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Published on December 3rd, 2013 | by Philip Bates

Doctor Who and Politics: Lords Bask In Reflected Glory

The Doctor has had a few issues with politicians – I’m looking at you, Third Doctor – but it’s nice to see that they haven’t taken it personally: Doctor Who has been debated in the House of Lords to recognise the considerable achievement of reaching its 50th anniversary.

Before we get to that, thanks to regular reader Ian we know that an “Early Day Motion has been tabled by Jim Shannon MP noting the celebration,” according to an email reply he received from Stretford & Urmston MP Kate Green. Everyone wants to bask in Doctor Who’s reflected anniversary glory!

Put forward by Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, a Liberal Democrat who has previously worked for the BBC who wanted to note “the contribution of broadcast media to the United Kingdom economy.” Certainly, BBC Worldwide has brought in hordes of cash internationally, and, in her maiden speech, Baroness Grender said:

My noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter’s timing for this debate is perfect, following the amazing weekend marking the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. Simulcast in 94 countries, setting a Guinness world record, with record-breaking figures in America, it was event TV drama at its best, delivered around the globe. That thrill of seeing all the Doctors saving Gallifrey is something my eight year-old son will remember until the 100th anniversary.

Lord John Birt, former Director-General of the BBC also said:

Our comic, eccentric and very British superhero, Doctor Who, who rightly has been much mentioned today, reached 50 last Saturday with a near-simultaneous broadcast in 94 different countries, as the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, mentioned. Nothing like that has ever happened before.

‘Near-simultaneous,’ anyone?

Praise for Doctor Who isn’t a new thing, of course, but it’s nonetheless nice to see the dreaded MPs give it some acknowledgment. One thing has to taint the occasion: the ‘noble’ Lord (I don’t know why he’s a Lord either) Michael Grade, who, you might’ve noticed, isn’t the biggest fan of the biggest and best show in the world. Baroness Bonham-Carter asked:

Finally, as Doctor Who has dominated the debate and I see my noble friend Lord Grade in his seat, I cannot resist wondering whether, had he known that Sylvester McCoy could regenerate into John Hurt, he would still have cancelled the programme?

… To which Grade nodded, (presumably) smugly. (Smug is his default setting.)

But let’s conclude on a positive note, with Baroness Humphreys, President of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, noting:

Programmes such as Doctor WhoMerlin and Sherlock and many others have been produced in Cardiff over a number of years but they are now produced in the BBC’s new drama facility in the recently built drama village at Roath Lock in the Porth Teigr, or Tiger Bay, area of Cardiff Bay. The drama studios there are the length of three football pitches, and more than 600 actors, camera operators and technicians are employed there—all, of course, contributing to the local economy.

And that’s without even mentioning the Doctor Who Experience!


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About the Author


When he’s not watching television, reading books ‘n’ Marvel comics, listening to The Killers, and obsessing over script ideas, Philip Bates pretends to be a freelance writer. He enjoys collecting everything.

7 Responses to Doctor Who and Politics: Lords Bask In Reflected Glory

  1. avatar David F says:

    Michael Grade knows a lot about TV. Sorry, but he does. He made a judgement in the eighties for sound reasons. It was his job to do so, and any decent exec would have questioned its continuation. I love Doctor Who. I loved it in 1985, despite its flaws, and have nostalgic fondness for that era. But Grade had good cause for thinking it stale. He’s been honest in his respect for its current form.

    When I was ten, it seemed cool to demonise him. Now I’m nearly forty, it would be a bit pathetic to maintain the grudge. Any chance we can put it behind us now?

    • In a perfect world perhaps but he will always be remembered as the man who cancelled Doctor who and at the time I think it went stale because he forced people to make it that way.

    • avatar Philip Bates says:

      The thing is, it went ‘stale’ (well, it didn’t at all in my opinion, but there we go) because he placed it in a terrible slot – of course it was gonna lose viewers. Any excuse for him to cancel it.

      Also, he may respect it now, but he said that it’s only good now because it has a good budget. Which is something he could’ve seen to in the 1980s. It was an easy criticism from him because Doctor Who was always seen as a low-budget bit of tat (something which, again, I disagree with), and so he said that because he thought it would shut many up and save face.

      But up until recently, I’d accepted that he was stupid with it, but I’d moved on. Then I read that, when plans to relaunch it under RTD went ahead, he asked if they could stop. Now, that’s not right! That shows a disrespect to the fandom and to his colleagues. The only reason it relaunched in 2005 was because someone (I think Lorraine Heggessey) lied and said they were too far into making it to stop.

      I understand what you mean; how long is too long to hold a grudge? But I don’t think I’d ever be ‘friendly’ about him, to be honest.

      • avatar Geoff says:

        It wasn’t him who asked if it could be stopped. It was the fairly newish at that time Mark Thompson who asked because he knew Michael Grade was coming back and being a spineless weasel thought he’d better stop it just in case Mr Grade didn’t like it. As it turned out he wasn’t too bothered either way. Mark Thompson then went on to preside over other great tactical moves like closing down TVC and the early mismanagement of the Saville scandal.

  2. avatar Neu 75 says:

    Bit of a myth is surrounding Michael Grade and Doctor Who. By the time the show was properly cancelled in 1989, Grade was already at Channel 4. Jonathan Powell was the real Grinch who stole Christmas!

  3. avatar vortexter says:

    Ah!, the smell of success of Dr Who in the house as opposed to the smell of wet bed linen. How things have changed throughout the decades…

  4. avatar Geoff says:

    Ultimately back then Doctor Who had just become very unfashionable and people like Michael Grade and Johnathan Powell just gave it a shove. Johnathan Powell got the idea that there was a market for it but by his own admission he couldn’t find any new blood to take it on so on it went under JNT (who did pretty well but his heart really wasn’t in it anymore) and with those same multi camera production techniques they used to make Allo Allo and Coronation Street. What was needed was a total change in production team and production style, which just wasn’t being done in the UK at that time.
    The fact Doctor Who went away for so long meant when it came back people, and I mean casual people not the likes of us found they’d missed it and enjoyed it all over again. Everything runs out of creative energy or the love of the public eventually and I think Doctor Who had just had its time…no doubt one day it will happen again.

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