Toby Whithouse On The End Of Being Human

Well after five series, a web series, a US spin-off, and a pile of merchandise, the end has come and we’ve finally bid a fond farewell to Being Human. But when the slightly uncharacteristic happy ever after panned back to show the most sinister origami dog in TV history, suddenly the ending didn’t look so happy after all. Does that mean what we think it means? Will we ever know for sure? We turned to series creator Toby Whithouse for answers.

How do you think fans will respond having seen the Being Human finale?

“I wanted the ending to be slightly open-ended so there is something there for the fans to imagine. It’s deliberately ambiguous. Are they trapped in one of Captain Hatch’s dreams or did they escape? I think I know what the answer is, but I could be wrong, and to be honest after the credits roll I’ve got no say in the matter anymore. After the credits roll the characters belong to the fans, and it’s up to them.

“I’m sure many people will hate it and will be absolutely furious with it. It’ll be like issue 700 of Amazing Spider-Man in how it divides the audience. I hope that I don’t get it quite that bad on Being Human, but inevitably there will be some people who don’t like the ending. Just as, if they had skipped off into the sunset happily having saved the world, some people would be dissatisfied with that. But then the most unsatisfying ending would have been if the series had just not been recommissioned and for it to end with Hal strapped in the chair.

“I do feel that whatever people think of the ending it’s a comma not a full stop, it’s not definitive. Partly because I didn’t want their stories to be finite, I wanted there to be room for further adventures and further journeys and so on. I want the future of the characters to belong to the fans. I wanted to leave them with a slightly incomplete story.”

On one level that’s really lovely, on another level it’s incredibly frustrating!

“I know. Having said all of that, on the DVD there will be an extra scene that takes place about a week after the end of the series. After that the answer is pretty definitive. I felt a bit bad doing it this way, but the fact is we were contractually obliged to do an extra scene for the DVD that won’t appear anywhere else. I wasn’t really aware of this, or more likely I’d forgotten, until I’d already written episode six. And then they said. ‘You’ve got to do an extra scene on the DVD.’ We thought about doing a scene from earlier in the episode, possibly a scene where the devil, who is now possessing Mr Rook, goes and kills the Secretary of State – ie, me. And much as that would have been fun we thought well if we’re going to do an extra scene we want it to be our three heroes. And there weren’t any interesting ideas for scenes that would have happened before the end of the series. We could have done something like one of the online scenes, something affectionate and sweet, but we wanted to do something a little more exciting than that.  We decided if we were doing one that was set some time after the last scene of the episode then it had to somehow answer the question about what had happened.

“If you believe that the characters are stuck in one of Captain Hatch’s dreams it’s quite a bleak ending. And so if that’s your take on that last scene then that’s a bit of a bleak way to leave five years of the show, so the DVD scene will address that.”

Being Human showrunner Toby Whithouse.

Was the devil always going to be the show’s last big bad?

“The weirdest thing about Being Human is the serendipity that has been with us from the pilot. We’ve just had so many strange coincidences, all of which have worked in our favour. It’s been a really blessed and lucky show and it was just one of those coincidences that we decided we were going to tackle the biggest villain of them all around the time we found out it was going to be the last series.

“I know it’s traditional in America if you’re pitching a series that you need to be able to tell them what a middle episode of season seven is going to be about, but we don’t really do that in the UK, particularly because our series are so short and we never know from one series to another whether, firstly, the show is going to be recommissioned and, secondly, which of cast would be returning. So I never really saw the point of planning that far ahead. If the series had come back for a sixth year I genuinely don’t know how we would have topped the devil. God maybe. But that said we probably would have found a way.”

What do you think the legacy of Being Human will be?

“I’d love if it inspired people to write character led shows and that it inspires people to explore other bits of the world of genre. Not everyone who watches the show is as big of a geek as you or I, and if it inspires other people to explore other genre fiction then that would be fantastic. I would hope that it perhaps in some way makes character led shows and indeed genre shows more viable on television, although that doesn’t seem the case. Once Being Human has finished, apart from Doctor Who I’m not even sure what other genre shows there will be on UK television.

“But more simply, I’d genuinely be happy if people enjoyed it and held it in their affection.”

So what next for you?

πI’m working on The Game, a tense cold war thriller set in the early 1970s London. I’ve just delivered draft two of episode two and next week I’ll be starting work on episodes five and six. We’re not quite into preproduction yet, we’re at the point where the more things happen and the closer it gets the more terrified I become. The fact that we’re going to have to actually make this show becomes increasingly real. I’m almost at the lying on the floor in the foetal position stage. I’ll inevitably be there in the next couple of weeks.”

Are you tempted to do any more acting?

“Ha, my extended cameo on Being Human hasn’t reignited the acting bug! It was genuinely a financial consideration – strange as it is for anyone who knows me, this was nothing to do with my ego. Basically Being Human has a bijou budget and we have to spread the money very thin. Because we had a lot of reoccurring characters this year like Rook and Crumb this impacted on the casting budget – we’d pretty much spent the lot by episode four. We had to start looking at ways of making some savings. One of these recurring characters was the Home Secretary. That character alone would have cost us a considerable amount of money, so we talked about ways of telling the story without seeing him. But it would have meant some heavy rewrites. So I suggested, as a way of easing the pressure on the cast budget, that I play the Secretary of State because if nothing else I could do it for free. They agreed. Believe me, if we could have got a better actor for free we would have, but the choice was just me!”

What about these rumours about what’s going to happen with Doctor Who after the 50th anniversary? If Steven Moffat goes could you see yourself as showrunner?

“I have heard the rumours. I’ve been hearing them for years now. In terms of what Matt and Steven are planning after the anniversary, I do know the answers to those things, but there is absolutely no way I can tell anyone.

“In terms of my future on Doctor Who, this kind of speculation only takes place in the heads of the fans. I’m going to be busy doing The Game for however long that lasts and I think Steven is doing incredible work on Doctor Who and I’d much rather he stay there. No-one from the BBC has said anything to me. Whether or not it’s something the BBC is considering, I genuinely have no idea. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued by the idea, but also it would be terrifying. It’s definitely something I’d be really tempted by but I’m genuinely not in any hurry to do it. And why do people assume the BBC would want me? I’m sure there are much stronger contenders than me!”

What would your final words be to Being Human fans who’ve just watched the finale?

“I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you for watching. Now it’s over to you.”

Interview by Narin Bahar

Read our rundown of Being Human’s Best Moments.
Read all our Being Human series 5 reviews.
Read our interview with Being Human production designer Andrew Purcell.
Subscribe to our Being Human series 5 Spotify playlist.