Yes, it’s the beginning of September. We won’t have a new Doctor Who episode until the Christmas Special, months away; there won’t be a new season (series) until next spring. Why, then, are the Doctor Who fan communities buzzing?
Well, when spring rolls around and we get our much-anticipated new series, we won’t be getting 13 new episodes… we’ll be getting seven.
But wait! There’s more!
After a break of a few months, Doctor Who will be back, in the fall, with six more episodes. So really, we will be getting all 13 new episodes over the course of next year… they’ll just be broken into two chunks.
Ostensibly, they’re doing this split for creative reasons. Steven Moffat said in a recent interview that the split lends itself to a mid-season finale, a “game-changing cliffhanger,” something that’ll leave us freaked out for months (but not too long). Another perk he’s mentioned is that for the children who watch the show, the wait will not be terribly long (and presumably, they won’t forget about it easily).
Honestly, that’s a perk for me as well – imagine, only having to wait over the summer for more of the Doctor! It’s like watching a regular, 24-episode American show. And for the slightly longer gap between fall and spring, well, hopefully there will be a Christmas Special.
However, though there are obviously creative benefits, I’m not sure I buy that it’s the real reason BBC is making the relatively unusual switch. Some have speculated that it’s due to ratings – not that Doctor Who has bad ratings, but that this way it will not be competing against X-Factor or another one of Simon Cowell’s many talent shows.
Then there are those who think it might have to do with Moffat’s other current show, Sherlock. It’s proven to be quite a success in the UK (look for it in October on PBS), and it’s been commissioned for a second season. Some think that the BBC might be moving around Doctor Who to space out the production times for both shows, because they want more Sherlock, post-haste.
Still others have always wanted a move to the fall months – they feel Doctor Who is a better fit for those nights when leaves scratch on the pavement and shadows come increasingly earlier. By making a split season, they say, it gives them the option to move the whole 13 episodes to autumn the following year, if it’s well-received. Theoretically there are even benefits to the holiday buying season, if the fall show is fresh in customers’ minds.
“But J,” you say, “I don’t live in the UK. You don’t live in the UK. What do I care about split seasons and Simon Cowell’s British Empire?”
Well, for one thing, BBC America hasn’t announced their own scheduling decision yet. And I can see where it might be tempting, and less of a scheduling headache, for the network to just wait until all 13 episodes have aired and then air them here all at once.
Before the screaming begins, however, I have faith that BBC America will not make that decision. After all, over the last year they’ve aired all the specials and episodes within a few weeks of the original broadcast, and there’s no reason to think that the gap won’t grow smaller in the future. If they want to keep the fans watching, it only makes sense to give them an alternative to more nefarious means of obtaining episodes (and I’d like Doctor Who Confidential and the Sarah Jane Adventures, too, please!).
There’s another aspect of this split that has the completists in a tizzy: Moffat said it’s not so much a split as two separate series. Now, was he only saying that to hype up the fun of having two “first episodes” and two “finales”? Or did he really mean that they are now seasons six and seven? And furthermore, does this mean that future seasons will only have six episodes, and that there will be two seasons a year?
As if numbering the seasons of Doctor Who wasn’t difficult enough. And there’s a joke going around that Moffat did all this simply to have his own Season 6B.
My thoughts? I like the idea of a split season (or whatever you want to call it): I’m used to American shows, and it’s a long, long wait for more Doctor Who (don’t even get me started on IT Crowd). I’m hoping for a Halloween episode, actually. And I don’t care how you count the seasons, as long as I get 13 episodes a year, please.
Now, how about you? Do you have an opinion on this whole split-season business? And let’s talk about that “game-changing” mid-season finale! What will leave us screaming through the summer?