Michael Grade, the inexplicably famous television producer and noted cigar-tease, has once again restated his deep dislike for classic Doctor Who. This will come as a deep shock to all those fans who either died before 1984 or – having not lunged with sufficient vigour for the ‘off’ switch during Part 2 of The Twin Dilemma – have only recently wakened from that deep, kind coma.
Grade restated his distaste for the series in a recent interview with the Evening Standard:
“I hated Doctor Who. I said to the producer, ‘Do you go to the cinema much? Have you seen Star Wars or ET?’ He said yes. I said, ‘I’ve got news for you so has our audience. What we were serving up as science fiction was garbage’.”
The man is at least consistent. He’s been saying it for years. He even made Doctor Who one of his candidates for oblivion during his appearance on the BBC’s Room 101 back in 2002 and, in 2004, stated:
“I thought it was horrible, awful. I thought it was so outdated. It was just a little show for a few pointy head Doctor Who fans. It was also very violent and it had lost its magic.”
In retrospect, it’s difficult to argue with the diagnosis, but we can take issue with the prescription — the infamous hiatus and then the return with no apparent effort to breath new life (and new money) into the series. Instead, it was left to die a slow, often embarrassing death — neglected, abused, and starved (despite the laudable efforts of the production team to forge gold from tin). In 1990, the Controller of BBC1, Jonathan Powell, finally informed fans that the show had gone to live on a farm and was very happy.
But, decades later, we are regenerated, vindicated. The concept is powerful and, we can now state with some confidence, timeless. The Doctor lives. All he needed – as Russell T. Davies stated in metaphor with The Last of the Time Lords – was faith. In response to the revived series, Grade ate some if not all of his words. Tacitly, perhaps even unconsciously, Grade has acknowledged the error of his and the BBC’s ways. In 2012, he told the Radio Times:
“From clunky Daleks that couldn’t go up and down stairs to the filmic qualities today of Doctor Who, it’s a transformation… The show still leaves me cold, but I admire it, which I never did before.”
(The Daleks did, of course, go up stairs in Remembrance of the Daleks, but presumably Grade didn’t see it.)
All’s well that ends well…?