Outside the Government 10 (Doctor Who Confidential)
Let’s start with the end – the first season finale of Doctor Who Confidential, which culminates in a celebratory montage of the Ninth Doctor year arranged to Snow Patrol’s “Run.” To anyone with a passing familiarity with fan culture this, and a wave of similar montages across the preceding six-and-a-half hours of television is immediately identifiable as a vid, or fanvid. We could go down quite a rabbit hole here, but suffice it to say that fanvids are fan-made music videos that set clips of one or more films/television series to popular music. Many of these are just unabashed lovefests – four minutes of squee set to a Coldplay track. Others present new perspectives on the original text. Slash perspectives are of course common, as are reworkings to create new POV characters and other sorts of narrative commentaries.
There is, of course, nothing hugely innovative about this sort of thing. If we want to treat the end of Doctor Who Confidential as a fanvid then we have to allow the precedent to go back decades at the least. Putting the complete lack of effort into researching it that I want to, I can off-hand go back to the series finale of Seinfeld as having done a celebratory montage set to pop music. If we allow for sports programming to count then professional equivalents of fanvids are made to fill time on schedules on a regular basis.
Nevertheless, it sets the tone for Doctor Who Confidential. We should pause here to note that making a fanvid is bloody hard, doubly so if you insist on a measure of quality in the end result. Syncing events well to the music, getting the events selected to form a narrative, having clips long enough to be recognizable and intelligible but short enough to remain punchy and varied – these are hard things to do. And while there are no shortage of crappy vidders in the world, there are also ones who routinely demonstrate that they’re as good at editing as the professionals.
Which is, to a large extent, what Doctor Who Confidential is about: demonstrating the artistry involved in Doctor Who. Which is by no means inconsiderable. The vastness of the paratext surrounding the first six series of Doctor Who, across Doctor Who Magazine, Doctor Who Confidential, and DVD commentary tracks (every episode of the Davies era has a commentary track on the DVD sets, and after Series One every episode has a second commentary track available as a BBC Radio 4 Podcast) mean that Doctor Who in the Davies era is documented with a level of detail that is mind-wrenching. And one of the things that really comes out as a product of all of this is that an absolutely staggering amount of thought goes into a given episode of Doctor Who.
This is something that presents a critical complexity. One of the frequent debates about my readings and views on Doctor Who is the eternal question of whether I’m “reading too much into” things. There are a lot of things to say on this topic, and I’ve said them before, but I really want to focus on a very fundamental question here. When it’s clearly the case that scores of people have contributed reams of both practical and creative labor towards the making an episode of Doctor Who it becomes difficult to draw any line as to how much there is to read in a given episode. In the new series it is quite literally the case that every single shot has been thought about by someone in terms of how it advances the storytelling.
This is, to be clear, different from the classic series. That was filmed multicamera, which meant that several cameras would be set up and actors would play through an entire scene. An acceptable take would be chosen, and what was called a vision mixer would then select which of the camera angles on a given take were used at a given moment in the scene. You might drop in some special effects inserts, or even, in a pinch, merge together shots taken on different days, but for the bulk of Doctor Who you were stuck with the pre-selected camera angles of the multicamera setup.
The new series is filmed single-camera. What this means is that every individual shot is specifically captured on its own. Sometimes multiple cameras are still used – a dialogue scene might simultaneously run a medium-range camera for the establishing shot and close-up cameras for the actors. But equally common is shooting a scene multiple times and moving the cameras around so that on different takes they’re capturing different actors, with the scene assembled out of multiple takes during editing. This is a profoundly different production style, and one that means that the end product is not simply a series of acceptable takes but a collage in which every single shot that we see is chosen as part of the storytelling. It’s common to do pickup shots and inserts – a close-up of the Doctor’s hands fiddling with the TARDIS console might be filmed a month later than the rest of the episode and dropped in to highlight a given point.
And that’s just editing. Every department is making similarly detailed sets of choices. Actually, let’s take a quick survey of creative decisions made in this general period just to highlight the level and specificity of them. In The Christmas Invasion, Jane Tranter asked that a shot in which Rose reacts to seeing Tennant’s costume for the first time be inserted. The robots in Bad Wolf were consciously designed with a 1950s appliance aesthetic to make them look different from other robots (and Davies would have sent the What Not to Wear robots back to redo them with a flashing light or something to indicate speech had they not been shot on the last day). Captain Jack’s spaceship was designed to look a bit run down, with large amounts of attention given to Captain Jack’s chair for the purposes of characterizing him. John Barrowman thought through the logic of his choices on how to kiss the Doctor and Rose, deciding that the kiss had to be identical for each of them. The “next time” trailer for Bad Wolf was moved back before the credits because the cliffhanger wasn’t a “how will the Doctor get out of this one” but a ramping up of tension, and so previewing it didn’t undermine any suspense. The recap to The Long Game was added in part so that the “One Hundred Years Later” title card could be put in, mirroring the “Six Months Later” one in Boom Town on a more epic scale. Davies chose the Autons for Rose because for an episode largely told from Rose’s perspective the threat had to be something that could plausibly be thought to be human until well into the episode, thus prolonging the mystery for Rose. The Mill gave the spiders in The End of the World a distinctive gait to make them immediately memorable as monsters, and decided to make it so you could actually see right through Cassandra’s mouth when it was open.
These are, as I said, a tiny selection of the creative decisions that are made in Doctor Who, selected because I remember them out of the hours of special features I’ve watched and because they’re examples interesting enough to make it into the special features. But the particulars of the list are, in this case, less important than the magnitude of it. It highlights the degree to which Doctor Who is intricately put together. Which raises the question of whether, in the face of that magnitude of intentional detail, there can meaningfully be said to be such a thing as an “overreading” of Doctor Who. The fact of the matter is that I could have done the nearly shot-by-shot reading I did with Rose for any episode this season, or, indeed, of the new series. They’re all that densely constructed.
But what is perhaps more significant is the fact that we are, as viewers, actively invited to read the series that way. The decision to create a making-of documentary for every single episode has the primary effect of instructing viewers into the proper viewing practices for Doctor Who. This is a point I’ve made several times, but Doctor Who is written for a trope-savvy, highly attentive sort of audience. Correct reading practices for it are, in fact, extremely detailed and based on dense storytelling. This is a very different sort of object to anything we looked at on this blog prior to Rose. Certainly it requires a new sort of authorship, whereby Doctor Who is read as the product of a vast authorship for which the human entity known as Russell T Davies is largely a metonym.
First and foremost, then, Doctor Who Confidential represents that authorship. It produces the closest thing to an entity that can be read as a single author of Doctor Who. That this entity is not a person so much as a documentary, itself as meticulously constructed as the series (it’s relatively obvious that there’s a set of talking heads who were brought in after many of the actors were recorded for the primary purpose of providing linking comments for the existing footage) is unusual, but in a series that has featured a farting alien prime minister and a homicidal robot version of The Weakest Link it’s difficult to suggest that this is the strangest thing. Doctor Who has a diffuse authorship,
All of which is to say that it’s terribly self-congratulatory and a perpetual fetishistic celebration of the inherent wonderfulness of Doctor Who. Which, admitting that, it’s also a relatively savvy and reasonable celebration. All complaints that the new series fails to pay any respect to the classic series are rubbished efficiently by Confidential’s decision to devote the middle chunk of most of its episodes to clip shows from the classic series and interviews with classic series personnel. Yes, the classic series is in part there to rubbish, but it’s a loving rubbishing that is, if we’re being honest, wholly consistent with fandom’s mood throughout the wilderness years. And look, we get cameras at a Big Finish taping, mention of Erimem on the BBC, and shots of a big pile of EDAs. Surely nobody expected Sometime Never… to be acknowledged, however indirectly, by anything officially related to the new series. Which is to say that the classic series is treated with love, but not with deification, as a wonderful bit of history that the new series is proud to advance. It’s not an unreasonable take by any measure. There’s something genuinely grin-inducing about a montage of visual effects both successful and infamously awful in the classic series.
And yes, it’s utterly in favor of the new series. I mean, it has to be. Much like Doctor Who Magazine, anyone tuning to the BBC’s official documentary series on Doctor Who expecting blistering criticism is mad. What’s interesting is really that the foundation for more serious criticism is laid here. The nightmarish workload that Series One consisted of (and that appears to have been the crux of why Eccleston left) is shown pretty clearly in places. But more to the point, Doctor Who Confidential, even as it presents a party line approach to the show, does so with a clarity and intelligence that is itself productive. Teaching people how scenes are materially constructed, how writing decisions are made, what choices actors make, and other such material that, in amongst the pop music medleys, make up the bulk of Doctor Who Confidential is, in fact, valuable and creates a savvier sort of audience that will be better able to make more skeptical critiques on their own. Televisual literacy is important, and Doctor Who Confidential is as effective a teacher of it as Terrance Dicks’s novelizations were of textual literacy. Yes, it’s also initiation into Doctor Who fandom, but again, we can’t just blithely pretend there’s no such thing as a financial motive, or, perhaps more to the point, that it’s only just now been introduced to Doctor Who. If we’re going to be initiating new Doctor Who fans, frankly, thank God we’re doing it with an understanding of how television works as a medium instead of by playing “let’s memorize the list of companions.”
But perhaps the most significant thing about Doctor Who Confidential is where we began – a weird minutes-long fetishistic montage of the Ninth Doctor year. There’s a weird hubris to the very existence of this. It’s something you can’t possibly get away with unless you’re very, very successful and beloved as a show to begin with. And Doctor Who is. It’s now a titanically popular show that’s a flagship of the BBC. The fact that it can sustain Doctor Who Confidential – and that over the next two seasons it will sustain a staggering four auxiliary shows – is staggering.
Since this will be the last essay in the McGann/Eccleston book, it’s worth reflecting further on where we’ve been. Just about a decade ago Doctor Who was brought back as an American-style cult show, which failed epically and started the most woodsy of the wilderness years. This is not surprising. Doctor Who’s power has always come from its balancing of the mainstream and the marginal. When it embraced the marginal to the exclusion of the mainstream it suffered gravely. But now the pendulum has swung abruptly in the other direction – so abruptly, in fact, that the wilderness years are still ongoing, with The Gallifrey Chronicles seeing release the same month as Eccleston’s regeneration. In a real sense, it’s the end of Series One that brings the wilderness years to an end, the entirety of it having been produced in them and a response to them. But now Davies has managed a show so successful that it has destroyed Doctor Who’s status as a cult program and made it the most mainstream thing in existence. And now it faces an entirely new challenge: how does the BBC’s flagship program keep itself weird?
June 5, 2013 @ 1:32 am
B-b-b-but! I thought the New Series was hashed together from bits and pieces by people who didn't know how to make television and whose only goal is to have a laugh at the expense of everyone who is watching!
Have I been misinformed?
June 5, 2013 @ 1:37 am
While there often is some fascinating material in Confidential, where it suffered was that large swathes of the show ended up being clips of the episode that you just finished watching – not even behind-the-scene perspectives, but actual scenes lifted wholesale. This problem was made worse when it got extended to hour-long episodes (the 'Voyage of the Damned' confidential in particular I remember being excruciating to watch in this regard).
June 5, 2013 @ 2:07 am
Like any BBC programme, "Confidential" would live and die by it's viewing figures, and they were consistently strong enough that the thing that finally finished it of was budget cuts, resulting from the UK Government's decision to freeze the licence fee.
So it may have had it's faults and flaws, but it's audience appeared to be regular, and enjoyed watching it.
My personal bugbear with Confidential was not the fault of the programme itself. It was simply that after 4 years of explanations of FX explosions, green-screen, and actors dangling from wires, I'd kind of seen it all. Of course you could say that about any TV programme, and kids too young enough to have watched (or been interested by) the early Confidentials would enjoy their first look behind the scenes of Doctor Who whenever they started watching.
June 5, 2013 @ 2:15 am
The first couple of series of Confidential were great. They explained the whole premise of Dr. Who step by step for anyone who happened to be new (This week, we give a potted history of the monsters known as 'Daleks'!) as well as revealing the mechanics of it all which had only been done once or twice since 1963 (e.g. a South Bank Show documentary on the making of Talons of Weng Chiang). Confidential also made people like Phil Collinson and Nick Briggs regular 'supporting characters' if you like.
But by the time we got to around the Matt Smith era, it really had run out of things to say, and lacked a purpose. It seemed to be mostly watching how Matt, Karen and Arthur spent their time mucking around between takes, which wasn't so interesting for me, I have to say. And also, it sort of takes you out of the whole drama. It reminds you that Matt Smith, actually, is just an actor playing the Doctor, and these are his friends, who aren't really called Rory and Amy after all. If anything, Confidential started undermining the drama, rather than supplementing it. So, I wouldn't be surprised if there were legitimate creative reasons why it didn't continue.
June 5, 2013 @ 2:23 am
Just as an addendum to the above!
If you have 'Confidential' following on from, let's say, Rise of the Cyberman to reveal a whole backstory of Cybermen, with contributions from luminaries from the past, that consolidates and expands upon the story you've just watched.
However, if you go from, let's say 'Time of Angels' to Matt Smith in an anorak, chatting with the nice lady in a mobile van who serves him with warm coffee and hot dogs whilst he's in a damp Welsh location, then that just diminishes what you've seen. No?
June 5, 2013 @ 2:34 am
Don't forget that it was made by RTD to show his hatred of Doctor Who, that he went to all this trouble to make Doctor Who come back to the airwaves exclusively so that he could retroactively ruin the decades of material that came before and destroy the show forever. And turn your children gay.
(This article really speaks to one of my most hated things in fandom: the belief that you can handwave things away by saying "It's just a TV show, the people who made it probably didn't care about _____. Why can't you just turn your brain off and enjoy it for what it is?")
June 5, 2013 @ 2:48 am
In Australia we only ever saw the Confidential Cutdowns, and strangely enough these seemed to favour scene-lifts and clip montages over the behind-the-scenes insight. This is why I find it very hard to miss having Confidential.
However I do find it acutely painful that we no longer get commentaries for every episode. They were often as insightful as they were hilarious, even if there were duds like "Director Brian Grant's audio descriptive track" and "A discussion of Human Nature with Martha, Latimer and the monster choreographer" (note that there's actually a commentary track where Davies, Collinson and Gardner begin by apologising for the other commentaries).
June 5, 2013 @ 2:51 am
Oddly enough, the thing I liked about Confidential – once the initial rush of "things I didn't know about creating a TV show" had worn off – was that it was a useful tool to take the sting out of particularly frightening episodes. My children were a bit freaked by The Waters of Mars, for example; but once we watched Confidential and saw them trying all sorts of methods to make the water come out of the monster actors it was okay. So diminishing can actually be useful.
The main problem for me towards the end was the length. There was always a little to say about each episode, but to make the doco as long or longer than the program itself inevitably meant far too much padding. I was sorry to see it go because I didn't have that backup to handle scares, but I'd stopped paying attention to it round about a series before it finished.
June 5, 2013 @ 2:53 am
Darn – that was meant as a reply to the previous comment, specifically Andrew's post about diminishing rather than enhancing. Sorry!
June 5, 2013 @ 3:15 am
@ Elvwood …
Well that raises another important point about Confidential and its function (which I'm not sure this blog has addressed yet).
Up until Survival, I was watching the programme live, in my living room, VCR at the ready so I could watch it again (maybe).
The TV Movie, I happened to watch for the first time on a plane months after it was originally broadcast. By the time the 9th Doctor comes around, I'm watching on a computer screen, usually a day or two after it comes out. And now, I would imagine a huge proportion of the audience is not watching 'as live'.
So the idea that a viewer watches the main show, then immediately 'switches over' to Confidential gets disrupted by changing viewing habits, and is probably another factor in Confidential's removal from the scheme of things.
June 5, 2013 @ 3:19 am
"We should pause here to note that making a fanvid is bloody hard, doubly so if you insist on a measure of quality in the end result. Syncing events well to the music, getting the events selected to form a narrative, having clips long enough to be recognizable and intelligible but short enough to remain punchy and varied – these are hard things to do. And while there are no shortage of crappy vidders in the world, there are also ones who routinely demonstrate that they’re as good at editing as the professionals."
I know of at least three people who will really appreciate this – they've been making fanvids since the 80s 🙂
Given how hard they are to make now, in the wonderful world of modern editing software and youtube, just imagine for a moment how hard it would've been in the 80s, where you'd've had to daisy-chain several VCRs in order to record the right footage in the right sequence. If you got the sequence wrong too many times the VCR would eat the tape and you'd have to start over. The whole process could take days. It goes without saying that in the days before widespread internet access you either had to know somebody or figure it out yourself through trial and error.
And all of this work was done to, for example, synch up footage from "Dirty Pair" with Tommy Shaw's "Girls with Guns".
June 5, 2013 @ 3:54 am
Since the topic of fanvids came up, and since this is something I did a lot during the first two years of the new series… oh what the heck, here's one I did, based around the events of "Parting of the Ways," and including every regeneration up to that point (as well as my attempt to show a McGann/Eccleston hand-off…) Music by Placebo, because I made it 2005.
And yeah, most of the clips of the old Doctors were taken from the episode of Confidential discussed here. Enjoy. Or, at least, tolerate. 🙂
June 5, 2013 @ 4:26 am
"The nightmarish workload that Series One consisted of (and that appears to have been the crux of why Eccleston left)"
The wording of this is a bit unfortunate. On Eccleston's reported account, he left because he felt that senior members of the production team were being pricks to members of the crew.
Now, it's not unreasonable to imagine that this was in some part caused by the extreme pressures of the production, but the phrasing above suggests a more direct relationship between the workload and Eccleston's departure.
This – however inadvertently – does Eccleston a disservice and glosses over his allegations about the working environment of the show at that time.
June 5, 2013 @ 5:37 am
Probably not the place to discuss this, but I've never quite been able to get my head round this account of CE's. It sounds like he's saying there was a culture on the DW production set where the top guys were dumping on the cast and crew. At one point he says his choices were "stay and eat s***" or walk and keep his integrity. Now I don't understand this. An actor of Eccleston's stature being upset by the behaviour of some suits but feeling he could do nothing about it? RTD has gone on record several times about what a major coup it was getting someone of Chris's acting stature on the show, something they couldn't wish for in a million years. They admire him, they look up to him, they couldn't believe they got him…and he feels he can't tell them to treat their staff better? What, does he think they're going to sack him? And if they did, why would he be bothered?
Sorry, but it just doesn't hang together. If there was an undercurrent of unpleasantness during that first year, why has there been absolutely no sign of it from anyone else involved? Barrowman, Piper, Collinson, Davies, Gardner, even David Tennant, nobody says anything (Barrowman certainly would). None of them seem like the kind of people that would be cowed enough to sit by and let happen what Chris says happened. Of course the BBC don't even confirm or deny what Chris has said. Instead they completely ignore it and cite the punishing workload.
Occam's razor tells us to take the simplest answer, and in this case it would seem to be that he wasn't prepared to go through another year of that tough schedule so he declined the second series. Of course he's still got to get work elsewhere, and the fact that he left Doctor Who because he couldn't hack the hours isn't going to endear him to future producers. So he and the BBC keep politely quiet about his reasons, but in the meantime he drops hints about having to leave to maintain his integrity. You can certainly detect a current of anger from him when he says this, but it sounds suspiciously to me like someone who's trying to fake righteous indignation. After all, if you're still that angry about an injustice done to other people (not you) after five years, why haven't you spoken about it more? Why wait till you're taking an acting class to let rip on the crappy culture in the Doctor Who production team?
June 5, 2013 @ 5:55 am
You both forgot that the BBC only brought it back in the first place so they could run through all the remaining Doctors in the regeneration cycle and then cancel it for good, laughing demonically all the while.
(Seriously, I actually saw someone suggest this in all seriousness in 2003-2004. The 'laughing demonically' bit was implied.)
June 5, 2013 @ 5:58 am
If we're sharing favorite fanvids, I'm a big fan of the work Babelcolour has done in the past couple years.
June 5, 2013 @ 6:04 am
According to Eccleston, it is less that the higher ups were dumping on the crew, insulting them, or making them do unfair things, but instead that the long hours required to make the series, combined with the fact that everyone was learning to make a show this big, combined with the fact that RTD often improvised and changed things on the fly, meant that the making of the show was often hazardous to the smaller contributors. Like they might find out that the Slitheen costume they were using had an obvious zipper (to make up an example) and so in order to make the deadline, costume people would have to put in an all nighter and they'd have to reshoot everything, making the camera operators have to put in extra hours too. Or RTD would rewrite something at the last minute, forcing everyone to quickly learn new lines, only for him to change it again. That sort of thing.
Eccleston relates a story in which, during Aliens of London filming, because of the chaos and the improvised nature of the shooting a sofa was dropped right next to, and almost on top of, some extras without warning. Eccleston thought mistakes like this, while probably being symptoms of the production team not knowing how to handle their time making the show, created a sloppy work environment that could hurt people. That's why he left.
Now, while RTD, Billie Piper, etc haven't ever said anything negative about the production of the first series, they all have been open about how gruelling and chaotic it was to film so much in so little time. And we all know that RTD would change things around quite a bit, and that the early filming blocks had some production problems. So I find Eccleston's story quite plausible. At the same time, I'm sure much of this got fixed when making series two, because now they know what they are doing, and some of this probably was exaggerated because Eccleston wasn't accustomed to the frenetic production that series one had. But the meat of the story makes sense, and Eccleston seems justified in his complaints.
June 5, 2013 @ 6:20 am
What? But I thought 'Doctor Who' was a video news diary that the TARDIS sent to the BBC who, over the years, have developed better and better technology to broadcast it. (except for a brief gap due to the Time War) My life is RUINED forever!
June 5, 2013 @ 6:27 am
That has got to be the maddest thing I have ever read.
June 5, 2013 @ 6:31 am
I'd not heard those examples, so yes I can kind of see what might have riled him. I've also read "The Writer's Tale" which echoes the horrendous schedule, some of it due to RTD's inability to produce a script on time! However for a lot of the crew it was definitely a labour of love, so they stuck with it and just endured the ulcers and stress. If Chris was the only one who walked, then to be honest he probably wanted out anyway. He's certainly said he doesn't regret taking the role, but I suspect deep down a part of him now regrets leaving it so soon.
June 5, 2013 @ 6:33 am
the BBC only brought it back in the first place so they could run through all the remaining Doctors in the regeneration cycle
And given their plan, what idiots they were not to count the Shalka Doctor. Or, hey, the Fatal Death Doctors.
June 5, 2013 @ 6:37 am
"The Girl Who Waited" had a particularly excruciating Confidential – after such an intense episode I was expecting perhaps some insights on the concepts of different-speed-parallel-timestreams, grandfather paradoxes, the ethics of robotic palliative care, the challenges of playing the same character at different ages… but instead we got Arthur swimming with sharks and Karen driving at a racetrack.
Being in Australia we only got Confidential Cutdown, I can't imagine what they managed to pad out the full version with. Matthew Waterhouse on a helter skelter?
June 5, 2013 @ 6:49 am
Vaguely related, I found the "Love and Monsters" edition of Confidential interesting when they were commenting how much quicker and easier it was to stage and shoot shots that were intentionally recreations of scenes from Series 1 (e.g. the Autons attacking shoppers in the street). It surprised me because – at that stage – I had no idea that seemingly the entire Doctor Who crew were such novices at making television drama. I'd always assumed the BBC would have drawn most crew from it's reliable existing staff, but this really didn't seem to be the case. I still can't understand it.
June 5, 2013 @ 6:55 am
He is excellent – I find his trailer for the first 3 Hartnell stories very compelling:
and his recolouring efforts of Harntell and Troughton are incredible:
Pen Name Pending
June 5, 2013 @ 7:05 am
They occasionally ran out of production stuff to show ("The Lodger" and "The Girl Who Waited" especially), but coming from someone who started watching full-length Confidentials in series 5 and 6 and have only just started series 1…I loved them. There were often interesting insights into the episodes and what the jobs are behind-the-scenes, and I loved watching Smith, Gillan, and Darvill joking around.
June 5, 2013 @ 7:11 am
I have a couple I love as well (although not Babelcolour)
Which is an absolute blast of a trailer.
June 5, 2013 @ 7:15 am
Well, he was good enough to get the job of colourising Mind of Evil 1, and having just watched it I'd say the results are fantastic 🙂
June 5, 2013 @ 7:38 am
"Or, hey, the Fatal Death Doctors."
Ha, you've stumbled! This only proves that Moffat is the true mastermind of DW's demise!!! Since under RTD and Tennant (peace be upon him), the show became so popular, so Moffat is trying to turn all the fans against it. Tumblr was our only hope, but now that Yahoo has openly declared war on all fandoms, it is dwindling fast.
June 5, 2013 @ 8:01 am
I think every New Series boxset should include an optional commentary by Peter Davison and Janet Fielding on every episode.
June 5, 2013 @ 8:18 am
It wasn't so much that they were rookies at television drama per se, but that no one had ever worked on a show so incredibly complex, with so many simultaneously moving parts. There were few precedents in BBC television for a show that large. Compare Queer as Folk, The Second Coming, and Doctor Who. Modern Doctor Who is vastly more complex than most anything else on British television before, and certainly without precedent in the previous years of Doctor Who itself.
June 5, 2013 @ 8:33 am
And if we're talking the skill in synchronization.. lookit how McGann is saying 'Time' even as the song hits that word in Babelcolours video set to 'What About Everything'.. it's magic! And his fusion of all the titles sequences into one title sequence is something that I DEMAND be used for the 50th!!
June 5, 2013 @ 8:50 am
Would you happen to have a link to that last? I couldn't find it (though I admit I was cursory at best due to being at work.)
that coloration work was amazing though.
June 5, 2013 @ 9:00 am
Unfortunately, the Beeb made him take down the three parts of his "Ten Doctors" special that he'd put up; judging by how painstakingly he put multiple Doctors in the same frame and made it look seamless, the BBC may have a lot to answer for come November 23rd.
June 5, 2013 @ 9:48 am
HarlequiNQB, it's in the 'What About Everything' video, starts around 2.19..
Pen Name Pending
June 5, 2013 @ 9:58 am
I generally don't like fanvids – mostly because I'm not a fan of the music chosen – but "What About Everything" was one of the few I watched and I can't get enough of it.
June 5, 2013 @ 12:28 pm
Didn't Joe Ahearne also complain about the conditions? He didn't come back after the first series either.
June 5, 2013 @ 1:09 pm
What do you think of deleted scenes within the context of the above, and do you intend to write an entry discussing their impact. Should an episode be solely what appears on screen, or should deletions and rewrites be considered as part of the larger episode?
I don't know where this first becomes an issue in the RTD era, but a lot of Moffat era stories have critical scenes removed which answers criticism that key "plot holes" weren't considered (I'm thinking "The Pandorica Opens" and "The Power of Three" as two major contenders)
June 5, 2013 @ 1:52 pm
Deletions, and especially rewrites, in the Davies era are especially problematic in terms of working out the meaning of a story. Consider Dalek as an example: remember that Rob Shearman and Davies went through 14 drafts of that story as they worked out the basic structure of the episode and dealt with the obstreperous Terry Nation estate over whether they'd be able to use the Daleks in the show at all. Given how much Davies would rewrite most scripts anyway, each episode becomes haunted by so many ghosts that all the other versions (sometimes radically different) would hang on the actual broadcast episode.
In The Writer's Tale, Davies describes his original idea for the 2008 series companion, Penny. I remember a line he wrote describing Penny literally walking past the TARDIS not knowing what she even missed. A significant piece of the Doctor Who canon just left in a parallel universe, always potential and never actual.
I have absolutely no idea what to do with this thought.
June 5, 2013 @ 1:57 pm
For the record, I will be covering Confidential again. Probably not with S2 (which already has the TARDISodes and Totally Doctor Who to cover), but certainly this isn't the last entry on it.
June 5, 2013 @ 1:58 pm
Aaron – do you have a source on any of that? I've always found it maddening to get details on Eccleston's objections.
June 5, 2013 @ 3:06 pm
Well, it looks like I was conflating a number of things. First, the actual statement given by Eccleston, which I'm sure you've seen, is here: http://badwilf.co.uk/?p=820
Secondly, in the thread about it on Gallifreybase, a number of people mentioned that Eccleston had been spotted yelling at Keith Boak, the director of the first block of filming. Apparently that sofa incident happened during that filming block.
So it looks as though I'm putting two and two together, though I remembered reading something more definitive. I still totally believe that this is the way events played out, and that Eccleston had objections to the way the first block production happened. However, my apologies that as it turns out the sources I had were flimsier than I remembered.
June 5, 2013 @ 8:49 pm
To be honest this is why I have a problem with what is rapidly becoming the "official" version. It's based solely on what Chris Eccleston says, and he is, by his own declaration, the injured party. It hasn't escalated into two opposing viewpoints of what did and didn't happen. It's a totally one-sided explanation from one man, and there's no way of knowing how true it is, if it's just how it looked from his side, or if it's just a face-saving exaggeration. There's no no evidence to the contrary, as the BBC (quite rightfully so in my opinion) have refused to respond to his allegations. As far as they're concerned the matter is long closed, but fandom still leaps on every word Eccleston says and assumes it's the absolute truth. To be honest, if he's the only person who's ever going to talk about it, I wish he'd put it behind him as well.
June 5, 2013 @ 10:10 pm
To be fair, it seems to be have been less 'novices at making television drama' and more 'novices at making "Doctor Who".' It was, after all, the BBC's first serious stab at an ongoing sci-fi action series in a fairly long while.
June 5, 2013 @ 10:38 pm
In retrospect it seems mad that they didn't do a pilot.
June 5, 2013 @ 10:58 pm
Best not think about it I'd say…
June 5, 2013 @ 11:45 pm
If they'd done a pilot they never would have made a series. It would have been hugely over-budget, over time, and proved the whole idea was unworkable.
(British TV isn't set up to do pilots. They are a very expensive way of doing things. The British attitude is you get it right before you spend millions of pounds; you don't spend vast amounts of money with the intention that more than half the time you will decide not to go ahead.)
June 5, 2013 @ 11:53 pm
"What? But I thought 'Doctor Who' was a video news diary that the TARDIS sent to the BBC who, over the years, have developed better and better technology to broadcast it."
That reminds me of a friend's theory that Playschool was actually therapy sessions in an adult psychiatric hospital, where patients were put in a room with toys and their reactions filmed and broadcast.
June 6, 2013 @ 12:01 am
Previously with only the BBC and regional ITV networks making their own series the idea of a pilot was fairly unnecessary, since it would be a case of a TV company trying to sell an idea to itself.
However now that external companies are making programmes and selling them to the broadcasters, I suspect the UK is moving more towards the US model. For example a pilot was made for "Sherlock", which was produced by Hartswood Films and then sold to the BBC.
June 6, 2013 @ 6:34 am
Thank you kindly, that was amazingly impressive, if a little short. The rest of it was pretty damn impressive also.
June 7, 2013 @ 2:04 pm
Very nicely done. 🙂
June 9, 2013 @ 1:05 am
If it was so 'Confidential', how come so many of us know about it?
I suggest we agree to keep a lid on this, lest others discover the truth…
June 15, 2013 @ 1:01 am
Spacewarp I'm only aware of him speaking about it once. You have to remember as well that the BBC put out an explanation that they were forced to retract, leaving a vacuum for many years. Of course CE's explanation of why he left is going to be "how it looked from his side". Ultimately it was his decision, so he is actually the one who truly knows the reason.
You're suggesting that it's not true because other actors haven't repeated the criticism that crew were bullied. I can tell you that crew are often bullied and exploited on film sets due to time and budget pressures, which we know were bad. If you want to apply Occam's razor, you can put the probability that that happened at about 99.9%. I don't have any problem believing that complaints about it would be ignored. The competing theory that he wasn't able to cope with the workload and is lying to try to hide it isn't really that consistent with someone who's been pretty up-front about what he sees as his failings on other projects.
In my experience actors generally would never complain publicly about workplace gripes. In fact they're great at putting a good face on things. However, they tend to be a lot more frank when talking to students, which was the case here. There is a strong tradition that senior artists should pass on ideas about professionalism and what they've learned about the craft to the next generation. Often these discussions go to the decisions actors face in their careers and the competing priorities of profile, artistic satisfaction, finances, and ultimately resolving these according to personal values. CE obviously believes that his ability to deliver as an artist is dependent on not compromising his core values, and the example he gave was the tough decision to leave Dr Who.
Personally I found it a pretty inspiring story about truly standing by your beliefs, even though as someone who loves the show you hate to think that it wasn't a joy for people to make as well as watch. But, as Phil points out, making TV drama of this standard is an intricate and demanding business that involves a lot of people working very hard, so it's not surprising that it would have plenty of lows as well as highs.