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Toby Whithouse Looks Back at Being Human’s Success and How Doctor Who Paved the Way

It’s hard to believe, but it’s 15 years since the pilot of Toby Whithouse’s BBC Three drama Being Human was screened. The episode had such good feedback that a series was commissioned, and the programme would go on to run for five successful seasons up to 2013, even spawning a US remake.

In a wide ranging discussion looking back at the series, Whithouse expanded on the debt Being Human owed to Doctor Who‘s relaunch, why character will always trump special effects, and his prediction that budgets in the era of streaming will have to be reined in.

Being Human focussed on an unlikely house share involving a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost, who lived a dual existence of mundane jobs and everyday tasks whilst also battling against various threats, both supernatural and earthly. Cast members such as Russell Tovey, Aidan Turner, Lenora Crichlow, and Michael Socha were given early breaks in their careers as series regulars.

“I think that everything, to a certain extent, is a product of its context.” says Whithouse. “Every year there’ll be some show that surprises everyone with its success, that it’s somehow completely captured the public’s imagination. If you look at something like Broadchurch, that was just a phenomenal success. It was very well written, very well made, but something about it just clicked with the public at that moment.”

Whithouse has contributed scripts to Doctor Who, of course, and has been talked about as a candidate for series showrunner a number of times. He acknowledges Russell T Davies’s success in reviving Doctor Who as a key influence in bringing Being Human to the screen:

“The thing Russell did so beautifully with Doctor Who was mixing genres because he approached that very sci-fi show with a lightness of touch. I think Buffy is a good comparison, the notion of there being everything quite character related, being quite comedic, but with very dark moments. I think it was that first kind of successful experimentation with mixing genres.” 

On the current state of genre TV in the age of streaming giants like Netflix and Disney ploughing money into their series, Whithouse offers his perspective:

“It feels now that we must now approach things as if they were a $200 million movie. I think we’ll gradually shift back because the model we currently have is kind of unsustainable. To sort of justify $100 million, or $2 million per hour long episode, at the very least, you’re going to have to be drawing in that kind of audience. But with the sort of saturation that’s happening, that audience is just going to be spread too thinly.”

Read more from Toby Whithouse’s interview at Radio Times. Being Human is available to stream in the UK on ITVX.

Jonathan Appleton

A regular Doctor Who viewer since Pertwee fought maggots and spiders, Jonathan isn't about to stop now. He considers himself lucky to have grown up in an era when Doctor Who, Star Trek and Blakes 7 could all be seen on primetime BBC1. As well as writing regularly for The Doctor Who Companion he's had chapters included in a couple of Blakes 7 books.

Toby Whithouse Looks Back at Being Human’s Success and How Doctor Who Paved the Way

by Jonathan Appleton time to read: 2 min
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