There was a scene recorded for an episode of Doctor Who back when the Time Lord looked like David Tennant. The Doctor’s friend Rose Tyler is talking to a schoolboy who’s become mixed up in their scary, alien-filled adventure. Rose reassures him that although all this business with monsters and strange events must seem terrifying to him, they will get through it safe and sound.
The lad looks at Rose and calmly says that he used to live in the Isle of Man. She relaxes, shrugs, and says something along the lines of ‘Oh well, you’ll be fine then.’
You’ll note I say that this scene was recorded, not broadcast. It was edited out of the episode before transmission. Was it just over-running and they needed to make a trim for timing? Or were they worried about offending Manx viewers?
Personally, I think we would have taken the gag in good humour. For one thing, it would have been nice just to be acknowledged as existing. There have been 862 episodes of Doctor Who so far (yes, I checked) and not one of them mentions the Isle of Man (I also checked that, research fans).
There’s something about the Isle of Man getting mentioned on telly – in a non-upsetting news sort of way – that pleases us. Particularly in recent times, when travelling to and from the Island has shrunk down to almost nowt. It reminds us that we’re still part of a bigger world.
We are fine with a bit of good-natured teasing in the mentions. I was living in the UK when The Fast Show started doing the ‘We’re from the Isle of Man’ sketches. Well-meaning friends tried to stop me from watching them, thinking I’d be mightily peeved. When I did see the scenes in question I hooted with laughter. Especially as I’m pretty sure I’ve met the real-life inspiration for one of the characters.
An episode of the brain-meltingly complex quiz Only Connect had a round where the connection that had to be identified between four words was that they were all towns in the Island. The team of clever clogs scratched their heads, saying things like ‘Prime Ministers? Ramsey MacDonald… Alec Douglas-Home… was there a PM called Peel?’
I’m sure I wasn’t the only person bellowing at the screen ‘Ramsay MacDonald didn’t spell his name that way! They’re Manx towns, you exasperating nerds!’ They eventually got the connection, possibly because the next-door island has never had a Prime Minister called something like Dave Castletown.
We might be equally cursed and blessed that we didn’t have a Manx equivalent to Bergerac. For those who haven’t had the pleasure, Bergerac was a hugely successful detective show on BBC1 in the 80s and 90s, set on our cousin island of Jersey. Each episode showed off the lovely scenery of that island. It also gave the impression that life in Jersey was a non-stop whirl of murder, explosions, jewel heists, and kidnapping. Which it wasn’t, even in the 80s.
It’s very easy to imagine the Jersey Tourism Department having mixed feelings about the show. It did lead to an increase in tourism, with a Bergerac Bus Tours ferrying fans around the various locations where bludgeoned bodies were found. Sounds great. But there’s very little evidence to suggest that Manx tourist bosses of the time were agitating to have our Island star in an hour of primetime TV full of slaying and skullduggery.
Bergerac was a long time ago now, and the landscape of TV is very different. With many more channels and a host of streaming services, there’s just fundamentally a lot more telly. Surely there’s now an opportunity for the Isle of Man to be more than just an answer in a quiz, but to actually be the setting for a show?
It doesn’t have to be another quirky detective, finding corpses in every beauty spot. We could have a gentle Last of the Summer Wine-style sitcom, with mischievous pensioners sliding down Peel Hill in a bathtub. What about a drama of boardroom power struggles filmed on Athol Street? When they built Castle Rushen, they must have had a premonition that one day it could be the ideal location for a Game of Thrones-ish epic.
Or if these plans are a bit too ambitious, then maybe Episode 863 of Doctor Who will finally be our chance to shine on the small screen?