Doctor Who: Split or no Split?
Guest contributor David Selby looks at the pros and cons of the split series format.
Series 6 was the first ever series of Doctor Who’s revival to have had a split broadcast, with 7 episodes broadcast from spring and the remaining 6 late summer. The split caused controversy amongst some fans and now it looks like this format will be continued once again into Series 7. I am here to look at the pros and cons, and how the split could have changed the series if it was applied earlier in the revival.
- Most fans (including myself) hate the long wait between the ends of each series to the Christmas specials. But with the split in place, although you have to wait from one half to the next, the waits are shorter and, in turn, reduce the wait for the Christmas Special.
- You can have 2 epic finales spread over one year (so to speak), so if the production team wanted to bring back 2 main monsters/villains you could have one for each finale. This also works if you wanted more than one companion per series.
- The plotlines can be saved by the split. They no longer need to be stretched across a whole series, and you can create separate plotlines for part 1 and 2. You can also get a lot more shocks out of the series with 2 finales, for example River’s revelation in Series 6.
- The production team get a little more time and can hopefully make blockbuster episodes like the ones we’re promised in Series 7.
- There is an extra, unneeded break in the series breaking the flow. Many Doctor Who fans have complained about this and found it frustrating.
- If the writer isn’t careful, the plots don’t get a chance to develop as they are all over in 6 or 7 episodes. With a long series, the mystery builds up and could gather more viewing figures for the finale.
- If the writers try to be too clever the series can become over-complicated, and too many threads will remain from the half-series’ until the plot spins out of control. This can alienate the more casual viewer, which could harm viewing figures.
If it was applied earlier
The split could have been a huge help during the Russell T Davies era. As the series had 13 episodes, for a half-way break it could have been applied for any episode 6 or 7. It could also have been implemented earlier on like in Series 7.
If the split was put into operation for the first series, it could have been put in three equally strong places. The first is after World War Three; the episode was a two-parter written by the lead writer with a little bit of plot development. It was also set in present-day earth. However, if it was put in place with Dalek, it would have seen the return of an old enemy, the introduction of a new companion, and would have linked in well to the second half of the series which would have started with The Long Game. This way, the first half of the series would have revolved around Rose, Jackie, Mickey and the Doctor and the second half around Satellite 5/The Game Station. The split could have also been used after The Long Game, an episode written by the head writer, which said goodbye to a companion and linked in well with the finale.
Need I say more? Series 2: part 1 could have finished with the two-parter Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel, Series 3: part 1 could have ended with Helen Raynor’s two parter Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks or alternatively The Lazarus Experiment and series 4: part 1 could have ended with Helen Raynor’s other two parter, The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky, or Stephen Greenhorn’s other episode: The Doctor’s daughter.
It could have also helped make series more memorable. For example, Series 2 was a little unpopular due to Love and Monsters and Fear Her, but if the series had been divided into two, the first part of the series would have been rated better.
All in all, I think the split is probably a good thing when used properly. However, ultimately it depends on the writer, the series storylines, and whether it is handled properly.
In the meantime, do you think the split is a good idea or bad idea?