Tuesday 2 October 2018

And the news is - there isn't any...

It's a lovely cover, but that's about all you can say for the latest issue of the Radio Times, on sale from today. It had become a bit of a tradition that on the Tuesday prior to the broadcast of a season opener that the show-runner would write a piece for the RT setting out the story titles and brief teaser synopses for the episodes themselves.
In this issue, we have no input from Mr Chibnall at all, just another interview with Jodie W which gives nothing away, plus a look at her costume.
It was noticeable that the previews in the last issue of DWM also dispensed with the usual format (a quote from the episode plus brief synopsis).
Basically, Chibnall and the BBC do not want to give anything away about the new series other than the most basic facts. Presumably this is to encourage us to tune in on Sunday evenings and find out for ourselves without content and especially endings being given away in advance. All well and good. However, I'm not at all sure what all this lack of information is doing for the non-fan viewer. Doctor Who fans will watch anyway (apart from those who have refused to countenance a female Doctor and have already stated that they will not be watching - though I suspect a few of them will be unable to resist. Purely to prove they were right, of course...). A lot of people will watch The Woman Who Fell To Earth simply because it is the first episode of a new Doctor (in general), and a female Doctor (in particular). First episodes featuring a new Doctor always garner high ratings, as the curious tune in to see what they are going to be like. The trick is to keep the new ones tuning in when it comes to the third, fourth or fifth episode. It helps if the non-fan viewer has been given some clue as to what will be coming along later, once the novelty factor has been exhausted.
And this is where the lack of information concerns me. I can understand the keeping secret of returning enemies and other characters, or the protection of story arc elements - but Chibnall has repeatedly told us to expect neither of these things this year. So what is the point of not telling us anything at all about this new series? It's a brave marketing strategy to not really market the series at all. We're told often enough that the Doctor being a woman now is really immaterial, yet the BBC seem to be hoping that this fact alone will be enough to get people watching the series again.
Naturally, as a fan, I sincerely hope that the 11th Series does really well, and manages to halt the decline in ratings we observed over the last couple of seasons. A fixed, family-friendly time slot with little or no competition from ITV will certainly help with this. If the series is to flourish, however, it needs to attract new viewers and - most importantly - keep them. The BBC have yet to do anything which convinces me that they have a plan to achieve this.

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