Saturday, 7 June 2008

An awkward silence

Strange news from another world: it appears - and perhaps you’d better sit down - some people didn’t like Silence in the Library.

Yes, yes, I know exactly what you’re thinking: the chumps! But it isn’t like that, friends. As contradictory as it may sound, these nay-sayers are basically decent types - some sympathisers, some lapsed Whovians drawn back to the faith, some new fans, all clean and tidy types with brains and responsible jobs and partners and opinions and stuff.

They are, in a word, viewers - or at least they were until last week’s adventure (you remember: the Absolutely Brilliant One About Death with the space library, killer shadows, killer lines, a murderous skeleton in a spacesuit and some chicken bones). But one miscreant admitted - and I didn’t even know this was technically possible - actually turning the telly off halfway through the episode.

Another confessed to disappointment on discovering there was a part two due - and not as in ‘I just can’t wait another week!’, either.

The true Whovians were need-a-wee excited, of course… but it’s all led to more brooding than normal at Watcher Towers, dark mutterings of the ‘What Does It All Mean?’ variety. Because… well, what does it all mean?

Long-term fans found themselves flung into an alternative universe back in 2005, when their show was not only alive again (with three exclamation marks) but a palpable hit, and no longer a guilty secret. Everyone liked it, it seemed. That was weird, sure… but you can get used to popularity, however meaningless.

And we put up with weaker scripts, and occasional flabby bits, because mostly it was brilliant, and grown-up, and energised by a big Saturday night audience; the executive producer, the great RTD, actually said ‘We feared a small, niche audience’. Well, he didn’t get it… but is that the way things are going?

Because get this: viewing figures were down last week (although the appreciation-index stuff was gold standard). Now, a lot of weird variables feed into viewing figures, including sport and the weather, plus complicated-but-dumb other telly-stuff beyond the Watcher’s ken (Britain’s Got Talent? Yeah… but it’s probably not on ITV).

And of course, the Beeb is meant to be slightly above the mere chasing of big numbers… but having had a hit, Aunty won’t want a prodigal show go all niche-y again, will she?

Still, Watcherworld was encouraged by reports from the South, where a bona fide particle physicist of our acquaintance admitted to being ‘a bit scaredy’ after seeing the Vashta Nerada (he spends a lot of time in the dark. With, y’know, particles); and from the West, where a sensible eight-year-old was too scared to go to bed until Wednesday.
Now that’s how you blood future Doctor Who fans… and thus perhaps save the show from those swarming black clouds of disaffection…

What’s that? What about this week’s episode? Oh, brilliant, absolutely brilliant - a dark, dark, mind-blowing fairytale about (amongst other things) small matters like being, and nothingness, and the dreadful ticking of the clock.

Brilliant.

But you knew that.

Let’s just hope that’s a good thing.

Anyway, next time: tickets please, for the bus ride to oblivion… the Doctor’s son’s on board - and it’s nearly Midnight…

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