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Published on April 8th, 2012 | by Christian Cawley

Tennant’s Storm in a Time Machine

Has David Tennant’s latest Virgin advert caused a storm in a vortex at the BBC? Or is the Daily Mail blowing things up out of all (transcendental) proportions?

There are a couple of commercials doing the rounds, but the one causing the problem features the Tenth Doctor actor and Virgin multi-billionaire beatnik Richard Branson with a time machine.

The Daily Mail website cites this from the BBC’s guidelines:

‘We should ensure that the BBC brand is not used to endorse outside companies or organisations. We can achieve this by ensuring commercial advertising, promotion and press releases by outside companies do not give the impression of BBC endorsement, and advertising does not “pass off” BBC programmes.’

Now a few years ago Carol Vorderman lost her position fronting Tomorrow’s World after advertising a popular cleaning agent with “scientific” graphics, so this isn’t something that is unheard of. However, although a “BBC source” told the Mail that

‘Virgin did not run this advert past us and if they had, it probably would have been turned down.’

…it is more likely that said source was a gap year student with a vague understanding of their chosen subject (media studies). It’s a spoof advert featuring someone who no longer works for the BBC. There is no reason for Virgin to “run it by” the BBC any more than the various companies for whom Tom Baker has advertised would need to.

Ultimately, of course, this is a completely harmless advert. David Tennant doesn’t travel through time and he doesn’t cash in on his role as the Doctor – he’s even using his own accent, playing himself.

See for yourself…


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About the Author


A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

6 Responses to Tennant’s Storm in a Time Machine

  1. avatar penfolduk01 says:

    I’m sorry, but the advert is quite clearly a rip-off of “The Lazarus Experiment”.

    David Tennant also quite clearly highlights Doctor Who after searching on actor name. So at the very least the advert is using a Doctor Who trademark without permission.

    Branson and Tennant should both be captured and fed to the Timelash. :-)

    • avatar Krumstets says:

      No they are clearly not using the trademark without permission.
      They are advertising a cable company and highlighting some of the programmes you can watch there.

      They have every right to show Dr Who as one of their programmes since it is one of the programmes available on Virgin – shown on Virgin with the BBC’s permission.

      This Daily Mail story sounds like a bit of mischief to me whipped by a bored newsroom on a very very slow newsday.

      Other than showing Dr Who as one of the many programmes available on Virgin the advert makes no mention of the programme.

      I wonder if Richard Branson watches Dr Who in real life?

  2. avatar Juliet says:

    To be fair Tennant does still work for the BBC (he is currently in Poland shooting a BBC4 drama series, and his new BBC1 series starts in June), but the ad clearly isn’t exploiting Doctor Who — there’s a very brief shot of a screen with many of his credits listed, Doctor Who being just one seen onscreen.

    • Well, he’s an actor isn’t he? A freelancer, if you like who happens to works with the BBC a lot, mainly due to the fact that they are the country’s number one producers of drama (on TV and radio).

  3. avatar nel says:

    if the BBC allows Virgin to air their shows on its network then there is no violation here. even if there was, it’s clearly not Tennant’s job to determine copyright infringement, penfolduk01. in the ad Virgin is utilizing his fame as David Tennant, the actor, not as The Doctor. just as the Mail is doing, knowing an article with his name, especially one that hints at some kind of scandal or “brouhaha” will likely get them more readers.

  4. avatar Hrh Elizabeth F Obisanya says:

    It is infringement and we saw it on sky the other day… I was just telling my son that it’s an infringement. The law requires there to be striking similarities or put another way , if Jo public can see that x looks like y or reminds u of Y and there must be at least 3 elements of similarities if it’s not as glaring as this one. some infringements aren’t glaring of course it doesn’t make it less of an infringement…
    the British courts are crap with dealing with copyright cases as there is only about 3 or 4 judges that have some knowledge of the subject. true check their qualifications, only 1 is trained legally on the matter the others just do what they like and are like the proverbial philistine next to a work of art…they-haven’t got a clue

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