Trevor Eve, whom I vaguely remember as the quirky cop Shoestring, has complained that the BBC spends too much money on Doctor Who. What he probably means, in fact, is that they spend too much promoting DW, the cause of quite a bit of this kind of backlash, not all of it unreasonable.
It isn’t his personal dislike of DW that bothers me – that’s his own affair – but I do feel saddened by the assumption that spending good money on a children’s show is a waste of resources. (I’m not getting into the argument about DW not just being for children here, although I think it’s quite valid). Rather, why should children’s TV not be just as good as, if not better than, adult drama? Children watch a great deal of TV and they aren’t generally aware of the high culture/popular culture divide. They take it all equally seriously. Whether we like it or not, there’s no going back to the good old days when the kids’ programmes lasted for an hour at teatime. It’s a major shaper of their cultural and emotional landscape, the source of their values in many cases. And it’s under unrelenting attack from the pressures of consumerism – already it’s difficult to get any new creative work for a young audience made unless it’s tied into major merchandising deals.
Eve is already being disingenuous by implying that the BBC’s decision to pour resources into shows like Top Gear and DW is somehow perverse. In fact, it’s sound business sense. Doesn’t he realise that if the only source of funds for well-intentioned quality drama is the licence fee it is extremely vulnerable to political interference? And he’s free to dislike DW as much as he likes, but I for one feel it’s a cause of celebration that the best show on children’s telly these days is a direct DW spinoff, featuring a women who is well past the first flush of youth but kicks serious ass, and is ably assisted by a multi-racial group of young helpers. Money spent on that is well-spent, IMHO.