When I mention that I first saw Being Human at the age of 10, Toby Whithouse laughs. "I wasn’t much older when I started watching Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead, that sort of thing."

Whithouse loves a good scare. Best known as the creator of hit BBC Three show Being Human, as well as the brains behind some of Doctor Who’s more bone-chilling stories like The God Complex and the Under the Lake/Before the Flood two-parter, we’re speaking a few days after the BFI hosted him and much of Being Human’s cast and crew at a special reunion screening as part of their In Dreams are Monsters season.

Launched by way of a pilot episode in 2008, Being Human went on to become one of the gems in BBC Three's schedule of scripted originals – a blend of horror drama and flatshare comedy, it aired five seasons between 2009 and 2013 exploring the lives of a werewolf, vampire and ghost trio. The series was initially led by Russell Tovey as George, Aidan Turner as Mitchell and Lenora Crichlow as Annie, before refreshing its cast line-up with Michael Socha as Tom, Damien Molony as Hal and Kate Bracken as Alex.

Although BBC Three initially told Whithouse that Being Human wouldn’t be commissioned for a full series following its pilot, it was the incredible audience reception and demand for it that ultimately convinced the broadcaster to give the show the green light.

"I think that everything, to a certain extent, is a product of its context. Every year there'll be some show that surprises everyone with its success, that it's somehow completely captured the public's imagination," Whithouse tells RadioTimes.com.

"If you look at something like Broadchurch, that was just a phenomenal success. It was very well written, very well made, but something about it just clicked with the public at that moment."

BBC Three's pilot scheme was an opportunity for audiences to demonstrate just how much a show captivated an audience; something that was essential to Being Human’s success. “I think, had Being Human happened at any other time? I don't think it would've worked. I think we were very lucky," Whithouse admits.

Prior to 2005, BAFTA had never nominated an out-and-out genre show in its Best Drama Series category – until Doctor Who returned. "Russell [T Davies] not only demonstrated that there was an audience for that kind of show, but he reminded the broadcasters of that seven o’clock Saturday night slot. That notion of a family show that everyone sits down and watches together at that time hadn’t happened for a very long time.”

Doctor Who opened the BAFTA doors to shows like Life on Mars, Misfits, and of course, Being Human.

"The thing Russell did so beautifully with Doctor Who was mixing genres because he approached that very sci-fi show with a lightness of touch. I think Buffy is a good comparison, the notion of there being everything quite character related, being quite comedic, but with very dark moments. I think it was that first kind of successful experimentation with mixing genres," Whithouse points out.

Back in 2008, movie-level budgets simply didn’t exist for television shows, certainly not for BBC Three – so Whithouse relied on his memories of how series like Sapphire & Steel (1979-82) or Ultraviolet (1998) created their worlds. "I think British fantasy stuff tends to rely slightly more on suggestion and implication, rather than demonstrating it."

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We’ve all been petrified by that unknown sound in the dark, minds rushing to fill the void of a potential monster or creature lurking out of sight, he suggests. "A child’s imagination can create something infinitely more frightening than the special effects department. So to me, Being Human just continued that tradition of suggestion, and it also forced us to make the show about character, because character is the one thing that is free."

Jason Watkins as Herrick in Being Human
Jason Watkins as Herrick in Being Human BBC

The value of Being Human was not in its visually impressive feats, but instead its acutely rich characters, enticing the likes of Jason Watkins, Annabel Scholey, Michael Socha and Craig Roberts to appear.

"It afforded an incredible calibre of actor; we had guest actors that we’d never be able to afford normally but took massive pay cuts because they just really liked the character - that happened quite a lot on the show," Whithouse recalls.

Whereas once broadcasters would baulk at the idea of a £100 million genre show, today it appears to have become the norm. "It feels now that we must now approach things as if they were a $200 million movie."

So how does a genre show stick out amongst billion-dollar IP titans and cut-throat streaming services unnervingly ready to cut a show loose if it doesn’t hit a billion streams in a month?

Whithouse believes that the bubble is set to burst. "I think we'll gradually shift back because the model we currently have is kind of unsustainable. To sort of justify $100 million, or $2 million per hour long episode, at the very least, you're going to have to be drawing in that kind of audience. But with the sort of saturation that's happening, that audience is just going to be spread too thinly.”

That’s not to say the Being Human structure has been abandoned completely, as Severance, Whithouse’s favourite show of 2022, proves. “It was character led, I'm sure it probably was quite expensive, but nowhere near something like Loki. For me, that's the perfect show because it's high concept, it's character-led and quite funny. I think audiences will gradually start to get bored with these gargantuan budget shows.”

Being Human's final episode aired in 2013. Considering its low-budget status, high critical acclaim both with tastemakers and audiences alike, it doesn’t seem immediately clear why BBC Three would cancel such a successful series.

However, that very success may have been Being Human’s ultimate undoing. “BBC Three's remit was to encourage new shows to be slightly experimental, similar to the beginnings of Channel 4. The idea was to take chances on new voices and new stories, and by that point, we'd been running for five years, and we'd had two BAFTA nominations. We'd become kind of establishment by that point."

Whithouse goes on to mention that there was never a Being Human roadmap like we’ve come to expect from big genre shows today – he perhaps planted a little narrative seed or two in case the opportunity arose to explore it later, but the focus always remained on the series that was immediately in front of them. "We always thought every series was going to be our last one. So there had to come a point when it was."

It’s evident that the Being Human fandom has struck a chord with Whithouse, one that’s been ringing ever since the first blog post about the show. "At the [reunion] screening, a group of the bloggers came who I recognised. I see them at a lot of things and it was really lovely to see them again, and to see they're all still friends and they're all still in touch. They actually do a podcast about the show every month, which I had no idea about."

Asking him to pick his favourite episodes of Being Human is tantamount to asking who his favourite child is – he stirs on it, eventually picking out a few moments before threading the needle on what brings them all together. "The things I’m most proud of are when we’ve pushed ourselves just slightly, we've just done something a little unconventional."

It’s clear how proud Whithouse is of the legacy of Being Human and of the iron-clad family that has remained a decade after its final episode. "What was so lovely about doing the screening and what’s been so moving about the kind of interest since the show finished was that a lot of people have said to me, be it directors or producers or writers or actors, they’ve been looking for a job that was as fun as Being Human. Trying to do it again would be like catching lightning in a bottle."

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Being Human is available to stream on ITVX. Check out more of our Fantasy coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what’s on.

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