SO. Farewell then Matt Smith, who will be stepping down as Doctor Who to make way for… well, who knows.
The manner of the 11th Doctor’s leaving was entirely characteristic of the way the show is currently being managed by the BBC. The news leaked courtesy of a cock-up in which an internal BBC Worldwide email giving details of the scheduling for the next series – and mentioning in passing that “Editorially this will give the new doctor a chance to really develop with the audience (apologies for this spoiler if you didn’t know but please treat this as confidential)” – was accidentally sent to hundreds of staff at the corporation’s commercial arm and a number of external licensees.
It then spread to fans and the internet, and the corporation was forced to cobble together a press release which it embargoed until midnight the following day, a Saturday – only for so many people to blab its contents on Twitter that it had to break its own deadline and run a report on that evening’s news.
This particular Snafu came just three weeks after the top-secret finale of the last series of the programme also leaked, despite assurances that “extra special measures” were being taken to keep it secret until transmission. Senior BBC figures were even denied copies with the white lie that post-production would continue right up to the last minute – only for fully-formatted copies to be home-delivered to fans in the US whose pre-orders for series box sets were accidentally shipped more than a week early.
Blown the gaff
This exposed the cliffhanger reveal that John Hurt will be playing a hitherto unknown version of the Doctor in this November’s anniversary special – although by then that news was already out, Hurt having blown the gaff a week earlier to his local paper, the Eastern Daily Press, while publicising, er, the revamp of Sheringham Little Theatre’s Film Club.
The news of Smith’s departure overshadowed another bit of news in the leaked email, which is that the next full series of Doctor Who will not be broadcast until August-October 2014, partly to give “Steven [Moffat, show runner and executive producer] and the team more time to work on the scripts to ensure it's as good as ever and really secure the future of the title for many years to come.”
This will mean that between January 2012 and June 2014, when under Doctor Who’s previously-accustomed schedule 41 episodes would have been broadcast, the BBC will actually put out a grand total of 16. That period includes the show’s 50th anniversary year, during which Moffat had announced: “I promise you, we’re going to take over television, trust me.”