18 January 2012

Being Human is back, having controversially parted ways with two of the three regulars and parachuted in a new vampire and werewolf. 

Why this is relevant, aside from SciFiNow going behind the scenes on the new series – as recounted in the latest issue by the stunning scribblings of our senior staff writer Jodie Tyley – and Toby Whithouse dropping a few Doctor Who Series Seven nuggets in there, is that the backlash to the casting change instantly draws comparisons to another slab of BBC telefantasy with a devoted following. 

One of the voices proclaiming that the series should just end rather than replace its original cast had for his Twitter icon an image of Matt Smith. The irony alarm had to be unplugged it was making so much noise. 

I know, I know, that’s a bit unkind. The ability to change the core cast of Doctor Who is central to the concept, and that’s not the case for Being Human, but you have to remember that it wasn’t always so, and change was just as alarming 40-odd years ago as it is now. 

William Hartnell left, perhaps because of his glove habit (+10 Who Points if you laughed at that), and the production team were left with a number of options: they could find another crotchety old character actor, kill the show dead, or cast a radically different new face into the same rough chassis of the old one, while inventing some guff about the Doctor’s alien race needing periodic renewal to smooth over the cracks.

How would you have reacted in 1966 when you heard the cult show of the day was just sweeping the previous three years under the carpet? “Pffft, a new Doctor!?” you might have screeched on whatever passed for Twitter in the Sixties. “You might as well change the police box into a rocket-powered Cadillac, because it’s clearly not going to be the same show.”

It wasn’t the same show. Well, it kinda was, but it also wasn’t. The concept expanded and matured, and the dynamic shifted radically, and then in 1969… they did it all over again!

There’s a lot we can still learn from Doctor Who. A show with this sort of lengthy and cluttered history, with incredible highs and lamentable lows, is a good vantage point from which we  can look down at the rest of science fiction and fantasy.

Like the Doctor himself with his centuries of perspective, our love for a show that is nearly half a century old is a wondrous aid for putting things into perspective. There’s a new vampire in Being Human? Pffft, whatever, my favourite show replaced its lead actor ten times!

SciFiNow Issue #64 is out now, with a massive behind the scenes feature on the controversial new series of Being Human, and an eight-page Complete Guide to the Second Doctor. You can buy it digitally from the Apple Newsstand, or online from the ImagineShop. Check it out at www.scifinow.co.uk.

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