It cost £25 million, was a big international co-production with America and Belgium and received a prominent promotional campaign by the BBC. However, The White Queen, BBC One’s historical romp from the makers of Skins, has been put out of its misery. The BBC has announced in a statement to the website Broadcast that The White Queen has been officially cancelled and will not return for a second run.
The series, based on novels by Philippa Gregory, debuted on BBC One in June with a healthy viewership of around 5.3 million. However, viewers declined to an embarrassing 3.6 million. As the series ran on into August, initial fans seemed to switch off or turn their attentions to competing material, such as ITV’s Law & Order: UK.
The White Queen was part of a major co-production with America’s premium cable channel Starz. In recent years, there have been a collection of notable collaborations between the BBC and the Starz network including the fourth series of Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood (currently on indefinite hiatus) and historical drama Da Vinci’s Demons (which will be returning next yet on FOX UK). The series started airing on Starz earlier this month in a longer cut featuring extended and far more explicit sex scenes.
British and American co-productions have become a regular feature of the primetime schedules. Downton Abbey, Strike Back, Sherlock, Ripper Street and Call the Midwife have all been made as collaborations with US broadcasters.
It is possible that The White Queen may be picked up for a second series by Starz (whose promotional poster is pictured left) as a solo project without the BBC, even though the British broadcaster had a large amount of control of the series. If this did happen, it would echo the decision recently made by HBO’s sister channel Cinemax to press on with a new series of Mellissa George-starring action drama Hunted (now under the name Sam Hunter) when the BBC announced plans to cancel the drama. Cinemax, which airs a varied amount of content, from blockbuster films to softcore pornography, has taken complete control of Hunted. It remains to be seen whether Starz will do the same with The White Queen.
The BBC has urged press to remember that the show ‘was never actually conceived as a returning series’. However, many have already speculated that the outcome would have been very different if the drama had pulled in higher ratings. Earlier this year, ITV recommissioned a second series of ratings-hit Broadchurch due to the audience response to the show, even though it was initially planned as a one-off mini-series. The White Queen, which has been largely criticised by the press and failed to capture the hearts of the viewers, seems destined to remain one of those shows that could have had a life beyond its one-series run but failed to make enough of an impact on this all-important first outing.
The White Queen is available to view on BBC iPlayer in the UK for a limited time. The Blu-ray disc and DVD boxset, released by Anchor Bay, is available now.