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The Death Of Doctor Who Confidential

The Death of Doctor Who Confidential
An obituary by Damian Michael Barcroft

Doctor Who Confidential
(2005-2011)
Aged only six, the much loved documentary series has died tragically at the hands of its own parent, the British Broadcasting Corporation.

I was both shocked and appalled to learn that the BBC had cancelled Doctor Who Confidential (DWC) as a cost-cutting measure. My disgust was intensified by the fact that other BBC Three programmes such as the reality series Young, Dumb and Living Off Mum will continue to receive the licence fee payer’s money, contribute to degradation of its schedule and promote mind-rotting entertainment. At its best, DWC, not only served to complement the main attraction, but also introduced audiences (of all ages) to the process of television making and provided an intimate behind the scenes look at one of the nations most loved, treasured and unique programmes. In short, it managed to both entertain AND educate which I thought was supposed to be indicative of the whole BBC ethos. If you visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/aboutthebbc/purpose/ you will find the following BBC mission and values statement:

‘Our Mission: To enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain.
Our Vision:
 To be the most creative organisation in the world.
Our Values:
-Trust is the foundation of the BBC: we are independent, impartial and honest.
-Audiences are at the heart of everything we do.
-We take pride in delivering quality and value for money.
-Creativity is the lifeblood of our organisation. We respect each other and celebrate our diversity so that everyone can give their best.
-We are one BBC: great things happen when we work together.’

Furthermore, in order for the BBC to fulfil its mission to inform, educate and entertain, the Royal Charter and Agreement sets out six public purposes including ‘Promoting education and learning’ and ‘Stimulating creativity and cultural excellence’. Additionally, the BBC Trust, after public consultation, has divided this remit into three specific priorities: ‘1: Stimulate informal learning across a full range of subjects and issues for all audiences. 2: Engage audiences in activities targeted in achieving specific outcomes that benefit society. 3: Promote and support formal educational goals for children and teenagers and support adult education, especially related to essential skills development’.

BBC Three has produced many quality and much loved shows such as Being HumanGavin and Stacey and Little Britain but endless showings of American programmes like Family Guy and American Dad, and the Jeremy Kyle type of mindless and trashy entertainment such as The World’s Strictest Parents and indeed the aforementioned  Young, Dumb and Living Off Mum seems to reflect a trend that is spreading across television channels although I never thought the BBC would resort and stoop to such abhorrent levels. If I wasn’t so annoyed, it would be laughable to compare the current BBC controller Zai Bennett’s decision to cancel DWC with the ‘all about us’ section of the BBC Three website:

‘Since 2003, BBC Three has dedicated itself to one brilliantly simple idea – creating the most thought provoking and entertaining programmes possible. We find the best of new British talent, give them room to play, invent and experiment, and then mix in the most important element – You. We’re shamelessly and directly influenced by you. There, we’ve said it. Your habits shape us, your sense of humour tickles us and we want you involved in what we do. Because of you we’ve grown beyond regular TV into a channel that can be where you want it; all the time. A channel that’s constantly trying new things, taking risks and exploring new places, because just like you we’re Never Afraid To Try New Stuff’.

For me at least, the cancellation of DWC represents the disturbing tendency in television that continues to “dumb down” and treat its audiences as both undemanding and simpleminded – let us not forget that elements of BBC Four are also under threat from funding! In TV schedules that are so preoccupied with reality TV shows and increasingly violent and sexually explicit dramas and comedies, Doctor Who is a family programme that children and adults can not only watch together but discuss together. Instead of the following topics for discussion: The X FactorBritain’s Got Talent and Big Brother, with all their inherit tendencies to exploit the contestants and manipulate their audience, DWC is an exception and represents an opportunity to learn about how quality popular entertainment is made. Furthermore, it provides links to classic literature and history, helps to promote further exploration of the sci-fi genre and encourages, as Sherlock has done with the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, children to seek out the works of H G Wells and Jules Verne amongst others.

On a personal level, and as someone who works with children and young adults, Doctor Who is a perfect friend and DWC a perfect companion. Aside from the fact that I have been a lifelong fan of Doctor Who, the programme helps me to relate to and communicate with my pupils and students providing us with a common interest and shared enthusiasm. Indeed even with many of the most shy and withdrawn children, some with severe special education needs, they suddenly become confident and articulate when talking about Doctor Who. It is their show and the Doctor is their friend; they enjoy discussing their favourite monsters, the shows most scary moments and relate to man-child characterisation of Matt Smith’s Doctor. DWC plays, or rather played, such a big part in furthering their adventures in time and space. It is because of the show that children come up to me and tell me that when they grow up, they want to be scriptwriters, production designers, special effects and makeup artists amongst other professions within the TV industry. Indeed it is no exaggeration to say that hardly a day passes at school without at least one child mentioning or talking to me about Doctor Who.

It is because of this and the need to protect and value quality entertainment, that I hope you will join me and thousands of other passionate Doctor Whoenthusiasts in not only protesting against the cancellation of DWC, but remind the BBC of their mission and values policy. Remember, we pay for the BBC, they work for us and we are its customers. If anyone who is reading this has any say at the BBC or knows anyone who can forward some of the points highlighted here, then I urge you to do so, not just for the thousands of people like me, but for the countless children across the nation and beyond for whom DWC is one of their favourite shows.

If, at its heart, or perhaps both hearts in this case, Doctor Who is about exploring and discovering new cultures, Doctor Who Confidential is about how such an important and significant programmes is produced. Indeed, one could argue that both are as culturally important as each other. You could help save the show by following @SaveDWC on twitter, signing the petition at http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/savedwc and writing a complaint athttps://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/ Good luck friends!

The Flaneur