Wednesday, 30 March 2005

Confirmed: Second Series, Christmas Special

Update 30 March 1625 GMT: The official Doctor Who website now confirms the second series/Christmas special story!

Today's MediaGuardian and The Stage reported that both a second year of the new Doctor Who series as well as a special episode to be aired this coming Christmas season have now been commissioned. "The BBC has wasted no time in commissioning a Christmas special and second series of its Doctor Who revival, less than a week after the time traveller returned to BBC1 after an absence of 16 years with nearly 10 million viewers," says the report. "However, the BBC head of drama commissioning, Jane Tranter, was unable to confirm whether Christopher Eccleston, the ninth doctor, or Billie Piper, who plays his sidekick, would be returning - opening up the possibility that the man with the sonic screwdriver might have to undergo yet another regeneration within a year. Ms Tranter said she had commissioned the Christmas special and a second series of Doctor Who yesterday - just three days after the sci-fi show began its new 13-part run on BBC1 with 9.9 million viewers, beating off stiff opposition from Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway. 'So now we've got to start talking to Billie and Chris about what they want to do. I want to make Doctor Who again, but there is a mischievous element to it, in that you can keep regenerating [the Doctor],' she added. 'I think Chris is fantastic as Doctor Who. But we've still got another 12 episodes to go. People will have to wait and see what happens." Tranter made her comments today at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch, and added that Eccleston and Piper's contracts included options to do more series, which is standard practice in returning TV dramas, but that it was not yet certain that the pair would continue to be part of the show. Russell T Davies, it notes, will write the Christmas Special.

Russell T Davies told the official Doctor Who website that "It's fantastic news. It's been a tense and jittery time because the production team has been working on plans for Series Two - scripts are being written already! - without ever knowing if it would ever get made. We could all have ended up unemployed. But now we can put all those plans into action and get going. It's particularly good for BBC Wales. This is a major flagship show for the region, and their staff and crews are the best you could find. It's a tribute to them that Doctor Who is returning. Cymru am byth!"

Tranter said that Doctor Who was "probably the riskiest thing I've ever commissioned", because of the cost and the commitment to a 13-episode series, adding that she was shocked at how popular the first episode had proved on Saturday night. "In all honesty I had got myself into proverbial steel jacket as far as Doctor Who was concerned. I told myself I'd be completely and utterly thrilled if it got 6.5 million, but there was a little voice inside whispering '4.5 million'." She said that Barb's AI index, the audience research measure of how much viewers enjoyed a show, had scored 81 out of 100 for Doctor Who - above the average for the corporation's dramas, which is 78. Tranter added that the BBC had always envisaged that the Doctor Who revival would be scheduled early on Saturday evening, even though this put it head to head with Saturday Night Takeaway, one of ITV1's biggest entertainment hits. "We wanted it to be early Saturday evening, because that had been the slot before, and Russell [T Davies] had written it with that time in mind. There's something there for every adult to chew on, but also something for children. If you played it at a different time, it's just not going to work."

(Thanks to Paul Hayes, David Baker, Scott Matthewman, Angus Moorat, Jonathan Slater, Paul Engelberg and Steve Tribe plus the official Doctor Who site editors!)