Crunch Time


Over the next twelve months the life of the Doctor is about to become increasingly turbulent and uncertain. Out here in the real world and as a global society we too are entering what that old Chinese curse would call ‘interesting times’. Ignoring the whys and wherefores that have led to and contributed to the global financial meltdown, there’s opportunity to look into the near future and see how macroeconomics affect the little (or big) things in life like fandom. In fact, the effects are already in place, as anyone who has ordered books, comics or DVDs from overseas will tell you. At the heart of the programme the purse strings are being tightened too, as the Beeb has ordered its flagship programmes to work smarter and cheaper. Doctor Who is among these, and while 2009′s gap year (not to mention reduced Torchwood series) might be cause for relief in some quarters, the wisdom of filming in Dubai could be questioned. Doctor Who as a series has never enjoyed a reputation for being lavish and expensive – not until recently, perhaps, but leaner times lie ahead. We may yet be grateful that the show’s new producer has an admirable reputation for creating great stories and memorable aliens out of the mundane and affordable.

So then, we could say that there’s a good chance the Who of the near future (assuming it will still be made!) will be a slimmer, more slender beast. Merchandising is sure to take a king hit, as fewer manufacturers join the race for a dwindling fan dollar, and some quarters retrench to save some pounds – think fewer Big Finish audios and maybe a culling of DWM‘s sister ‘zines. If that means fewer tatty cash-ins like bottom-range wall clocks and stock photo greeting cards then perhaps it’s a small mercy. Fewer old series DVDs (or fewer extras on them) might be harder to swallow for some, when the likelihood of going out of an evening diminishes.

All of this is not intended to cast a pall over the coming months – we’ll read and hear enough as things continue to unfold. What should give us some heart in light of this is the community that fandom can offer. These days it’s online – slightly anonymous, but it’s immediate, affordable and exists in a way that is tangible and effective and Who fans, by and large, are good to one another. Communities, like cult television, can’t be bought or made but grow naturally. They are resilient, and perhaps the greatest hope we can have moving into such uncertain times, is that this community as it is will endure as it has for forty-five years.

2 Responses to “Crunch Time”

  1. the_other_dave Says:

    Good review – although I still thing there is a place for paper fanzines, especially now cottage industrys/hobby work may need an outlet

  2. Al Says:

    Some good points there, Peter – trust you to make an interesting column out of the absence of something.

    Out of interest, I thought a quick look at the way former Recessions in Britain appear to have affected Doctor Who might be worth while:

    Although Fan lore tells us that Pertles was initially earthbound as a cost-saving measure, the closest recession (known as the oil shock) actually took place from 1973-75. Arguably the programme entered its most successful period in this time.

    Moving on, despite the well-reported financial pressures Graham Wiliams was placed under, the next major recession didn’t take place until the 1979-1982 period, and far be it from me to knock the then-recumbent Producer and Doctor.

    The most recent UK recession lasted between 1989 and 1992 – and we all know what happened then. The actual programme ceased production but associated merchandise went into overdrive like never before, with the likes of Virgin, Dapol and BBC Worldwide creaming it.

    Apparently an ‘Oil-shock after-shock’ (1976-77) may very well have affected Williams tenure as Producer, but it still remains a period of the programme well-regarded by many.

    So, yes, I’m sure the programme and its merchandise may be affected by this current ‘dark time’, but if the past is anything to go by, probably in ways we won’t expect.

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