightly born justified in at least being considered a possibility by the bottom line in BBCWW’s order book.
And so seven seasons came and went, with new Doctors Tennant and Smith – and Hurt, of course – following in Eccleston’s footsteps, and the Whoniverse growing in status and fame year on year on year.
Which brings us inexorably to today: a celebration that is not just the culmination of fifty years, but declared to be the beginning of the next fifty.
Personally, I can hardly wait.