The news that series 6 is to be split in to two halves seems to have caused a lot of debate amongst the fans, and with the amount of messages I have received so far, I thought it best to address it in a post rather than squeezing all the pro's and cons into 140 characters.
The main concerns people seem to be having is worries that the show may be suffering behind the scenes. We have been assured that the decision was Moffats and that it is part of a larger plan to make Series 6 even bigger and better, but is this really the case?
Doctor Who has handled so many cliffhangers over the years, but putting a 4 month gap between them was never needed. We will no doubt never find out the real reason behind the split, but the news that Moffat just trundled up to the head honcho's over at the BBC and said he wanted to split the series in two for the sake of a cliffhanger just doesnt seem to sit right.
It has been rumoured for a while now that the BBC want to move Doctor Who to an Autumn schedule, and this move could be paving the way and testing the waters, and see how it works in a new slot at a later time of year, but is it really needed? Or for that matter, is it really wanted?
Todays poll is to find out what people think about the split, but so far the comments I have been receiving are not reflecting the votes. It seems most people who have tweeted me are worried about what is going on behind the scenes, and they could have good reason.
After series 5 aired, the press were quick to jump on the show and say it was failing. Ratings took a mid season dip, as they have done every year since the show came back, but what they werent so keen to report on was the record braking HD and iPlayer ratings, which saw episodes of Doctor Who become the highest viewed show on both platforms, evening out the ratings so that they were on par with the rest of the series'.
Most fans were disgruntled with the show constantly jumping around the schedules and felt that that had a detrimental effect on the show. It also faced stiff competition from the Rugby, World Cup and Britains Got Talent. But would moving it to the Autumn mean it is more readily available to a wider audience? Taking into account the BBC usually runs Merlin in its Saturday Autumn slot, with X Factor dominating the ITV weekend schedules, is there room for Doctor Who in the Autumn?
But what about the fans? What do we get out of a split series, Spring/Autumn slot, that we dont already get? The pros to this, as Moffat has stated, is that we never have to wait more than a few months before we get a fix of new Who. The plans so far, as I understand it, are that the show will air April-May, September-October and then at Christmas. We arent losing out on the number of episodes that we get to see overall, and we have less of a wait between episodes. That has to be a good thing.
The worry with this though, is that many people are feeling that this will pave the way for an eventual cut of the series down to 6 episodes. There is so much talk recently of license fee cuts, BBC takeovers and whatever else, that perhaps the integrity of the show and the quality of the episodes can only be maintained in the long run with shorter series runs? Obviously if that happens it wont be until at least 2012, but it is something that fans are worrying that this is being set up for.
Another downside to the split series is that Moffat seems to have a major plot line in mind that will obviously need to be addressed in shorter spaces of time. Does this mean then, that we will lose those great mid season adventure episodes such as Vincent and the Doctor, that don't fit directly into the overall series arc? Is this a compromise worth making? Should Doctor Who become more like Children of Earth in format? Of course there is nothing stopping the team putting in these stand alone episodes, but in a series that will comprise of 7/6 episode slots, would they just stick out like a sore thumb?
But what of the pros? Doctor Who is one of the BBC's flagship shows, and also one of its biggest earners, both domestically and abroad. It is unlikely that they are planning on putting this cash cow out to pasture just yet. Despite the 'official' reasons that have been given, I have every faith that for whatever reason the BBC and Moffat have made this choice, it is to secure the future of the franchise.
An Autumn move could see a considerable rise in figures, and in turn revenue for the show. Darker nights and higher audience shares in the Autumn/Winter slots are common, and if the BBC can avoid a scheduling disaster this could prove to be a winning move for the show which means we get to keep it on our screens for even longer. The BBC dont advertise, so they dont make money off of the number of people who watch, but a higher audience share means that overseas sales and merchandise income is likely to rise along with it. if this is the case, then the BBC will want to keep it going for as long as possible.
Many people have felt that a split series will keep the show fresh. Keeping interest and momentum running for 13 weeks among general viewers is no easy task, but cutting the series in half and showing it twice in a year is an easy way of keeping the fans wanting more. Little and often, as they say.
Whatever the split series means for the show, and whether it will be a one off, happen every year or just there to ease a transition to an Autumn slot, for now I think it is safe to say that the show is in no danger. Tides can turn quickly and circumstances change often, but with production on series 7 already in the pipeline as well as the move to the new BBC Drama Village in 2012, it would seem that in whatever format, the show is here to stay for at least another few series. What format and schedule that may take though is anyones guess. It is worth asking though to those who are unsure or unwelcoming of a move to the Autumn or a split series, if it is worth the hassle if it means that we all get to keep our favourite show on the air that little bit longer into the future.