Monday, December 24, 2012

Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea 49 (Jonathan Creek)

This post, for those keeping track, will be the first one of the Paul McGann/Christopher Eccleston book. But since we’re still in the chronological whorl of the late Virgin era, let’s cheat a bit and flip a year ahead, to May of 1997, and to the debut of a show called Jonathan Creek. On Wednesday we’ll watch as Doctor Who blows its big shot at a comeback. But before that, let’s glance at the landscape a year after Doctor Who. Because it’s not just that Doctor Who had a bad TV Movie that scuppered its chance of a comeback for almost a decade. It’s also that Doctor Who, less than a year after the TV movie, was rendered in essence culturally obsolete.

While it is not clear that Jonathan Creek was intended to usurp Doctor Who’s place in Britain’s cultural landscape, one has to admit that shooting Colin Baker seven minutes into the first episode is a pretty good opening bid for this goal. Saying this, of course, requires us to offer some general case theory of what Doctor Who’s place in the cultural landscape is or was. This is, of course, terribly controversial, and everyone who provides an answer to a question like this has at least some agenda in mind. I’ve surely driven off readers with views radically irreconcilable to my own on this point, however, so let’s just take for granted that we’re all more or less on the same page about this.

Equally, though, this is a fraught debate within Doctor Who in the mid-nineties. On the one hand you have the viewpoint of Doctor Who fandom, which has increasingly taken Doctor Who to be a fairly straightforward cult television show in that it exists for fans and is continually obsessed with recitation of its own history. On the other hand it clearly has a solid place within British cultural memory as a beloved institution. This is distinct from something obsessed with its own past. Its past is respected and part of its importance, but to love it is not to be a fan of it so much as to enjoy a part of your culture. Someone who likes sitting down and watching Doctor Who is no more a part of Doctor Who fandom than someone who likes eating Marmite is a member of Marmite fandom. And so Doctor Who is in this case more of an aesthetic - a type of thing one likes and a set of iconography.

These two views are a bit at loggerheads, in that one view is based on a doctrinal view of what Doctor Who is and the other is based on memories of having enjoyed a television program in one’s childhood and wanting to see something that reminds one of it. Which, of course, has next to nothing to do with the specific plots of those things and more with the imagery and feel of them. This is what leads to the existence of people with an adamant belief that Doctor Who should be scary, which usually just means they were of the right age for The Web of Fear or The Pyramids of Mars.

Which brings us to a bit of a problem, which is that with a quarter-century of televised history at this point it’s difficult to identify any common feature of what Doctor Who is. If it’s scary then the bulk of the Williams and Lambert eras are to be jettisoned. If it’s funny then it’s tough to explain the bulk of the Pertwee or Davison eras. If it’s about monsters then the Hartnell era is nearly impossible to account for. If it’s about alien worlds than the Pertwee era’s out again. There’s little that links all of Doctor Who together into a coherent aesthetic.

About the best thing one can draw on, however, is a sense of the strange. Doctor Who, at any point in its history, has been a show about giving the audience odd and surprising ways of looking at things. Whether it be television avec Méliès, a monstrous Underground, glam action thrillers, a western in a swamp, tall ships in space, the spectacle of television turned back at the viewer, or children’s panto tower blocks, Doctor Who has, at every point in its history, shown us our world reflected at an odd angle, making things strange.

This is, of course, not what the TV Movie did. Instead the TV Movie assumed two possible audiences: fans, and people who might someday become fans. Judging the former too small a pool for financial success it attempted to maximize the existence of the latter, but it did so by behaving as much like other shows with big fandoms as half-humanly possible. It is the final form of Doctor Who for Doctor Who fans - the point where that approach finally bottoms out and reveals itself as creatively bankrupt and essentially pointless.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in television of the late 90s, the BBC had an absolutely massive hit with Jonathan Creek. On the surface there’s not a lot in common between Jonathan Creek and Doctor Who. One is an earthbound mystery show with no science fiction in its premise, and the other is, you know, Doctor Who. The closest thing you could work up is that both feature eccentric geniuses as their protagonists, but at that point House is a Doctor Who clone too, and nobody wants to go down that road.

But beneath the surface there are considerable similarities. One of the things Tat Wood observes about the TV Movie in About Time is that McGann, broadly speaking, was much more suited to playing a “small, weird” Doctor instead of the tall, heroic one that the Eighth Doctor got established as. The point is a solid one - McGann is actually shorter than McCoy, and on a basic physical level ill-suited to an uncritical performance of the dashing hero type. On top of that, he’s frankly too good an actor to just Jon Pertwee his way through the role, despite that being mostly what’s asked of him.

Alan Davies, on the other hand, is almost impossible to cast as anything but a small, weird fellow. Jonathan Creek delights in treating him as just that, contrasting him with his boss, Adam Klaus, who is a womanizing goth of a magician who is, in practice, a complete cad and idiot, but who reliably gets fame and the attention of women. (Adam is played by Anthony Head in the first season before he buggered off to do some stupid vampire show in the US, leaving Richard Nixon to play him in later seasons.) Jonathan, on the other hand, is a schlubby man in a duffle coat who lives in a windmill. He’s reliably not treated as a romantic lead, and any efforts to make him one are swiftly and decisively subverted. Instead he’s a weirdo. A quite likable weirdo, but still, an awkward man who skulks about in a duffle coat.

Watching Jonathan Creek, in other words, its very difficult not to see Alan Davies as an alternate Eighth Doctor - one who, instead of becoming the dashing romantic hero, is an awkward, strange sort of man. It would have positioned the Doctor at an interestingly orthogonal relationship to expectations, creating a modern day Troughton who lurks at the edges of the plot and nudges things. Something, in other words, that would be solidly different from everything else on television in the mid-nineties, when even awkward and paranoid FBI agents are played by David Duchovny. (And let’s not even start on Jerry O’Connell) Unsurprisingly, in fact, Davies was widely rumored to be set to be the Ninth Doctor on the back of his previous work with Russell T Davies in Bob and Rose. What Davies is good at in Jonathan Creek is suffusing his awkward role with a tremendous amount of warmth and charm. He’s helped by scripts with minimal interest in treating him as an exploitative object of comedy. Instead he’s allowed to be a likeable but awkward figure who is very, very clever.

But beyond just having an odd genius as a lead character, Jonathan Creek tonally matches Doctor Who in its sense of strangeness. Like any decent procedural it has its standard type of crime that its detective solves. And in this case the conceit is that Creek is a brilliant designer of magic tricks who solves crimes by figuring out the elaborate measures taken to commit a crime that seems impossible. Typical Jonathan Creek cases entail people murdered in locked rooms, criminals who disappear into thin air, and other such standards.

This means that the solutions to the mysteries tend to involve the unraveling of sensible spaces into strange ones. In ways similar to how practical magic tricks work, places turn out to have false walls, people turn out to be foam dummies, and crime scenes turn out to be utterly unlike what they appear. The basic world of Jonathan Creek is one defined by its own constant subversion, turning mundane objects into eccentric wonders: an axe that is secretly a gun, for instance.

But what is perhaps more charmingly is the way in which the narrative structure is complicit in these strange reveals and subversions. The premiere makes use of a red herring, having Jonathan solve one case (how could a woman sneak out of her single-door office and past her secretary to commit a murder) only to point out that the solution is preposterously outlandish and going off to re-solve the murder with a different suspect entirely. What’s clever here isn’t just the red herring to drag out the episode, but the fact that the lead-up to the murder is shot so as to carefully set up a mystery about how the woman could sneak out of her office. We get a sequence of shots that linger on details in order to set up the rules of the trick, carefully informing the audience of exactly what is and isn’t known about the woman, and making sure they have a strong sense of exactly what the secretary saw and didn’t see. All of this seems to set this up as the mystery. The game of a mystery, after all, is seeing if the audience can put the pieces together before the detective does. And the audience is given active clues in order to solve this mystery.

But then, after Jonathan solves it, they’re told that this wasn’t the mystery at all, and that the real mystery was at a completely different part of the plot. It’s not just that objects in the story become eccentric and strange, in other words. The visual conventions of television storytelling can have their own equivalents of fake walls and hidden doors. The show itself gets to become a source of strangeness instead of just the things within it. This is surprise not in the usual and somewhat banal sense of the twist ending, but in a larger and more bemusingly wonderful sense. In most twist endings the twist is in a maddeningly predictable place. You may not know what the twist is, but you’re very much aware that there is one and of where it is likely to show up in the story. But here there are twists and surprises within the narrative structure - the bits that tell us that there’s going to be a twist turn out to be telling us something completely different. The twist is that there isn’t a twist. In many ways, in fact, this resembles what remains one of my favorite twists within Doctor Who - the moment in The Rescue in which the man in the rubber suit is revealed to not, in fact, be a monster but to be a man in a rubber suit.

The resemblance to the deep history of Doctor Who is oddly fitting, actually, given that as of its second season Jonathan Creek secures the services of a new producer, one Verity Lambert. She did, of course, come in after the series was established, so she cannot be given any credit for the basic formulation of the series’ tone. Nevertheless, it’s fitting that one of her last jobs in television so tonally mimicked her first. Because if you wanted a BBC1 series from the late 1990s that captured the basic tone and charm of Doctor Who, the fact of the matter is that the thing that aired under the title of Doctor Who in May of 1996 is in no way your best option. What you want is the thing that aired just under a year later: a whimsical and clever little mystery show called Jonathan Creek.

26 comments:

  1. Another well-written piece. Jonathan Creek was a terrific show and lots of fun, although like Who I felt it sometimes became a little bleak. But it is generally ace.

    My main problem with Alan Davies being the Doctor is that the audience would already have an idea of what he'd be like in the role. For me, a major selling point with a new Doctor is that the audience boggle and think "how's *that* going to work?" Of course, the show has to deliver, but by that point, the audience is watching with interest.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've often reflected on how much Jonathan Creek is like Doctor Who, but stumbled on *why* exactly; usually going down the "eccentric genius" route, which you note doesn't really work, before trailing of lamely with "And the windmill is practically a TARDIS..."

    But you've explained it beautifully. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "...behaving as much like other shows with big fandoms as half-humanly possible." Now, that genuinely made me laugh out loud. Well played and a merry Christmas to all of you at home.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Trivial point: According to imdb, Paul McGann, is 5'8 (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001524/bio), and Sylvester McCoy is 5'6 (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0566809/bio). So yes, he's too short to be an action hero in the conventional sense. But maybe that could also be an element of what kind of strangeness a McGann Doctor could have had. Someone of precisely average human height acting like a dashing action hero.

    Meaningful point: I remember reading interviews with Alan Davies shortly after Eccleston confirmed he was leaving after one season, where they asked him about the possibility of his being Doctor Who. Jonathan Creek and Alan D's general public image was, I guess, pretty influential in this regard. And he gave such an angry, spitey douche of an answer that Russell had created an absolutely madcap production that was much too hectic for him ever to take part in.

    I'll hazard a guess that the production circumstances, especially in the first season, are going to be a focus of the analyses of the Davies era. For one thing, there's a lot of material out there on the BBC Wales back office (The Writer's Tale alone cover that ground). But there's also the fact that Eccleston's tenure can never be discussed without that key fact: he left after only one year under very acrimonious circumstances. Alan Davies' comments indicate that, despite the PR blanket on Eccleston's actual motives, rumours of them were out in the arts community of Britain. Eccleston's Doctor Who was produced in circumstances of desperation to keep it all from breaking down, and the artistic and popular success of the show was even more miraculous given the disaster behind the scenes.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "If Man is Five, then the Devil is Six. If the Devil is Six, then God is Seven."--the Pixies, on Doctor Who. So what does that make Eight? (The answer is "a beautiful and ineffectual angel, beating in the void his luminous wings in vain.")

    Also, if the combination of a mysterious, eccentric protagonist and a sense of the Weird is what makes Doctor Who, does that mean Sherlock is Doctor Who too? (It did give us the new millennium version of Talons of Weng-Chiang.) Are those teenagers on Tumblr squeeing about "Wholock" onto something? It's certainly much closer to what televised "Doctor Who for adults" could be than the dreadful Torchwood (as Andrew Rilstone dubbed it), which from what I've heard makes, for most of its run, the same mistake the TV-movie does in aiming at the signifiers of "cult television" without the underlying Weirdness of its parent show.

    (Incidentally, one of the reasons I think you're unfair to the original Star Trek is that it had plenty of the Weird in it. It just looks bizarre, for one thing, and it could shift disorientingly between genres just as well as Doctor Who could. Unfortunately, its mercurial nature was not passed on to later incarnations of Star Trek, entertaining and well-done as they could be. The dreadful Voyager, for all its missteps, may actually have come the closest to achieving it.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sherlock is Doctor Who at least as much as Jonathan Creek is! That said, IMHO, Torchwood and Sherlock both make the same mistake, leaning too much on the weirdness of their characters as weirdness, stressing the darkness and the kinkiness and whatnot and going "wow isn't this cool though" instead of just getting on with it and being weird. Sherlock is better about this, tho.

      Delete
    2. Now that I think about it, i was probably wrong about (season 1-2) Torchwood. It's actually a lot like Voyager in that it is determined to do something different with the genre tropes it uses but doesn't understand how they work enough to subvert them meaningfully, creating something that often feels compellingly wrong.

      The Weirdness I was thinking aobut in Sherlock wasn't just in the characters, but the world it portrays. That's why I used capital-W Weird, evoking the tradition of "Weird Fiction," which it is firmly a part of. At its best, it's not just bizarre or outlandish but uncanny. One of the things that's interesting about Sherlock is that it creates a world that's both hyper-modern and based on 19th century tropes, with the intensity and eeriness of the pulp aesthetic. Of course, sometimes it just vomits up 19th century cliches, like the infamous "The Blind Banker."

      Delete
    3. Excellent point on Voyager and Torchwood. (And I note that Torchwood had "Cyberwoman", which is a classic case of taking an interesting idea and just making it not work through costume design, which Seven of Nine got dinged by as well.)

      Sherlock does indeed try to fit in with the penny dreadful tradition. And I think the focus on human extremity is part of that.

      Delete
  6. I'm not sure that you can separate the weirdness of the original Trek from "Just how you did science fiction in the 60s" -- in fact, you could well say that Trek was going out of its way to be a good deal _less_ weird than its contemporaries.

    That said, there's certainly a mythical dimension in the original Trek that is often overlooked, I think largely due to what happened later. The thing that Phil talks about happening with the TVM where they tried to crush Doctor Who down into standard cult Sci-Fi TV happened with Trek too, it just happened more successfully, and (possibly because) it had a big gap in the 70s. (Actually, if you look at the first Trek film and what's known about the aborted 70s reboot, there are a lot of indications of it going in a radically different direction. But they just couldn't really nail it, hence STTMP being such a slog.) But there's some great and weird things really baked into Trek's DNA that have been progressively downplayed and excised. Like Roddenbery's original conception of the show as having about 90% of their plots be "The Enterprise goes to a parallel earth where something important to 60s society panned out differently."

    The JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot reminds me a lot of the TVM in some ways. Obviously, Star Trek 2009 is done a lot better -- they remembered to have an actual plot and suchlike -- but, much like the TV movie, my ultimate reaction, once the initial shock of "Zomg! New TOS!" wore off, boils down to "Well, that was okay. But I feel absolutely no desire for any _more_ of this." It's visually good, it has the general shape of Star Trek, but the mythic dimension has been entirely stripped out. I can't imagine a worthwhile franchise growing from it

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The entire culture of the '60s had a weirdness about it. The thing is, most of the people involved in making TV thought that the important part of the weirdness was the strange visuals, rather than the strange concepts. So you get a strange concept that only exists to set up a strange visual and is otherwise ignored.

      I'm feeling more and more like "standard cult sci-fi" is a myth here. I mean, "cult" is just the opposite of "pop" - it denotes the size and the investedness of the audience and pretty much nothing else. It seems like a fallacy to say that something being or becoming "cult" reflects on the approach or the quality. Certainly, having a small, heavily-invested audience can encourage certain approaches, but I think the focus on the "standard cult approach" is a bit of a blind alley.

      Delete
    2. "..."standard cult sci-fi" is a myth..."

      YES! Yes to your whole observation there. Cult is a description of the audience, not the production. Thus Irwin Allen series are cult items, as well as Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics. But try making a connection between their approaches!

      Delete
    3. Indeed. I mean, there are many things you can do to appeal to a small devoted audience; that doesn't mean all things with a small devoted audience appeal to their audience the same way.

      Delete
  7. The TVM must have fooled someone, cos ISTR Eight is described as "tall" in Vampire Science... :-)

    Good analysis of Creek. I tend to think of it as one of the long line of attempts to fill the strange UK hinterland between afternoon and evening on a Saturday, when everyone wants to watch television but no one wants to watch the same thing. So the show can be viewed as a procedural, as a cult show, as a funny show with a silly man in it, etc, and everyone's happy. Another connection with Who is its occasionally risky approach to guest stars: Bob Monkhouse is their Nicholas Parsons.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ooooh! Now here's a good Christmas present: Lots of things to argue about!

    "On the other hand it clearly has a solid place within British cultural memory as a beloved institution. This is distinct from something obsessed with its own past. Its past is respected and part of its importance, but to love it is not to be a fan of it so much as to enjoy a part of your culture. Someone who likes sitting down and watching Doctor Who is no more a part of Doctor Who fandom than someone who likes eating Marmite is a member of Marmite fandom."

    Hmmmmm. There is something that certainly feels like a contradiction here. On the one hand, you're saying that being a Doctor Who watcher doesn't make one a part of Doctor Who fandom (which, as you've said in past comments, is not the same as the set of Doctor Who fans). On the other, you seem to be saying that being a Doctor Who watcher who isn't part of Doctor Who fandom automatically means that you're watching it as part of "British Culture", a terribly vaguely-defined group (and one that the bulk of your entries seem to imply is the "right" way to watch it).

    "Instead the TV Movie assumed two possible audiences: fans, and people who might someday become fans. Judging the former too small a pool for financial success it attempted to maximize the existence of the latter, but it did so by behaving as much like other shows with big fandoms as half-humanly possible. It is the final form of Doctor Who for Doctor Who fans - the point where that approach finally bottoms out and reveals itself as creatively bankrupt and essentially pointless."

    So... in the process of not making it for fans, it made it super ultra for fans? Also, is this "fans" or "fandom"?

    "It would have positioned the Doctor at an interestingly orthogonal relationship to expectations, creating a modern day Troughton who lurks at the edges of the plot and nudges things. Something, in other words, that would be solidly different from everything else on television in the mid-nineties, when even awkward and paranoid FBI agents are played by David Duchovny."

    Ooooooh. You make a very solid point here - I was wondering if you had anything to point to as a viable alternative to the TV movie, and this is a good one.

    "But then, after Jonathan solves it, they’re told that this wasn’t the mystery at all, and that the real mystery was at a completely different part of the plot."

    Indeed. <3 I totally agree on the goodness of this series, BTW, and on its appropriateness for those who enjoy Doctor Who.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is something that certainly feels like a contradiction here. On the one hand, you're saying that being a Doctor Who watcher doesn't make one a part of Doctor Who fandom... On the other, you seem to be saying that being a Doctor Who watcher who isn't part of Doctor Who fandom automatically means that you're watching it as part of "British Culture", a terribly vaguely-defined group (and one that the bulk of your entries seem to imply is the "right" way to watch it).

      I never got the sense Phil was saying there's a singular "right" way to watch Who -- there are many feasible ways to watch Who. I do, however, think he's been saying that not every way of watching Who is right, especially when it comes to the OCD-W -- obsessive cultish Doctor-Whovians. (Which is to say, the sort who frequent GB and lesser sniper-nests like SA and TLH.)

      It's precisely because the cult perspective is a mutually exclusive one. Making and watching Who in this fashion depends on a comprehensive knowledge of Who's history, and in positing a Whoniverse. This approach alienates the large majority of people who watch Who for other reasons. It's certainly possible to appreciate Who on this level, and to keep these things in mind when making the show, but in the long run it's not a viable strategy. The show is so much bigger than this limited perspective.

      Watching it (and making it) as a part of "British Culture" is not so constrained. In this vein, the show is not bound by its own history; instead, it strives to reflect the here and now, and we watch it to better understand the here and now, and who we are in this context. (If you haven't noticed, "Who are you?" is possibly the most-invoked phrase on the show right now.)

      And of course, we can always watch it for spectacle and strangeness, for thrills and for laughs, for catharsis and all kinds of Other reasons that aren't exclusive of one another, and the current production reflects that breadth. This is not, unfortunately, what the TV Movie sought to accomplish.

      Delete
    2. But see, I think that's needlessly reductive; that it collapses many different ways of watching (some of which enjoy continuity for continuity's sake, some of which enjoy continuity because they follow the emotional journeys of characters and concepts, some of which enjoy continuity because they like tracing the years-long multi-author stories that go on in the background; some of which enjoy being part of a group of like-minded fans, some of which want to exclude people and feel elitist, some of which want to find newbies and take them under their wing and show them why this whole thing is cool) into a single, fixed concept of "cultishness".

      Delete
    3. The reduction in this case is, I think, in service to a narrative arc of Phil's interpretations: working out what went wrong with the TV-movie, and how elements of his diagnosis will fit with his account of what went wrong with John Nathan-Turner's approach to the show. (I refer to JNT because of the focus on imagery without substance, historical reference without historical meaning, and a conception of Doctor Who as an instantiation of a generic sci-fi form. Saward's problem was a general misanthropy, a reliance on sci-fi epic/mythmaking tropes, and a failure to understand the importance of kindness to the Doctor's character.)

      But here's how I think the watcher/fan/fandom distinction plays out in Phil's context. A person who watches Doctor Who is its general popular audience, which in marketer-speak would be the Saturday evening family viewing demographics. They like the show, prefer not to miss an episode, but it's basically a piece of TV they enjoy. A fan is basically a watcher who has a more intense love of Doctor Who. They might own a few dvds and some merch, have their favourites and dislikes, and have fairly well-considered reasons for those. Fandom is the self-constituted community of people who identify with Doctor Who in a deeply ethical sense: this show is an integral part of how they define themselves.

      How a particular member of fandom lives out that self-definition is idiosyncratic to them. Look at the diversity of each of us who regularly comments on the blog. Some are what Jane delightfully calls OCD-W, and I think we all have some version of this, just from knowing as much as we do about it. But there are more malevolent ways to express this identity, Ian Levine probably being the primary example: the idea that there is only one real Doctor Who, mine, and all others are inferior and incorrect.

      Thankfully, the Eruditorum is a space where we can all have our different versions of Doctor Who, learning, considering, critiquing, and in some cases staring puzzled at them.

      Delete
    4. I'm certainly OCD-W, just to be clear, with a deep abiding interest in Doctor Who as a vehicle for ascension stories; this focus is primarily religious in nature. (Which is ironic, yes, I know. Shut up.) But I'd never expect the show to cater to my tastes in a blatant, obvious way, which would only alienate the larger audience. I'm really quite pleased I'm pandered to as much as I am. :)

      The thing is, I think it's possible for the show to broadly reach a general audience, and still bring something to the table for its long-standing cults. Not every cult, of course -- some can't stand anything with broad appeal, just as a matter of principal. But the exclusionary factions aside, sure, it's possible. (There was a great opportunity with Asylum, had they actually incorporated historical Dalek models into the story beyond window-dressing. I wonder if there were production issues that got in the way.)

      The big mistake of the TV movie, and large swaths of JNT's era, was thinking that the cultic aspects of the show were a source of broad appeal.





      Delete
    5. I'm not sure that it was even that they thought the cult aspects were a source of broad appeal so much as that they thought that cultic aspects were "Just how you do Doctor Who". It's very easy for certain kinds of misconceptions to just stumble their way into being ingrained in the collective consciousness as Just How It Works. Not so much "We should focus on these cult-sci-fi things because that's what the people want" as that it simply wouldn't occur to them that a TV show about a person who travels in time and space and saved planets should or even could be done some other way than as a cult-sci-fi show.

      Delete
    6. That is an excellent point., and these comments have given me much to think about.

      Delete
  9. I have little to say about Jonathan Creek, unfortunately. I find it strangely difficult to buy Davies in the role because I can't see him as an actor so much as "that impish guy who sits next to Stephen Fry on QI." That said, I did adore that one episode where Jonathan solves the mystery -- how a valuable painting was stolen from a locked vault -- in the first fifteen minutes, but refuses to reveal the solution because he simply doesn't like the guy from which it was stolen.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I find it interesting that the British press were so interested in "weird" people like Alan Davies and Bill Nighy as the Doctor in the run-up to the new series, when in the late 1990s you were more likely to hear rumours of Sean Bean. It makes me feel like sometime around the millennium the press started to "get" it again, interestingly before the new series started transmitting. Perhaps it's the same generational shift that led to a whole load of people who grew up with Doctor Who taking over the BBC.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Even if nobody went on to watch Scream of the Shalka, the news that Richard E Grant was doing the Doctor after McGann would have got people thinking of Who in the context of Withnail & I. That must have had some effect on how people thought of the part - pulling it back into the English eccentricity area of people's cultural radar.

      Delete
  11. If there is anyone writing for British TV who is as clever and inventive as Steven Moffatt it's David Renwick, Jonathan Creek's creator and writer. One can only speculate what would have happened if the keys to Dr. Who were given to him in the mid-1990s.

    ReplyDelete
  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete