Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Grade & the Time Lords 2

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1988-11-03 Listener.jpg


SIR: I was rather surprised by some of the comments made by Mr Michael Grade (THE LISTENER, 6 October) regarding the 'nonsensical row ... over Doctor Who' When boiled down, Mr Grade offered two justifications for his suspension of the series for 18 months: (a) it was 'too violent' for a 'programme ... that was going out at five o'clock on a Saturday evening with kids watching', and (b) Doctor Who was (sic) one of the least popular programmes in the BBC canon'. Both of these 'reasons' beg some counter-arguments.

Between January 1982 and the end of the 21st season of Doctor Who, in March 1984, the series was screened on weekdays, twice a week, at times varying from year to year between 6.25pm and 7.05pm. Michael Grade was appointed Controller of BBC1 in the autumn of 1984 and—around November or December—decreed that the 1985 season currently in production would be screened at 520pm on Saturdays. At this stage, at least three of the six stories (including the first two, which were the most criticised for their violent content) were already completed. No episode of the 1984 season had started before 6.40pm and so it is reasonable to assume that the production team expected a similar weekday time slot. This would have been reflected in the content of the episodes. If there is anything at question here, it is Michael Grade's judgment in moving the series back by 80 minutes to a Saturday time slot when, traditionally, there are more kids watching.

For the 1982, 1983 and 1984 seasons, the average ratings—according to the BBC's Audience Research Department—were 9.31, 6.99 and 7.18 million respectively. When the suspension of the series was announced, three complete stories and the first two episodes of a three-part story had already been screened and the former's average ratings (over two episodes each) were 8.05, 7.1 and 7.05 million—a total average of 7.4. If anything, the series was attracting more viewers than in the previous two years.

What is more significant, however, is that—in ratings terms—Michael Grade's decision to 'rest' the series did more harm than good. The 1986 season gained on average only 4.78 million (Saturdays 5.45pm), while the 1987 season only managed 4.97. In his misguided attempts to increase the ratings, Mr Grade succeeded only in lowering them.

The reasons for the suspension of Doctor Who will probably never he known, but they certainly do not include those cited by Mr Grade, who continues to make excuses to dodge his own responsibility in the matter. The one clear fact of the whole matter is that he was one of those responsible for removing from our screens a series which—although it had its ups and downs—had been consistently popular. It has never recovered from this blow.

Nick Cooper


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  • APA 6th ed.: (1988-11-03). Grade & the Time Lords 2. The Listener p. 24.
  • MLA 7th ed.: "Grade & the Time Lords 2." The Listener [add city] 1988-11-03, 24. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: "Grade & the Time Lords 2." The Listener, edition, sec., 1988-11-03
  • Turabian: "Grade & the Time Lords 2." The Listener, 1988-11-03, section, 24 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Grade & the Time Lords 2 | url= | work=The Listener | pages=24 | date=1988-11-03 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=15 July 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Grade & the Time Lords 2 | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=15 July 2024}}</ref>