The news yesterday that the diminutive gnome Michael Grade is to be appointed as the new chairman of the BBC seemed popular with the coproration’s staff, but will, I fear, spark concern among British SF fans. For it was Grade, many years ago when Controller of BBC1 who ulled the plug on Doctor Who, then the longest running SF show in the world. No, shorty, we haven’t forgotten you!
Now I am the first to admit the show needed some serious re-working and updating at the time – despite the fact it brought in more in merchandising sales than it cost to make the BBC spent little money or resources on this incredibly well-loved show and ithad deteriorated. Putting it up against new mroe popualr shows on other channels didn’t help much either. However, Grade made it pretty clear that he scrapped the show because he hated it. That’s all – no good reasons as a broadcaster or programme maker, just that he didn’t like it. And he thought Who fans were a bit sad. This form the man who promoted bloody Eastenders and foisted hackneyed scripts of cliched Cockneys on the nation each week.
An appearance on Paul Merton’s excellent Room 101 (where people are allowed to argue for some of the things they hate most to be destroyed) confirmed this when the issue of cancelling Who came up again and he just re-iterated that he hated it and thought the fans (some of whom had turned up in the audience in costume) were sad. Now it strikes me if you have a product that is immensely popular round the world, which generates lots of money for you and has in fact become a British institution which, long after cancellation, people still show great interest in (book sales, DVD sales and new stories on the BBC’s own web pages brought in massive numbers of hits) then as the chief of that company, regardless of your personal taste, you’d be happy to support it and make it grow? Wouldn’t you be happy to have such enthusiastic fans and supporters? His re-appointment to the BBC just as pre-production is getting under way for a brand new series of Doctor Who does make me worry that the wee shortarse will be at it again.