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BBC Gives ‘Doctor Who’ A Seventh Season

Matt Smith returns, but how much of it will air in 2012?

The BBC didn’t waste a lot of time giving “Doctor Who” a greenlight for a seventh season. But the question was never if The Doctor would return — just how much would he return.

The economy has wreaked havoc on television, especially those that depend on government-style assessments like the BBC. Because of that, there was a lot of speculation that the BBC would take a year off, like it did in 2009, airing “Doctor Who” specials instead of a full season.

While the 14-episode order is proof enough that the BBC isn’t taking that route again, the network did hint that there’s a chance some of the episodes produced in 2012 may not air until 2013.

“The new [season order] is a big commitment,” a BBC spokesman said, according to The Guardian. “Not many other shows have such a commitment so far in advance. We do not know yet how many will air in 2012.”

The BBC has taken great pains to reassure fans that changes being made in how the episodes are being produced are dictated by the writing staff, and not by budgets. For instance, the strategy in 2011 to split the “Doctor Who” Season 6 in half was based on storytelling elements implemented by showrunner Steven Moffat, and not to help better space production costs over multiple financial quarters, the BBC said.

Yet, getting any real commitment no matter what the ratings (or international interest) is tough to get these days. Just ask “Torchwood,” the “Doctor Who” spinoff, that earned just a five-episode renewal for its third season, and still make a killing in terms of domestic audience. Yet, the BBC couldn’t commit to continuing the show on its own, and instead struck a deal with an American premium cable channel, Starz, to jointly produce a fourth season.

A move like that, however, might not be all it appears. While it might make BBC look like its being tight with every penny, it could simply have made much better business sense to cash in on the international appeal of “Torchwood,” and sharing the financial burdens of the show with another company, lowering its own risk. Studios enter joint deals like that a lot, no matter what state the economy is in.

A couple examples in recent years include the first season of “Battlestar Galactica” between NBC Universal and Sky One. That type of work has even spilled over into movies, like the 1997 blockbuster “Titanic” becoming a shared property between Paramount and Twentieth Century Fox, when it’s then-record budget was too much risk for one studio to assume.

No matter what BBC’s motivation is, “Doctor Who” is coming back for a seventh season, and it will have Matt Smith continuing in his role. And for now, that will just have to be good enough.

British audiences have already seen the mid-season finale of “Doctor Who” with BBC America showing the final episode this coming weekend. The sixth season will return to show remaining episodes in the fall.

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