Friday, 4 September 2009


France has very complicated relationships with Doctor Who, relationships which would deserve a whole behind-the-scenes book.

French viewers know only a ridiculously little portion of the classic series: some Tom Baker episodes dubbed and shown on sunday in an early morning kid show at the end of the 1980s. "Doctor, who?" almost became a recurring joke in France, one of the countries in the world which has not its local Sesame Street version, until the 2005 revival helmed by Russell T. Davies.

France 4, owned by the France Télévisions public service, a channel of the then fledging digital terrestrial free offer, began to show the new Doctor Who with a dubbing made in French-speaking Belgium (for financial motives). The dubbing of the show would deserve a whole chapter in the book about the relationships between France and Who. Suffice to say that after two heavily criticized years of the French dubbing, your humble servant came aboard on series 3 as consultant. Circumstances unfortunately made that I didn't work on series 4 ( - In French).

In this Internet era, the notoriety of Doctor Who is since series 1 quite established in France. And the wonderful folks of Beans On Toast (, the first French-speaking information source about the Whoniverse, widely contribute to the phenomenon. In the past they gave news about the delays of the dubbing of series 4 caused by a strike of Belgian dubbing artists and, most of all, delivered a complete and exclusive coverage about a major issue around the release in France of series 3 on DVD: the absence of a track with the original English-speaking dialogues.

Now Beans on Toast announces that France Télévisions Distribution, the subsidiary of France Télévisions holding the rights of the show on DVD from series 1 to 4, has suspended the release of series 4 DVD box in France. The impact of the French-only series 3 DVD release on their sales is without any doubt a parameter in the evaluation of the situation by FTD. Beans on Toast recall that the sale number of the first three series went from 700 to a little more than 1000 copies.

The economic argument would be fully acceptable (especially in these times of recession) if the treatment of Doctor Who by France Télévisions Distribution was not already so minimalist: no extra features, which would be understandable regarding the ratio between costs engaged and the market segment targeted, but - maybe more embarassing - no special episodes. Worse: DVDs of Torchwood, the spin-off of Doctor Who, are published in France by a great company called Koba Films Vidéo (whose DVDs are often reviewed on the French version of this blog), which manages to get extra features for a reasonable sale price regarding the quality of their DVD boxes. Actually DVD critics, specialist and fans even considered Torchwood series 1 DVD box set as a magnificent answer to the policy of France Télévisions with Doctor Who.

FTD has not taken any final decision about series 4, explains Beans on Toast. Perhaps they're testing how much fans really want to buy it before releasing a product whose future at France Télévisions looks rather bleak at the moment. French digital terrestrial private channel NRJ12 has shown a big interest for the series distributed by BBC Worldwide this year, buying shows like Hustle (previously on M6) and Primeval. Many French fans wish that Koba Films Vidéo buys the DVD rights of the next series of Doctor Who. Koba has a very good reputation and many BBC entries in its catalog.

Beans On Toast prepares an action to show France Télévisions the importance of French-speaking fandom of Doctor Who. We'll follow this story with the highest interest.

No comments: