Editorial Doctor Who

Published on December 1st, 2013 | by Christian Cawley

The Day of the Doctor Reaction: Worldwide Box Office Smash! [UPDATED]

It probably didn’t escape your attention that Doctor Who‘s 50th anniversary was broadcast in nearly 100 countries last Saturday/Sunday, simultaneously, and screened in cinemas in several time slots across the weekend.

Yes, it truly was The Day of the Doctor. Press reaction – save a rogue Daily Mail article which we won’t grace with any direct hits – was largely in favour of the Matt Smith/David Tennant/John Hurt mashup, and the show itself was the most watched episode of the series on TV (we’ll come to cinema later) sinc Christmas 2010′s wonderful A Christmas Carol episode with Michael Gambon guesting. This time around, Doctor Who peaked at  10.61m/41.2%.

Update: 12.8 million is the final, official viewing figure taking into account delayed viewing, but not iPlayer repeat/catchup viewings, which could add another 2 million onto the total. We’re looking at a scenario in which  Doctor Who basically doubled its viewing figures on some episodes from the 2013 run!

That, however, is the tip of the iceberg of popular success for Doctor Who‘s anniversary special. Not only did its average audience (an overnight figure, so not the final numbers) beat ITV’s cynical The X Factor with 10.18m/37.4% to 7.67m/28.6%, the at-times-uncomfortable Doctor Who Live on BBC Three was a success for that channel, averaging 1.37m/5.5% making it one of the most-viewed shows on the channel behind football and Family Guy. Did someone say Doctor Who Confidential?

Domestic 3D figures are disappointing, however, with just 21,000 (0.1%) watching the BBC’s final 3D broadcast for the foreseeable future. To put this into context, in 2012 there were supposedly 1.3 million 3D TV sets in the UK. Don’t place the blame on 3D, however…

In the UK alone, the 3D screenings of The Day of the Doctor made an astonishing £1.8 million placing it third behind Hunger Games: Catching Fire and new 3D space survival movie Gravity. The anniversary episode also struck the top of iTunes in the US and Amazon’s TV chart.

[pullquote align=right] The $4.77 million taken at the US box office, resulted in Doctor Who being the no. 2 movie in the USA on Monday night.[/pullquote]Perhaps most impressive, however, is the $4.77 million taken at the US box office, resulting in Doctor Who being the no. 2 movie in the USA on Monday night, second only to the new Hunger Games.

We’ll pause a moment while you re-read that last sentence.

Shown in RealD 3D in over 660 select movie theatres across the country, over 320,000 tickets were sold.

Soumya Sriraman is EVP Home Entertainment and Licensing, BBC Worldwide North America, who managed distribution and promotion with Fathom Events.

It’s incredible that Doctor Who has made history once again, setting record numbers across the board on BBC America, in social media, and now in theaters. It’s a testament to the fans and their dedication for Doctor Who. We wanted to fulfill the fans desire to be part of the global celebration and they rewarded BBC Americaand NCM Fathom Events with their enthusiasm and support.

Shelly Maxwell, executive vice president of Fathom Events:

Doctor Who fans have proven their loyalty and devotion to this series, making it the most successful sci-fi series ever and now the biggest Fathom, one-night event, ever .In association with BBC America, we are thrilled to have given fans the opportunity to watch the Doctor in a whole new way – in 3D on the big screen.

Forget Harry Potter directors and former BBC One controllers trying to launch Doctor Who in Hollywood – Steven Moffat and Nick Hurran managed to conquer US cinemas from an office in Wales.

An amazing 96 countries including Russia and Venezuela screened The Day of the Doctor. In Australia, 1.3 million tuned in (424,000 at 6.50 am on Sunday morning for the international simulcast, and another 922,000 viewers for the 7.30pm repeat) making Doctor Who the ninth most watched show in the country that day.

As you can see – and brace yourself – around the world Doctor Who was a big deal on November 23rd, its 50th anniversary, and rightly so. If you’re still not convinced, to give you an idea of the buzz and reaction, this graphic demonstrates how Twitter chatter peaked at 7.45pm, dropped off and then picked up as the broadcast ended. You’ll also notice the ratio of female fans to male…

Regular readers will know that we’re not prone to hyperbole. Given the ratings, worldwide reaction and favourable reviews, it would seem unfair not to call The Day of the Doctor the greatest episode of Doctor Who ever. It seems everything just went right.

As for you lot… well, the comments we’ve seen on the various posts about The Day of the Doctor have been largely positive. Probably the best idea of how well received the episode was among our readers can be found in our flash poll, launched as the end titles rolled. An amazing 1165 votes were cast, with over 84% of respondents voting enthusiastically in favour. What follows are the highlights….

[pullquote align="right"]An amazing 1165 votes were cast in our poll with over 84% voting in favour of The Day of the Doctor:  “A fitting tribute to 50 years of time travel” [/pullquote]“A fitting tribute to 50 years of time travel” said 53.73%  (626 votes), while  considered it “

Naturally not everyone enjoyed the episode. At the other end of the scale, “I enjoyed An Adventure in Space and Time more than this” received 29 votes (2.49%  share) of the share and “I hate you Steven Moffat, Doctor Who is dead to me, etc.” attracting 12 votes (1.03%). Given the figures you’ve seen above, we don’t think Steven Moffat has lost any sleep over The Day of the Doctor.

Except when partying on it.

Usually when we bring you these reaction articles, we spend a bit of time on what the press thinks. This time around, we’re more interested in you – after all, it’s the 50th anniversary and Doctor Who isn’t fighting for critical approval any more, is it?

Reader Jonathan O’Sullivan watched The Day of the Doctor at the cinema:

Watched The Day of the Doctor at the cinema in 3D with my kids. Loved it. Great to be in a cinema when people are cheering, laughing, applauding and silent in all the right places. Loved it loved it loved it. And my doctor at the end as well. Superb. I am a happy man.

Also watching on the silver screen was Andrew G Dick.

A fitting tribute to 50 years of time travel. Watched it at the cinema in Glasgow and it was great atmosphere. You can keep your Star Wars and Star Trek movies, that had way more wit and charm than they could ever get. Loved it, and would easily place that very highly, probably a top 10.

Geoff later commented that Steven Moffat rose to the challenge that he’d set himself.

Agreed. It was just enjoyable, hugely enjoyable. Yes the Rassilion stuff is dodgy, as was the unresolved Zygon plot line but I got to see Peter Capaldi, Tom Baker acting with Matt Smith and such a load of other treats I really don’t care. The good stuff far outweighed the bad which is why I went for Great story. Bearing in mind the difficult task he had I thought Mr Moffat rose to the occasion.

SO just Who Is The John Hurt Doctor?

We shouldn’t overlook the fact that The Day of the Doctor twists the show into a whole new direction, enabling Doctor Who to finally emerge from the long shadow of the Last Great Time War. DonnaM noticed.

A fitting tribute and a smashing ride. Laugh-out-loud moments, shocks and surprises, and a chance to move away from the guilt-ridden “murderer of his own race” line. Interesting as it’s been, getting rid of that war-guilt does give the chance to move the character in a new way.

There are many more wonderful observations from our regular commenters (and one or two dissenting voices that should also be heard but let’s finish with David F, noticing how the Time War is present in a much-loved episode of classic Doctor Who:

A line from Terror of the Zygons:

“When our planet was destroyed in a recent catastrophe . . . ”

Moffat must have access to a real time machine. Time War references planted in 1975 episodes. So at least it proves he ties up story arcs eventually, even if it does take a lifetime. (Literally. I was born on the day that line was broadcast.)

Day of the Doctor. Seriously classy. The nostalgia card was played lightly, but with great precision. Best of all, they didn’t rush the closing title, which meant we got to hear the middle-eight of the theme tune again, at last, and that was my greatest wish for the episode. Doctor Who always seems more epic and emotional when it’s included.

Could have lived without the tease of seeing Hurt begin his regeneration. Baker’s face and delivery regained the sprightly intensity of his TARDIS days.

Love it or hate it, The Day of the Doctor was an international hit with fans and the general viewing public alike! For Doctor Who‘s 50th anniversary, who could have asked for more?


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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+.

11 Responses to The Day of the Doctor Reaction: Worldwide Box Office Smash! [UPDATED]

  1. avatar Ian Gettings says:

    An astonishing achievement. I wonder if even the BBC have been pleasantly taken by surprise at the success in the US and other places.

  2. avatar Boffin says:

    Must be almost time to cancel it then ;P (Jk) I do hope that someone from the BBC called in Messrs Grade and Powell, sat them down Clockwork Orange style and played an endless loop of these figures to them in some sort of graphical format;)

    • Took the thoughts right out of my head.

      Read em and weep, Michael Grade. Read em and weep!

  3. avatar krumstets says:

    Does this mean the BBC will increase the budget for Who ?
    After its success on the cinemas stateside surely this of all things would prompt more interest from production companies with cash to spend on a possible co-production ? ( With the BBC firmly in control of content of course ).
    Imagine someone like HBO chipping in? Imagine £5 Mil per episode ….This is not an unrealistic prospect .
    This is an exciting time for Dr Who , I’m guessing and hoping that after the brilliant success of The Day of the Doctor , this will be a spur to an even brighter future .

  4. avatar Christine says:

    Nice to read that on the whole we were pretty positive about the Day of the Doctor. I knew I was. of course there is always something to quibble about, but I for one just sat there being fascinated and enjoying it. It seems many people shared this. A worldwide smash is only wothwhile if people enjoyed it too!

  5. avatar BOJAY says:

    I still believe that BBC Worldwide may very well restructure how Doctor Who is financed. The potential for some incredible revenue generating essentially would mean that this particular property may need to be completely removed from the tax payer, license funded way it was formerly financed. This is big league now, clearly beyond the “little show that could”, and as BBC Enterprises first began to attempt, BBC Worldwide would be quite remiss if they ignored the potential for a worldwide platform for the show that would be well beyond anything seen in the past. The revenue from sales, broadcast and distribution rights would be one thing altogether, revenue from merchandising would be quite another. Doctor Who in 2013 and beyond clearly requires a much different approach to doing business. If BBC Worldwide really wants to be a global player they will start now and create a new path.

    • avatar Elder Wraith II says:

      Interesting ideas. Do you know enough about the relationship between BBC and BBC Worldwide to be able to say whether BBC Worldwide would actually have any say in how Doctor Who is financed?

      Here’s the Who We Are section from BBC Worldwide’s website (I hope this copy-and-paste works ok and doesn’t look too messy):-

      BBC Worldwide Limited is the main commercial arm and a wholly owned subsidiary of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). BBC Worldwide exists to support the BBC public service mission and to maximise profits on its behalf. It does this through investing in, commercialising and showcasing content from the BBC around the world, in a way that is consistent with BBC standards and values. The business also builds the reach and reputation of the BBC brand overseas and champions British creativity.

      In 2012/13 the company saw headline sales rise by 3% to £1,116m – exceeding the £1bn mark for a fifth year. Profit for the year 2012/13 rose 1% to £156m. For more detailed performance information please see our Annual Review website.

      BBC Worldwide helps keep the Licence Fee as low as possible, returning over £1bn to the BBC since 2007, and £156m in the last financial year.

      In the past five years the company has invested over £1bn in the UK’s creative sector making it a major supporter for this increasingly important part of the ‘UK plc’. BBC Worldwide also sells programmes and formats produced by more than 200 different UK independent producers.

      BBC Worldwide operates under the BBC Charter and Agreement, which sets out the four commercial criteria with which the company’s activities must comply. BBC Worldwide must:

      Fit with the BBC’s Public Purposes set out in the Charter
      Be commercially efficient
      Not jeopardise the good reputation of the BBC or the value of the BBC brands
      Comply with the BBC’s Fair Trading Guidelines and avoid distorting the market.

  6. avatar Geoff says:

    So I’m reading this article, sagely nodding in agreement…I reach the fan quote about Rassilion and the Zygons and I think “I thought that too” then I notice it’s actually my comment from the other thread. Duh!

  7. avatar Ian says:

    A fantastic achievement, Now lets hope the BBC here in the UK treat WHO with a little more respect. They hardly bothered to promote s7 part two. Mind you provisional time slot for this years Christmas special is early, before strictly (yawn). Should be the other way round!

  8. I’m still amazed and disgusted that people tweet during an episode. If you’re tweeting while it’s live on air then your eyes are not on the tv screen, and you’re not giving the show the 100% attention it deserves..

  9. Pingback: Do You Love Your Country, Doctor?

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