We’re living in the age of aftershows—Walking Dead has one. Game of Thrones has one. Mr. Robot has one. Hell, even The Star Wars Show has one! But none of these shows live up to what is still the ultimate aftershow of them all: Doctor Who Confidential.
See, all of them are inspired by the rampant success of AMC’s The Talking Dead, and are essentially just themed talk shows. They discuss the episode you’ve just watched, but it’s more about the guests, interviewing them as fans. It’s more like a variety show than anything else. And that can be cool—it’s sort of like the televised equivalent of an episode reaction or recap—but man, it just makes me miss Doctor Who Confidential a whole lot.
For those unaware, Doctor Who Confidential ran between 2005 and 2011 as a supplementary show to the revived Doctor Who—and while yes, each episode was themed to the episode of Who that had just preceded it, and there were interviews with the cast and crew, its focus wasn’t really that much on discussion of the episode. Instead, it was more on how a show like Doctor Who was actually made, day in and day out. And it was fascinating.
Today, behind-the-scenes footage is usually relegated to a home release special feature or a short YouTube Video—snippets that barely scratch the surface of the process of filming a series. But that was Confidential’s bread and butter. Each week, themed to the production of each episode, there’d be looks at design work, art, props, prosthetics, computer and practical effects, stunt work—it wasn’t just talking heads going “oh that bit where the thing happened was pretty good, right?” Confidential showed you how they made that bit where the thing happened actually happen.
That might not be to everyone’s fancy; it’s a little like pulling back the curtain on a magic show just after you’ve watched it. It takes you out of the fantasy and escapism of a series when you see it all broken down and how all the cogs whirl in the machine. But such an unprecedented examination of a TV series like Doctor Who—which, back when it returned in 2005, weren’t really that common in the UK—was hugely inspiring to me.
Before I broke into writing, I wanted to work in production—mainly because the impressionable young me, avid Doctor Who nut, was entranced by what he saw on Doctor Who Confidential every week. I might not be on that career path right now, but I still have that bug, that joy of seeing how TV and movies are made. I love getting that insight into how the media I enjoy is put together by seas of people—and it can’t just have been my younger self that was enchanted. A show like Confidential could inspire hundreds of thousands of people to get into production, whether it’s script writing, or design, or effects work—to become the next generation of producers, camera crews, VFX artists, prop makers. These are all areas that you don’t typically see getting a ton of attention. On a talk show-formatted aftershow, they’re ancillary to the actors and guest stars. On a show like Confidential though, they were the stars.
Look at the landscape of TV now—shows like Game of Thrones, Flash, Supergirl, Agents of SHIELD, and The Expanse, with things like the new Star Trek series on the way. We are living in a boom of glitzy, effects-driven shows that are tailor-made for peeks behind the scenes—like Doctor Who Confidential did for Doctor Who back in the day—to inspire their legions of fans into making the next generation of these shows bigger and better. We get little snippets here and there online, but it’s not enough.
It’s great that we have a bunch of aftershows to react to and break down the episode of a show we’ve just devoured. But it’d be even better to get another show like Confidential in that space that did more than just look at what happened in an episode, but how it happened, too. Maybe there’ll be people like me who will be inspired to see that making TV can be just as exciting and enjoyable as watching the finished product, too.