When Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred marched the Seventh Doctor and Ace off into the proverbial Perivale sunset at the end of “Survival” back in 1989, fans had no way of knowing that DOCTOR WHO would be off the air for the next seven years before popping up again in America as, of all things, a TV-movie on the Fox channel. And then it went away again. And then it came back again in 2005.
The series’ current showrunner, Steven Moffat reflected on the long hiatus and its effect on the legacy of DOCTOR WHO with Radio Times.
“That gap is important. 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 also remarked that the audience “just said no” in way that had never happened in British television before, meaning that the programme “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. There were audio adventures, starring all the old Doctors. There was an action-packed American telefilm, 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.”
I would hardly say we fans were “perfectly happy” with no show being produced during the wilderness years, but we did get by during the production hiatus.
Moffat’s point, however — and I agree with him — is that fandom did not need a steady flow of new stories in order to continue loving what we already had. In fact, it probably deepened our nostalgia for what we once had. I also believe the fallow years were responsible for the reassessment and rehabilitation of the maligned McCoy and Colin Baker years.
It’s like that old song lyric: “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”