Horror shows and light entertainment for Halloween viewing

Doctor Who: Revolution Of The Daleks will be on New Year's Day. Picture: BBC Studios

Jodie Whittaker departs as Dr Who - Credit: BBC Studios/Ben Blackall/James P

Fangs out, everyone, it’s Halloween this weekend when by a coincidence of the calendar the 31st October also marks the return of Dr Who.

We know that Jodie Whittaker will depart and take with her the first female doctor - a fine actor, better cast perhaps as a breathless companion than the Doctor herself.

If she’d been available, I’d have gone for Jo Brand, who does serious rather well, or the female equivalent of the great Jon Pertwee, with a credible maturity like him, Emma Thompson. But wherever the Tardis takes us now, it is worth acknowledging that we owe this entertainment to one of the greatest institutions in the history of mankind, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and also noting the £300 million a year that it earns selling the Dr Who programmes and associated merchandise across the globe.

Meanwhile, on the Big Bang Theory the genius Sheldon Cooper is as likely to riff about Dr Who as about Star Trek. Cultural exports = soft power for the UK. We are really very good at that and the BBC leads the way, along with our contemporary music output. Think Sir David Attenborough, entirely a BBC creation, who can stop presidents in their steps.

Needless to say, in perhaps his most deliberately tragi-comic appointment yet, the PM has appointed Nadine Dorries as the new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which brings the BBC into her purview, and already she is pleasing the tabloid enemies of the broadcaster with knocking copy about it.

It is all so tiresome. Large elements of the Conservative party will leap on this bandwagon – to the embarrassment of their rather more thoughtful party colleagues – and as the negotiations for the next phase of the BBC Licence Fee continue the atmosphere will be filled with threat of either a real-terms reduction or abolition.

Of course, for a broadcaster that transmits on multiple television, radio and digital media twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year, mistakes will be made. Like the NHS. But these exceptions to the rule are not an argument for abolition. Nevertheless, these Tories will incite sour feeling towards the BBC until as the negotiations come to a head they reverse their tanks back off its lawn. An ugly spectacle.

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One of the great arguments for the BBC is that if journalism is the first draft of history, BBC documentaries are often the second and third drafts. So please may I direct you towards two recent documentary outputs for some of the best history-telling in the world?

First, get under a blanket on the sofa, go to the iPlayer, and watch Blair Brown: The New Labour Revolution. This is a fantastically objective telling of the New Labour project from the late 80s, when the pair first met, to 2010 when Gordon Brown was unable to win a fourth election for the party.

The access to all the key players, and the editing of their contributions, is first-class, and to my surprise I was left with great sympathy for Gordon Brown. It is crystal clear by the fifth and final programme, transmitted next week, that he was the single key figure in the world who brought us back from total financial collapse after the banking meltdown in 2008, very soon after he had at last acquired the job Blair had kept him waiting for.

His reward was to be mocked at the despatch box by the foppish mockery of the flyweight David Cameron who duly formed a coalition government, then his own, and then called a referendum.

Then, please watch Four Hours at the Capitol, about the storming of the Senate over the lie that the last Presidential election had been stolen. If you want to see what popular fascism looks like in the here and now, here it is. Keep those Trump masks for next Halloween; you may well need them.

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