Today is a special day. Today marks the 47th Anniversary of Doctor Who. 47 years ago today William Hartnell abducted two schoolteachers in a time machine with his granddaughter to have a so-so adventure with cavemen before The Daleks aired and everything started to kick off (to be fair, the first episode of An Unearthly Child, i.e. the first episode ever, is a really good piece of science fiction that everyone should see. But just skip to The Daleks, really. The cavemen not so much. Apart from that one bit where The Doctor is about to smash this guys head in with a rock and Ian is like “What THE HELL, Doctor?”. That was awesome.).
Now 47 years is a long time. It’s older than me, probably you and Michelle Trachtenberg. It’s almost half a century long. Now this anniversary is made especially amazing due to the fact that it’s a mircle these days that most TV shows make it to one year, let alone 47.
I am referring to the recently cancelled Caprica. Caprica, a noirish cyber-punky family drama with hints of Blade Runner (that also happened to be a prequel to the amazing Battlestar Galactica), died before it had a chance to live, and is now being kicked and spat on as it lies on the ground, as SyFy (I hate that name) has decided to blow it’s load and air the remaining episodes one after another so they can replace it with Wrestlers Do The Funniest Things or something.
You see it was cancelled mid-season with five episodes left to air. Which they don’t want to air until January for literally no reason. Of course their plans are foiled by Canada who are airing these episodes right now which means that pretty much everyone will have seen them when SyFy throws them out in January. And the real sting in the tail? The remaining episodes have been really good. But according to SyFy the show hasn’t developed the viewership it wanted so they axed it before the good episodes aired (you know, the good episodes being the one that builds the viewership). Of course that also isn’t helped by the giant gaps SyFy would leave between episodes.
They release the pilot, it’s good! When’s the show start, SyFy? Not until next year? Oh forget it then!
The show starts, hey it’s still pretty good! Oh they’ve stopped it mid season. When does it start again? Several months? Oh, forget it then!
It’s like trying to read a book but when you’ve finished the first few chapters and really are getting into it someone runs up to you and says “AH HA NOW YOU CAN HAVE THIS BACK IN SIX MONTHS!” and you say “Why can’t I read it right now?” and they say “WE JUST DON’T KNOW! Try and remember literally everything that happened in the book in six months, though!”.
But of course this seems to be the trend nowdays. If a show isn’t a massive super-wow hit in the first five episodes, it’s gone. It’s dead. The obvious and most famous example is Firefly, which caused such a fan outcry that it made Fox keep Dollhouse on for a whole other season just so they could delay the fan backlash for another year (although I would’ve preferred another year of Firefly than another year of Dollhouse, thanks). But the trouble is, in most cases, a first season isn’t that great. The show needs time to work out exactly what it is, the actors and writers need to figure out the best way to write and portray the characters, and that takes time. Most of the great shows I watched around ten years ago had these bad starter seasons. Remember the first two seasons of Star Trek TNG? A couple of good episodes, mostly a bit bland and boring, but then it hit it’s stride with season 3. Nowadays it would be gone by Where No One Has Gone Before. Same with the so-so first seasons of Deep Space Nine before Ronald D. Moore came in and said “Hey here’s an idea: Make it awesome.” And of course if Buffy’s first season had been made today we never would have seen the amazing season 2 and the amazing show that followed it (and the amazing Michelle Trachtenberg).
This is all made the worse now that every show has to be a damn arc show. Thanks to Lost being successful every show needs an arc across the season or series where it turns out that the big CGI thing in the first episode was actually caused by renegade dolphins or something. And while in general this arc trend is good, encouraging character development and such, it does mean that you get a lot of shows that start to build to up things and then get cancelled before they can tell us the ending. If you want arcs, let the shows have the time to tell the story, please. It’s really frustrating.
So, in summary, happy birthday Doctor Who!
Oh and don’t even get me started on that Buffy reboot…