Why does time matter to Doctor Who?


Doctor Who has been drifting back into a later and later timeslot lately.  This has signaled more grown-up storylines and a more serious subject matter.  There’s more death in the series and a deeper, more nuanced emotional content.

I like this, but it does raise an issue.  Clearly, the BBC feels that they can make the programme a bit more grown-up because it’s on a little later.  That’s an argument that would have made perfect sense 10 years ago – or even 5 years ago, but today, everyone uses Iplayer.

Today, the time a programme is transmitted is entirely irrelevant.

This is true for all programming, but it’s doubly true for a programme like Doctor Who.  Doctor Who has been developing its audience for over 50 years.  Generations have grown up knowing it as a family show which kids will watch.  It’s scary, but never too scary.  It’ll give the young folk nightmares once in a while, but it’ll never do them harm.

Everybody knows this, and even if the programme was shown at 2am, its audience demographic wouldn’t change one jot.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the new direction the series is taking and I think this first series with Peter Capaldi is one of the best runs of Doctor Who I’ve seen in a long time.  What concerns me is that the BBC still seem to think that it’s the timeslot of a show that defines its demographic.

And that’s not true – if anything, the reverse is now the case – that the demographic should define the timeslot.

The funny thing is that this new more serious, more violent, more grown-up Doctor Who is no more violent or serious or grown-up than the 1970s and 1980s show I grew up with – and that was on at 5:30pm

So what’s going on?  Is TV now more bland and sanitised than it was in the past?  Or are the BBC frightened of upsetting the kids?  Or are children just growing up slower than in the past – are the youngsters of today, who have full access to the Internet, unable to cope with a bit of blood on TV in the way that we did?

Either way, surely, the TV schedule is dead, so why are programme makers still using it as a barometer of content?

What do you think?

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