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Published on April 24th, 2011 | by Christian Cawley

The End of Doctor Who?

Doctor Who is set to end this week, ladies and gentlemen, as requested by Chicago Now’s Matthew Milam in his memo to the BBC.

Now rewritten as I Give Up on Doctor Who, the critic – whose positive and considered reviews we have previously featured on Kasterborous – has several issues with the current series, and is of course entitled to his opinion.

The fact remains, however, that calling for the show to be rested just because he doesn’t enjoy it as much as he did when Tom Baker was starring doesn’t mean that Mr Milam’s opinion is right.

It’s just his.

Obviously the BBC aren’t about to jump to the tune of some hack they haven’t heard of, but you might be interested to know that this week’s UK season opener, The Impossible Astronaut, took a lowly 6.5 million viewers according to overnight figures.

  • 9.6mThe Eleventh Hour3/4/2010 (starring Matt Smith)
  • 9.1m - Partners in Crime - 5/4/2008 (David Tennant)
  • 8.7mSmith and Jones31/3/2007 (David Tennant)
  • 8.6mNew Earth15/4/2006 (David Tennant)
  • 10.8mRose - 26/3/2005 (Christopher Eccleston)

Source: Barb consolidated figures

This will probably have an extra 1.5 million viewers added to it to account for delayed viewings over the next few days, while the iPlayer users will no doubt add a final extra 2 million, giving us probably somewhere in the region of 10 million. However as iPlayer views somehow don’t count (despite them being the only real views, Barb…) the episode will likely finish somewhere in the 8 million area.

As you can see from the table above, this places The Impossible Astronaut much lower than the previous low of New Earth in 2006; you will, however, notice a correlation with the dates. It seems that episodes broadcast in mid-to-late April receive a lower figure than those in March and early April. Many will be surprised to find that two David Tennant series openers, New Earth and Smith and Jones are the worst-performing in terms of audience numbers.

Keep the faith, though, Doctor Who fans - The Impossible Astronaut had an average audience share of 36.7%, a sizable chunk, and audience figures peaked at 7 million.

Can any of the blame be laid at the BBC’s door? Prior to the episode, the horrific Don’t Scare the Hare managed a paltry 1.93m, while talent show So You Think You Can Dance managed 3.56 million. A stronger schedule would no doubt benefit Doctor Who which is clearly propping up the BBC One schedules on Saturday nights.



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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+.

6 Responses to The End of Doctor Who?

  1. avatar Rick says:

    Yeah, that Milam is a bit of a know-it-all idiot from most reviews he’s put forth.

    And every episode from last season came up very short on the over nights as the whole ratings system changed and the final results were the much higher numbers we see above and will be the same again as Christian figures above. Hope they aren’t going to start rattling on about ratings again this year but some folks need to complain about something.

    As for resting Who…yeesh, just turn the channel, Matt.

  2. avatar nel says:

    can someone help explain iplayer ratings to a Yank? so it’s capable of counting actual, separate viewers and not just views (i.e not counting someone more than once)? what about a viewer who watches the original broadcast on telly then watches it again on iplayer? or do the iplayer ratings take this into account and just do a general estimate?

    but even if ratings are lower, and it seems to me they are, so what? BBC isn’t about to cancel it so you should just ignore those comments. for a series in its 6th year (the reboot; i know how old it is…), its ratings are holding up fairly well. there’s generally a natural decline as a series goes on and is no longer the hot new thing, and that’s ok.

  3. avatar Paul Cavanagh says:

    Hi Christian. You missed one!

    8.4m – Planet of the Dead – 11/4/2009 (David Tennant)

    It could be argued that PotD isn’t a series opener – but it was the first of the Specials, and an Easter episode to boot, so bears comparison with the others.

    It could also be worth noting that all of the series openers were transmitted on Easter Saturday with the exception of Smith and Jones (one week before) and Partners in Crime (two weeks before). Is it possible that the viewing figures for these were lower because they weren’t broadcast on a bank holiday?

  4. avatar Paul Cavanagh says:

    As for Milam’s review – I’ll just quote a little before responding:

    “For the record, Steven Moffat is a good writer. Like Davies however, I don’t think he can mix being an executive producer with being a writer without coming off as sloppy.”

    Frankly, that’s a bit rich coming from somebody who is unaware of the correct usage of apostrophes, and can’t spell Elisabeth Sladen’s name. Case dismissed.

  5. avatar Andypants says:

    I cant help but feel that giving up on a show simply because, for the first time since its revival, the series opener was not a gay romp, is a bit of an over-reaction. Don’t want to be labelled one of those ‘haters’ or anything, but if you’re engaged enough with the material to write a review to say you miss the heart, then I think its more than likely you are a fan of the show and will continue to watch it. People that aren’t engaged simply switch off. I think the review expresses disappointment and, perhaps, a sense of nostalgia for how the show used to make the reviewer feel. I submit the reviewer, not the show, is the one that has changed.

  6. avatar farsighted99 says:

    What’s up with the 6:00 PM transmission?

    Really? Why not 7:00 PM?

    Whatever, I am sure the timeshift numbers will be high.

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