Streamlined or Sawn-off?

The year ahead looks to be an interesting time for Doctor Who and its two spin-offs. While a second series of The Sarah-Jane Adventures prepares for production, series three of Torchwood, and 2009′s Doctor Whospecials are in pre-production with a reduced series for both. Of Who enough is known to quell fan panic – the series’ star is currently treading the boards and the show itself is effectively between producers, so all is well (unless RTD is planning on having  crack at that stealth regeneration thing he tried out in 2005 for this series… nah…). It’s just a matter of working out whether the coming year will give us four or five stories. It’ll probably be four.

Five on the other hand is the magic number for Torchwood, a series which is not yet out of troubled waters, yet clawed a few figures back with some (some) tighter scripts this year. There’s still too much going on that’s unresolved, and a weird sense of priorities going on with regard to characterisation (zombie team members, Captain Prat Heartless for two), but it would appear there are enough viewers for the moment. On the other hand, it seems there’s not quite so much money in the kitty – hence a cut-down one-story miniseries over one week. It’s a risky move, and it’s perhaps telling that the weaker series in audience is an all-in-one salvo, while the senior programme can afford the luxury of a thinly-spread series of one-offs. plus, there’s been something made of Torchwood‘s move to the less edgy/higher profile (take your pick) BBC1 – for good or not is unknown, but with the show being already watered down this year for family audiences there’s the sense that this could be a make-or-break time for Torchwood Cardiff (“now 33.3% Torchwood London”). Two of its core cast are gone, presumably for good (including, as some have observed, its most promising actor) and hopefully for a continued career on TV. The show itself is half as long, with half the team it had behind the scenes. From there – who knows? Although a third full series hasn’t been ruled out this stage (and is indeed rumoured, with up to ten episodes), it’s impossible to view this move in Torchwood”s fortunes as comforting as Doctor Who‘s ‘don’t-call-it-a-Gap-Year.’

So then, 2009 will be slightly lessened episode-wise for both the core series and its first spin-off. Will fandom cope after four years of being increasingly spoiled? Will the Sarah Jane Adventuresreap greater audiences as certain areas of fandom realise that cold turkey isn’t the meal for them? Or will less Who content on the telly produce an increase in fan activity as regulars find new ways to cope?

Who can say? It’ll be interesting to find out.


One Response to “Streamlined or Sawn-off?”

  1. Paul Scoones Says:

    The second series of The Sarah Jane Adventures is already in production. There will be 12 episodes, four of which have been completed and another four are currently recording.

    As for next year, there will be four specials (not counting the already recorded 2008 Xmas special). These will all be made with Russell T Davies as producer (Steven Moffat steps into the role from the beginning of Series 5), so the series isn’t really between producers quite yet.

    Regarding Torchwood, the viewing figures for Series 2 have certainly been healthy, and the impression I got whilst in the UK is that the show is still highly regarded at the BBC and is likely to keep going. The fact that there will be a five-part mini series in 2009 is no more an indicator of declining fortunes than Doctor Who’s own ‘gap year’.

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