Doctor Who News Doctor Who: The Rings of Akhaten

Published on April 8th, 2013 | by Christian Cawley

Sun Stirs Ratings Concerns

Tomorrow’s fish and chips will be wrapped up in some stirring messages from The Sun – that Doctor Who has “shed” 1 million viewers between The Bells of Saint John and The Rings of Akhaten, with “disappointed fans” allegedly branding the episode “the worst ever”.

Yeh, The Sun – that’s right – and we do it every other week, too.

Doctor Who: The Rings of Akhaten

Overnight ratings – a guide and nothing more to the official figures – reveal that 5.7 million tuned into the second episode, apparently 1 million fewer than the previous week. We’ll be going into more detail on this later in the week, but let’s put things into perspective.

First, fans are vocal. They find comments sections or forums on websites like Kasterborous, they mouth off on Twitter and Facebook and generally express their love of Doctor Who in any way they can. If this means dismissing an episode as “the worst ever” then they will do – especially if they want to be noticed. Many fans have made a career out of this sort of behaviour.

Second, these are overnight figures. We’ve said it time and again, but they’re not the end of the line. There is probably an extra million hiding in delayed viewing for The Rings of Akhaten and perhaps as many as 1.5 million yet to be added to The Bells of Saint John.

Three, that after a hyped opening episode, any audience will drop for the subsequent weeks. This is the reason why Russell T Davies used the midpoint episode as a “mid-season launch” – see Dalek.

The Sun quoted the following Twits:

Helen Paling tweeted: “Just caught up with Doctor Who. Wish I hadn’t. Boring rubbish.”

Anna Hough wrote: “Genuinely the worst episode I have ever seen.”

Really? Thank your lucky stars you haven’t seen Time and the Rani.


Tony Leech said: “The most forced, cringeworthy faux sentimentality since the Van Gogh episode. Terrible.”

Which is interesting as Vincent and the Doctor was nominated for the Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation in the 2010 Nebula Awards as well as the 2011 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form). While the episode lost out on both of these, it was however nominated by people who know what they’re talking about.

All morning Twitter and other sites have been aghast at The Sun’s nerve in printing these comments and building a story of “Doctor Who Discontent”. In the show’s 50th anniversary year this is concerning, but we’re not blaming The Sun. They’re only trying to sell papers.

Would it be too much to expect fans to support Doctor Who in 2013? Really?


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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+.

39 Responses to Sun Stirs Ratings Concerns

  1. Plenty of comments and reviews praising The Rings of Akhaten, typical of The Sun to take a few negative tweets and present it as fact.

    Time factor the viewers who will watch later on I-Player and other devices and the figures will be fine

    I really enjoyed it, a lovely episode 8/10

    See the positives!

    • avatar Anna says:

      I loved this episode. I thought that it was one of Matts best performances in this role. Even if there is an episode I think is rubbish, I won’t stop watching. You have to take the good with the bad. Even Moffet can’t be through the roof brilliant 100% of the time.

  2. avatar Spiderpope says:

    Of course that must be the cause, fan anger. It’s not like there was a major sporting event earlier that day that usually sees a significant portion of the population spending the day out at pubs etc. Oh wait…

  3. Pingback: Red Rocket Rising » Doctor Who not cancelled?!

  4. avatar Warrington Carter says:

    Time and the Rani had less plot holes.

    That said, the author is correct that the “low ratings” are hardly a matter of concern.

  5. avatar Bobby Enjay says:

    Worse then ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’? Because that’s the one episode that I had to get drunk during in order to endure.

  6. avatar lozzer says:

    For us to be so bitterly disappointed, it must be a sign, that for the most part, we get amazing Doctor Who. I have voiced my dislike about the episode, but I don’t want an online presence as someone who loves to hate DW. I was bitterly upset on Saturday, but I really love this show, and I know it will pick itself up next week. And bring on Neil Cross’s next episode – I’m looking forward to Hide.

  7. avatar moloko1 says:

    Most journalists who do the TV reviews for the papers are still operating as if overnight ratings are the be-all and end-all. It’s as if I-Player and DVD’s and merchandising simply don’t exist to these people! They look at shows like X-Factor and The Voice, which regularly attract ratings north of eight million and think that if every other kind of prime-time show isn’t scoring those kind of ratings overnight, it’s a failiure. Wrong! Reality TV will always rate more highly than anything else on a Saturday night because of the strong element of audience participation and the high drama of elimination from the contest. For those that like that sort of thing, it’s got to be seen live.

    TV drama you can take or leave– I myself am usually working or socialising when Doctor Who is on. I’m a huge, huge fan and have been since childhood, but I’m not going to move my life around a TV schedule– I catch the show when it goes out if I can, but I usually watch it on Iplayer. Does my viewing of the show not count towards any kind of statistic just because I want to watch it when it suits me? Every time you add Iplayer ratings to the weekly stats you find the audience figures nearly double. This is just the Murdoch press attacking the BBC tit-for-tat fashion, as usual.

    • avatar Anna says:

      well said.

  8. avatar The Librarian says:

    I personally loved the episode, for it connects the 11th doctor back to the classics with amazing subtly. For as much as 10 was the most popular, I think the 11th is revving to bring the show back to where it belongs, the cheesy, over-sentimental (but still fantastic) roots.

  9. avatar Lyconous says:

    “Rings” was a fantastic episode because it went back to what Doctor Who is really about. The past seasons with the Ponds tried way too hard to be a serious drama, but that’s not the point of the Doctor at all. It’s about adventures, meeting new people, seeing something awesome, and having a good time. That’s what the old Doctor Who was about, as well as the first few seasons with Eccleston and Tennant. We don’t need to have our hearts broken every single episode.

  10. avatar Ian says:

    I was disappointed with the Rings of Akhaten, but no way the worst episode, try Twin Dilemma.The press don’t go into overall ratings, they take the overnights. Last week they were saying the voice had flopped. I wonder do a lot of people watch Ant and Dec later on? They always get high overnights.

  11. avatar missa123 says:

    i cried in the rings of akhaten, it was a fantastic episode, very well acted.

  12. avatar Simon says:

    Typical of the Sun to try and claim the overnights still matter. Time for them to start living in the 21st century.

    As for “worst episode ever”, have any of these people seen Fear Her? Because The Rings of Ankhaten, while not very interesting and rather slow, is far bettter than that awful story.

    • avatar STLShawn says:

      Exactly simon,
      The sun wants the world back to when we all read the newspaper every morning, then watched broadcast tv every evening. They don’t want that world to go away, and they will fight “tooth and claw” to keep the world in that state. “Old Media” is trying so hard to get us to shut up, sit down on the couch for hours on end, and buy the products that the advertisers pay for. They don’t want us looking at the world,,,, they prefer pacified, fat, couch potatoes who blankly zone at the television.
      It’s a new world, we see more, we see further, and we can see what we want when we want. We can skip ads if they are boring, we can take our entertainment with us, we can watch an entire season of something that we find,,,, this is the new reality.

  13. avatar Gayle says:

    Rings of Akhaten was okay. I agree it was not spectacular but it was not the worst episode. Due to no cable and living in the United States I have watch it the next day online. I am looking forward to the next episode. The Sun, just needed something to complain about to make their viewers crazy.

  14. avatar rainkitch7 says:

    I have been watching Doctor Who all my life ( I am 32). I was one of those “hide behind the sofa” fans. There have been high point AND low points, but over 50 years I reckon they’ve done damn well. There have been truly dreadful episodes before now -incidentally, I don’t think The Rings of Akhaten was one of them- and not nearly so much of a fuss was made. As fans, we do not and should not judge the quality of a series on one episode. A true fan is one who loves each and every episode simply for the fact that it exists in the first place.

  15. avatar TimeChaser says:

    This was by no means the ‘worst story ever’. There are plenty of other one that vie for that title. I personally enjoyed it. I don’t think everything has to be superfast-paced and grab you by the throat. Frankly I’ve thought there are times New Who was TOO fast paced, so a slower one like this once in a while is not a bad thing. This was more about texture than speed.

  16. avatar Leo says:

    I really enjoyed the episode-I think it suffered being only 45 mins long-back in the day, say in the 1970s, this would have been a four parter with the mummies and the ‘the alarm creepy sleeping alien’ (I think the Doc called him the alarm clock), getting a bigger role. That aside the visuals where quite stunning and I think it was a nicely paced, slightly off the wall, if not slightly underwhelming episode. The worst episodes of Nu Who remain various atrocities of series 2 and the appallingly bad Dalek two parter from series 3.

  17. avatar Leo says:

    Presumaby the Sun failed to mention that it’s namesake was out in some parts of the Country for the first time in weeks-otherwise its been grey and miserable-and it was like every where I live-London-just went outside for a rare treat.

    • avatar STLShawn says:

      Odd, we had 75 degrees (Fahrenheit) and sunny in swampy southern Missouri. Soooooo, I didn’t watch it immediately either. For me it was a Sunday night treat after all the playing was done for the weekend.

  18. avatar rickjlundeen says:

    I personally thought that both of the last two episodes were below par to be generous but so what? It is extremely rare that even the vast majority of fans like one particular episode. There are probably only a handful in the last 50 years that everyone will agree is a masterpiece and absolutely *no one* agrees on what the worst episode ever is.

  19. avatar Becky Symes says:

    It wasn’t the best DW I’ve ever seen, but I liked the concepts in the plot and am more impressed with Clara every week.

  20. avatar David F says:

    I didn’t like this episode (although the efforts of Gold and Pickwoad salvaged it), but Doctor Who fans take (or should take) these things in their strides. The price we pay for the loose, flexible format is that, inevitably, some episodes will miss the mark. Throughout the whole history of the show, there have never been more than a few stories in a row without at least one dud, because that’s the price we pay for the huge scope of the concept. (And, of course, no two fans would ever agree exactly on which stories those duds have been.)

    Every time I feel a bit disappointed (and that’s as strong a reaction as Doctor Who is capable of provoking in me), I don’t worry, because I know there’ll be a corker along soon.

  21. avatar zarbisupremo says:

    I liked the episode, a bit more high concept and hard SF than most Who stories. I’m surprised that the hacks who work for that right-wing Tory rag took a long enough break from bashing the poor, the sick, and the disabled, to write this rubbish. I never believe a word that’s printed in that chip paper.

  22. avatar vincent price says:

    i don’t know if this has been mentioned but how many people missed the first showing and caught up on iplayer. and i thought it was quiet good
    people have to understand that dr who has been going a long time and stories get harder to write

  23. avatar Bob James says:

    Well said and well presented Christian. You’ve echoed my thoughts regarding some Doctor Who “fans”, and made your point much more tactfully and eloquently than I ever could. I’m tired of people making comments (not the newspapers, dare I call them that)so negative or presented with such negativity, that I wonder why they watch at all, or call themselves fans. Now I might have to send Christopher Eccleston that birthday card……..

  24. avatar Bob James says:

    Well said rainkitch7……….

  25. avatar Gareth Kavanagh says:

    Except, I do think overnights do matter (although less than they used to). It suggests Who is becoming less on an appointment TV programme and something to be convenience grazed. Overall, a great and balanced piece Christian. And like it or not, the forums are interesting pieces of research for journos and programme makers alike. It’s why the RTD production team used specialists to fine dice the responses on Gallifrebase and the like. It’s a great barometer of opinion and can be broken down by geography, age, gender and to some degree social class. And in this case (as can be seen in the survey), this has been a real audience splitter.

    • avatar krumstets says:

      Whether the viewers did or did not particularly like this episode is one thing, for the Sun to use this as a stick with which to beat Doctor Who is another.

      They have a history of attacking the BBC and this is just par for the course. Don’t forget The Sun is owned by Rupert Murdoch who also part owns Sky TV and other rival networks abroad.
      Any opportunity to shake their rivals is an opportunity not to be missed.

      Anyhow , I thought The Rings Of Akhaten was a pretty unimpressive episode. But that’s just by the by.

      (too much Sonic Screwdriver and `Oh My stars’ WTF ????

  26. avatar Gareth says:

    Years ago it was forecast that top shows will only get approx 5 million viewers on the night due to changing viewers habits and technology. So no one should be worried that Who gets 5 to 6 million in overnight figures.

    As for Saturdays episode, visually it was very good but the story was a let down. I kept expecting it to change gear and get alot better or have a big revelation but nothing happened. So far the weakest story in Series 7 but not a complete disaster. I remember Trial of a Time Lord when it was first on, that was bleak.

    BTW, the picture of Clara holding the leaf makes her looks like she is giving the middle finger :))

  27. avatar Mugen Pharoah says:

    ‘Rings’ was weak, and a disappointment but not the worst ever. I would rather watch any doctor who story than read anything in the sun. Doctor Who’s stories are more believable.

  28. avatar Ian says:

    I remember reading a few yeas ago a similar story in one of the tabloids, series 2 i think it was, ratings were down and things were not good according to the then article. Keep calm and carry on watching WHO :)

    • avatar STLShawn says:

      I am quite surprised to see so many people not happy with this episode.

      I am so excited about this season, now that we are three episodes into it (I consider the Christmas episode part of this season), it is shaping up to be an amazing ride.

      I can’t quite put my finger on what has changed, but these last three episodes have a certain magic that I am loving. Maybe it’s the newness, maybe it’s Clara, maybe its the coat,,,, but whatever it is, it has gotten me to feel tinges of child-like wonder and that has been fantastic.

      • avatar Leo says:

        Shawn, I agree-the last three episodes have showed a magic and energy that seems new but also very old school. Matt and Jenna together are fantastic and I getting that dynamic buzz of say Jon and Katy or Tom and Liz. JLC is a fantastic addition to the cast/crew.

        On a side note with the build up to 50th the shows profile is high again-the highest for quite sometime-so really we should’nt be suprised that detractors should start appearing again.

  29. avatar Wojak says:

    Well, as you say, the Sun is selling papers (not to me I’m pleased to say) and the ratings are not a concern, however the episode was very poor on a number of levels and it should not have gone into production in that state, especially in the 50th year. I honestly thought these episodes were going to be a step up as we get to the big one…not yet they’re not.

    A slow start, I hope Gatiss can deliver his first proper Who this week, if only to stop the concerns.

    • the episode was very poor on a number of levels and it should not have gone into production in that state, especially in the 50th year. I honestly thought these episodes were going to be a step up as we get to the big one…not yet they’re not.

      In your humble opinion, of course…

  30. avatar Shank says:

    Yes, it would be too much to expect. A lot of fans are brattish and entitled, and take it as a personal insult when the show doesn’t fit their template of what makes a good episode. They also have a chronic inability to understand that their fat stupid opinions are not facts, and that on the subject of Dr. Who they are but one voice in a multitude and not the Pope speaking ex cathedra. They also think they have authority to criticise the show’s writers using the most vituperative language you’ll hear outside of a dock yard (sentiments like “Of course it’ll be sh*t. It’s a Gatiss/Chibnall episode” are woefully common) despite the fact that most of them haven’t ever written anything more impactful than a nasty, mean-spirited forum post in their entire lives. Jesus, I really bloody HATE fandom. Bunch of whiny little d*cks.

  31. avatar Ian says:

    Its a disgusting paper, Mind you I bet the Sun won’t report that the final figures (not including i player) for Bells of St. John were The episode achieved 8.44 million viewers had 35.8% share of the available Television audience & On Saturday 30th March, Doctor Who was the highest rated programme getting 120,000 more viewers than Ant and Dec’s Saturday Takeaway, even though the ITV programme had a later start time. (From Doctor Who news)

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