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Published on June 28th, 2010 | by Christian Cawley

Steady the Ship, BBC

The BBC news pages are reporting that overnight figures for The Big Bang are half the audience that viewed The End of Time, Part 2 on New Year’s Day.

Doctor Who is produced by the BBCOf course, the Tenth Doctor’s swansong was event television with a slightly cynical edge to its David Tennant-heavy ubiqitous promotion – but then again, everybody knew what time Doctor Who was on that week.

These figures don’t make great reading – but that isn’t the problem. Whether they (based on an overnight temporary indicator and a full, classified final figure) can be compared or not is not the issue.

The issue is that the BBC have been migrating Doctor Who around the schedules like a tactical piece on a map, much like the model Ironsides in Victory of the Daleks.

Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Steven Moffat and the other writers and production team members have been sold short by a BBC scheduling department that seems hell-bent on throwing Doctor Who around in order to make way for other, less interesting television.

You can almost smell the disrepect.

A seemingly endless selection of pro-celebrity-amateur talent contests and and dancing shows designed to promote charities of Lord Lloyd-Webber’s latest money spinner continues to be the BBC’s Saturday night focus; I’d love to see the repeat/iPlayer/DVD sales figures for these, and I’ll wager they’re not a patch on those of Doctor Who.

The average figure of 5.1 million people recorded for Saturday’s viewing will be adjusted by delayed viewing figures including iPlayer – however as Virgin Media have yet to add the episode, this might be lower than expected. Of course, they won’t quite find another 3 million viewers to bring the episode into line with The Eleventh Hour.

Only stability within the schedules and returning Doctor Who to 7pm can do this.


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About the Author


A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

12 Responses to Steady the Ship, BBC

  1. avatar Marveloriddle says:

    It really annoys me how people obsess over the overnight ratings. The viability of Doctor Who is about so much more than just bums on seats! As a brand it makes millions for the BBC in merchandise, dvd sales of past and recent episodes are always in the top ten. That’s not to mention the many overseas broadcasters who buy the program. I really, really hope the beeb don’t move to cancel Doctor Who over the next couple of years just because the ratings for stories that don’t feature regenerations, character deaths and Kylie Minouge aren’t as high as those episodes that do. That would be just mental.

    On that note: Of course episodes like the Eleventh Hour and the End of Time are going to get higher ratings than the Big Bang. You’re not comparing like for like– both of those stories were event television that captured the nation’s imagination. I don’t particularly like Eastenders or football, but I still watched the live episode and the England vs Germany match because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about! Yet I still don’t watch Eastenders and I definately still won’t be watching football either.

  2. avatar Carn says:

    Some of my friends are only just catching up The Big Bang having been to Glastonbury all weekend. So while they’re a little late watching the episode they did get a treat seeing Matt Smith up on stage with Orbital playing the Doctor Who theme.

  3. avatar crumptonmp says:

    Poor reporting from the BBC about one of their own programmes. Direct comparison is totally unfair. Time slots, weather etc all affect viewing figures. Someone reading that would immediately think Doctor Who was a failure in the schedules, which it clearly is not. What worries me is, are we getting the full story on things that REALLY matter in the world? Presumably not.

    Matt, may you reign as the Doctor for many years. No-one, not even my hero Tom, nailed what was required from the part as well as you have have from your first minutes on screen.

  4. avatar Rick714 says:

    As soon as DW became a major player again back in ’05, there was a target drawn on it’s back, like with anything that’s incredibly popular. The shifting around in the schedule shouldn’t really even be an issue as it’s still on each Saturday night, give or take a half hour. But the nice weather and World cup, etc. have always put a dent in Who’s ratings and if indeed the new rating system can explain away some of the deficit as well, then there shouldn’t be a problem.

    Plus, the appreciation index is still as good as it was before. Bottom line, the sky isn’t falling. But the media need *something* to cry about.

  5. avatar G1000 says:

    While the scheduling of the programme has been poor, and comparisons with End of Time Pt 2 maybe unfair, it remains the fact that the ratings are down. We can look for as many reasons as we like, but go talk to the kids, and a number of them have not enjoyed the programme as much as previously. They may like Matt Smith’s Dr, they may like Amy Pond (or not), but many appear not to like the new show as much at the RTD one, at the moment. Some of my own nephews have stopped bothering with Saturday nights, as they have other things to do, and only catch up when they remember, and don’t really care that they haven’t any more. The focus needs to be on the kids, because they are the programme’s future….. and, oh, yeah, they don’t like the new Daleks either.

  6. avatar Hyncharas says:

    Sadly ratings these days are all networks really care about; not the content they’re putting on their channels. If the BBC had pulled a stunt like this a decade ago, OfCom would be up their backside…

    Alas, we live in a world now where tv executives are more than happy to crucify good drama and show them against reality shows. In closing I’ll say what I said about this a month ago on IGN – any execs that believe drama will ever compete with talent shows or sports are absolute morons. Only drama competes with drama, period.

  7. avatar bobbygaga says:

    This kind of nonsense from the BBC needs to be nipped in the bud A.S.A.P. Is anyone aware of any campaign to urge the beeb to 1) give the show a consistent time slot in 2011 and 2) let management know that briefing against one of their flagship shows is crass beyond belief. They certainly wouldn’t do it againt Eastenders.

  8. avatar Carn says:

    depends on the kids asked I think. My niece and her friend from school absolutely love it, far moreso than previous seasons to the point where they enjoy dressing up as Amy and the Doctor (I was the one who had to put together the Doctor costume for a kid I don’t even know). To be honest I don’t care what they think. It’s my favorite show and this has been easily the best season of the modern run and I find the ‘tries to be cool’ eleventh doctor a lot more relatable than the ‘he’s cool and he knows it’ tenth.

  9. avatar IanOTimelord says:

    If they are unhappy about the rating then the answer is simple, stop moving it from pillow to post in the schedules!!!
    Its not brain science. Oh wait, it is for the BBC!!

  10. avatar argimenes says:

    I have to say, when the ratings are high new ‘Who’ fans are over the moon, the executive producer is untouchable, the writers are geniuses, the Doctor is superb … yet when the ratings are low the writing, production, or acting is never blamed, and everyone complains about scheduling, or the critics, or long summer days keeping the kids outdoors.

    You have to confess it’s a bit of a double standard…

  11. So, argimenes – don’t leave us in suspense! What *is* the problem?

  12. avatar argimenes says:

    Well, whatever you say, Matt Smith is the best thing that happened to the show since Chris Eccleston. As for what didn’t work, I suspect the low ratings have less to do with the obvious plotting flaws of the finale than a generally week run for the second half of the series. That said … the gaping plot holes of the last two episodes are the least of the problems. For me, the pseudo-clever timey-wimey technobabble made the plot both unsatisfying (for the sci-fi fan) and convoluted (for the general viewer). But as bad as that was, all the attempts to pull at the heart-strings rang hollow because they were so blatantly false; weirdly enough, they even make the same self-indulgent heart-wringing of RTD seem more sincere.

    So, you asked for my opinion, and there you have it: Matt Smith and the sidekicks were great, but the pseudo-science technobabble didn’t convince intellectually while the yanking of the heart-strings lacked convincing, hard-earnt emotion.

    The series may have been tied up as neatly as Eleven’s bow tie, but it lacked the human drama of RTD or the intellectual wonder of the classic series.

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