Since this has been a week of spin-offs for us, here at the Junkyard, I thought I’d round out the week with another notable contribution to the various spin-offs. To be clear, I’m talking about televised spin-offs; otherwise we could be here for quite a while.
Back in 2005, to coincide with the return of Doctor Who, BBC3 launched a documentary called Doctor Who Confidential. This was effectively a “making-of” series looking at all those behind-the-scenes things that went into making the episode. It was shown on an episode by episode basis, too, so every Doctor Who episode had a corresponding Confidential associated with it. Starting with a preview called A New Dimension and then launching into the episodic guide, the series looked at all the different elements that viewers often take for granted, interviewing key players in many different areas of the production of the show. Whether talking about the model work or digital SFX that went into a series, music or pyrotechnics, there was no end to the range of subjects, and it was always interesting.
It wasn’t just the behind the scenes people that were telling us how the show was made, either. The cast would discuss various aspects of the show as well, giving greater insight into the world of Doctor Who. David Tennant’s video diary was marvelous when he was cast as the Doctor. The series also had a number of specials. Just when you think this was “special” enough, they introduced a number of stand-alone releases, one of the best being The Ultimate Guide; a 2-hour extravaganza giving viewers 120 minutes of some of the best bits of seasons 1-5. There were three Greatest Moments releases: The Doctor, The Companions, and The Enemies, all focusing on their given topics; and who doesn’t want more insight into these subjects, huh? One very special highlight was Backstage at the Proms, taking a look at what was happening at that envy-inducing Doctor Who Proms of 2010. (Oh, how I longed to be there…) Another was a tribute to Sarah Jane Smith after the wonderful Lis Sladen passed away.
There were 102 episodes in total. They varied in length, most running 45 minutes, with some at 30 and a few at 15. The tragedy of Confidential is twofold. First, it was canceled. In another stunningly shortsighted move, the powers-that-be opted to bail on this tremendous show. (Clearly there was still a market for it, because the current “Doctor Who Extras” is a drastically shortened version of this show!) Now, you’ve got to figure that any show that looks at Doctor Who has to be at least somewhat good, but this series had interviews with everyone… Simply put, it should not have been canceled. (Even Neil Gaiman was interviewed… c’mon!) Second, and possibly worse, you cannot buy these. Yes, you can get the DVDs of each season of Doctor Who and they come with a cut down version of some of the episodes, but for those completionists, like myself, they are otherwise unattainable. It’s a travesty!
(And the comedy of that is that people will buy nearly anything… there’s a Doctor Who cookbook out there… and they don’t have a boxed set of these!? The mind boggles. Dare I say, “It doesn’t make sense”? I swear I need a t-shirt…)
One of the most incredible things about the show was the music featured within these episodes. I will never forget the end of the first season of Doctor Who and the accompanying The Last Battle as it said a thoughtful goodbye to Chris Eccleston with Snow Patrol’s Run. It was the first time I’d ever heard that song and it was magical. And episode after episode, there would be some piece of music to accompany elements of the show that one would never expect, yet it would delight us every time. While The Last Battle may exist on the DVDs in some cut format, you simply can’t capture the magic in a cut-down format. Confidential introduced us to new things and added a new layer of magic to an already wonderful show.
I can’t recommend it enough, but at the same time, I can’t tell you to go watch it. See what you can find online… see if there are any full episodes out there. It warrants viewing. It should never have been canceled. New fans may sadly never know those joys we experienced back in 2005 when the series had first come back, but maybe the future will bring us other exciting things. We can only wait and hope… ML