Doctor Who Confidential was a documentary television programme that took a behind-the-scenes look at the making of each Doctor Who episode. It launched on BBC Three with Rose and continued through to The Wedding of River Song, after which it was definitively cancelled.
As such, it holds the dubious distinction of being the first show in DWU history to have been unambiguously cancelled through a clear BBC press announcement, since K9 and Company and Totally Doctor Who passed without comment, Torchwood still has sporadic releases, The Sarah Jane Adventures was brought to an end after Elisabeth Sladen passed away and the original version of Doctor Who was consistently said to be “resting”, not “cancelled”.
However, starting with Deep Breath, a new, smaller scale, behind the scenes series, entitled Doctor Who Extra, would be released alongside episodes on the online BBC iPlayer.
The one-shot documentary Doctor Who: A New Dimension, broadcast on BBC One before the premiere of Rose on 26 March 2005, is considered a precursor to Doctor Who Confidential; the programme proper, however, began later that evening with the episode Bringing Back the Doctor airing on BBC Three immediately after Rose.
With few exceptions, Confidential screened on BBC Three following the transmission of Doctor Who on BBC One. Each episode of the first two series was approximately thirty minutes long; episodes of series 3 and 4 were approximately forty-five minutes long, a length equivalent to the episode being covered. Full-hour instalments were made to coincide with the 2009 specials. It was also webcast in a five minute format on the BBC Doctor Who Website.
Different narrators were used for the series, each of whom was at some point a guest star on Doctor Who proper. The narrators included: Simon Pegg, Anthony Stewart Head, Mark Gatiss, Noel Clarke, Alex Price and Russell Tovey. David Tennant directed one of the instalments and was the effective narrator of the episode.
On 28 September 2011, BBC Three announced it was cancelling Doctor Who Confidential after six seasons, citing budgetary issues at the network. Although it was initially reported that the final episode would air on 25 December 2011 in conjunction with the 2011 Christmas special, it was subsequently announced that the final episode would air at the conclusion of Series 6 of Doctor Who on 1 October 2011. As the cancellation was announced during production of the Christmas special, it is uncertain whether any Confidential footage has been shot related to it, or whether this material will see release in some form in the future. The cancellation of Confidential, following those of Totally Doctor Who and Torchwood Declassified, has left the Doctor Who franchise without a behind-the-scenes TV series for the first time in the history of the BBC Wales era of the programme.
The cancellation announcement sparked protests from fans, including the @SaveDWC Twitter campaign and an online petition hoping to cause BBC Three to reinstate the programme.
Memory of the programme lingered long in the minds of Radio Times readers. In February 2013, it was voted the best BBC Three show of all time, beating out Torchwood, Being Human, and even the then-highest-rated show on the network, Pramface.
In August 2014, in the run-up to the premiere of Series 8 and the start of Peter Capaldi’s tenure as the Twelfth Doctor, the BBC announced a new behind the scenes show to accompany the series, entitled Doctor Who Extra.
Most episodes of Confidential were later re-edited into a version called Confidential Cut Down, chiefly for the purposes of inclusion on each series’ DVD boxed sets. These versions had most licenced music removed, as well as clips and interviews featuring the first eight Doctors. These versions ran approximately 10-15 minutes and were often used for the repeat broadcasts on BBC Three. (The Series 1-6 box sets group the Confidential Cut Downs together on one disc.)
Cut Down editions generally were not included on the single-disc “vanilla” releases issued in the UK and (in the case of Series 1) North America, with the exception of the DVD releases of Voyage of the Damned and The Next Doctor which both included their respective Confidentials.
Doctor Who Confidential ran on television for six seasons, from 2005 to 2011. A number of related specials and webcast mini-episodes were also made.
One special episode of Confidential, “Music and Monsters”, looked at the making of the November 2006 “Doctor Who: A Celebration” charity concert. It was the first and for several years the only Confidential episode released in its entirety on DVD.
An instalment of Confidential was produced to coincide with the 2008 Christmas special, The Next Doctor, followed by a second non-episode-based instalment of Confidential on 3 January 2009, during which Matt Smith was announced as the Eleventh Doctor.
The Confidential instalment produced for the 2009 Easter special, Planet of the Dead was significant for its inclusion at full-length in both the UK and North American DVD releases, including footage from several classic series episodes, the licensing-challenged 1996 TV movie and several snippets of licensed music — elements that otherwise were removed from the “Cut Down” versions. It was also the first Confidential made available in the Blu-Ray format. The subsequent Complete Specials DVD/Blu-Ray box set included the full-length, unedited Confidential instalments for the four 2009 specials, plus the one for The Next Doctor (which was omitted from the standalone DVD release of that episode) which was up-converted to high-definition for Blu-Ray release.
The special My Sarah Jane: A Tribute to Elisabeth Sladen, a memorial dedicated to Elisabeth Sladen following her death, was broadcast on CBBC on 23 April 2011. Though the standard Confidential opening titles were absent, it was produced by the Confidential production team and closes with the Confidential logo.
Four ten-minute documentaries were made for The Complete Fifth Series box set and another four for The Complete Sixth Series box set. These documentaries were given the name the Monster Files and focused on the making of certain enemies. The Complete Fifth Series box set contains 4 for the Daleks, the Weeping Angels, the Silurians and the Alliance and The Complete Sixth Series box set contains 4 for the Silence, the Gangers, the Teselecta antibodies and the Cybermats. The documentaries did not open with the regular Confidential title sequence, though it was produced by the Confidential production team and closes with the Confidential logo.
Episodes not released to home video
The non-DWU mini-episode Tonight’s the Night, which aired in May 2009, was accompanied by a Confidential-style behind-the-scenes segment, though it’s not known if the regular Confidential team were involved in its creation. As of 2012, the behind-the-scenes material has never made it to home video.
The only “proper” instalment of Confidential never released to home video in some format is the Eleventh Doctor episode that aired in January 2009 to introduce Matt Smith.
In the US, some PBS affiliates aired instalments of Doctor Who Confidential in conjunction with their broadcasts of Series 3 and Series 4 episodes. Cut Down versions have also been available on the BBCA website, as well as the channel itself, since they obtained the North American broadcast rights during the 2009 Specials. The ABC aired Confidential in Australia.