The BBC showed “outright stupidity and unforgiveable blindness“ in axing Doctor Who back in 1989, says current showrunner Steven Moffat.
Writing in the new issue of Radio Times about the much-anticipated 50th anniversary episode The Day of the Doctor, Moffat says: “Ah, 50 years. What can one say about 50 years of Doctor Who? Well, first of all, one can be pedantic. Doctor Who hasn’t been on for 50 years – owing to the outright stupidity and unforgiveable blindness of the BBC (sorry guys, it needs to be said), there was a 16-year gap.”
However, in an otherwise upbeat and celebratory piece, Moffat says the fact that Doctor Who was kept alive by its fan base – through magazines, audio recordings and a continued love of the show – proves that it can never die.
“That gap is important," says Moffat. "It confers something very special on this most special of all shows: immortality. Doctor Who, for once and for all, is the show that comes back. Axe it at your peril, someone like me is going to call you a fool, and lots of people like you are going to read along and nod.”
Moffat says that the “audience just said no” to its cancellation in a way that had never happened in UK TV before, meaning that the show “just kept on going”.
“While the BBC folded its arms and shook its head, there were books by the likes of Russell T Davies, Mark Gatiss and Paul Cornell," he says. "There were audio adventures, starring all the old Doctors. There was an action-packed American tele-film, and endless rumours of Hollywood movies. Doctor Who Magazine, whose purpose was to document the making of the TV show, carried on perfectly happily without the TV show being made."
Former BBC Director General Michael Grade, who was responsible for axing Doctor Who 16 years ago, said in a recent book about the series, "I cancelled it. It was absolutely the right decision at the time... The show was ghastly. It was pathetic... It lost its way."
Read the full article by Steven Moffat in the Radio Times Doctor Who 50th anniversary issue, on sale Tuesday 19 November