Two important events happened recently in my life as a Doctor Who fan.
Firstly with my two young sons, I completed level three of the latest Doctor Who Adventure Game, and secondly at Edinburgh, Steven Moffat announced the structure of the new series for next year.
The BBC launched the Doctor Who Adventure Games not just out of a public service responsibility to give dads a bonding experience frying Cybermen with dangling electrical cables (level two, “Blood of the Cybermen” - email me if you want the walkthrough!), but because they were looking for innovative ways of engaging a hungry audience during the five month window while they filmed the Christmas special and new series.
We have been lucky enough to be part of the renaissance of the Doctor Who brand, ever since Russell Davies persuaded Christopher Eccleston to become the 9th Doctor, and all the way along the importance of keeping an audience, rather than just “getting them to Episode One”, has been vital. No programme works as hard at its re-caps and throw-forwards, for example. When we took our design for the new Doctor Who logo to Steven and his team, we did so by showing what it would look like doodled on a school satchel – because it is in those moments, as much as any other, that you keep the relationship between viewer and programme alive.
Steven Moffat’s announcement was equally exciting for us as promotions experts – double the series launches and cliff hangers is exactly what gets us out of bed in the morning, but splitting the series’ run, so that you are never too far away from the next episode, might be a pattern we start to see more of too. How a narrative arc might work from TV, to PC download game, to magazine comic strip, and back to TV again. Not forgetting the role of narrative repeats on BBC Three, BBC iplayer, Watch etc…
The US has always had a different pattern for their long running shows, but learned fast during the writers strike that once you break a relationship between viewer and characters, it can be exponentially harder to get it back again.
When NBC filmed a series of internet only sketches for the US Office everyone assumed it was them exploring ways of monetising their online space, but the reality was that NBC had realised early on that we don’t want to be separated from characters who can become an important part of our lives and then disappear into a void for months. We are hungry to stay in touch whether it’s a computer simulation of Matt Smith…
…or the creepy podcast thoughts of Creed.
Whatever else, it concentrates our minds in terms of the skills we need as a creative business, navigating audiences through time and space in a new way. Now where is that atom accelerator?
Charlie Mawer, Executive Creative Director