The 23rd October saw Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor bow out in the BBC Centenary Special, The Power of the Doctor. Now the viewing figures are in, and it seems that Doctor Who didn’t do too badly at all.
On the actual night, 3.71 million viewers tuned in to see the Doctor fighting against the Daleks, Cybermen, and the Master; as well as a number of other treats, not least the return of previous companions, Tegan and Ace. The viewing figures then bumped up 4.04 million viewers tuning in to see Jodie Whittaker regenerate. It was also the top of the 7:30 – 9:00pm timeslot and had more viewers than ITV’s Gino’s Italy and The Larkins. When paired with the rest of the Sunday line-up, Doctor Who came in as the fourth most watched programme of the day with Strictly Come Dancing: The Results taking top billing, then Antiques Roadshow, and BBC News at 10 in third. All those other programmes had sections on Doctor Who in them too.
Then as usual with television now, BARB released the consolidated weekly figures, taking in the viewing figures from all catch-up services throughout the week. Doctor Who found itself as the fifth most watched programme. Of course, both the main Strictly show and its Results show took the top two places; third place went to The Great British Bake Off; and fourth to Doc Martin. So, Doctor Who finished up with 5.295 million viewers once all the other ways of watching television these days were factored in. This marks the highest position in the charts the programme has achieved since the Thirteenth Doctor’s first appearance in 2018 and the highest viewing figure since last year’s The Halloween Apocalypse.
And if the Audience Appreciation Index is your thing (though I’ve never understood it), The Power of the Doctor achieved a score of 82. This is the second time the Whittaker era has got that score with, bizarrely, The Timeless Children reaching the same number. The only episodes of the era to achieve higher scores were The Woman Who Fell to Earth, Rosa, Arachnids in the UK, and Fugitive of the Judoon.
While an overnight of 3.71 million viewers might not sound like much, it needs a bit of perspective. Once upon a time, this would have been disastrous. But that was in a time when there were only three other channels alongside BBC One. Now with streaming services and literally thousands of other channels, 3.71 million viewers are considered very good figures. Even the new Marvel shows on Disney+ haven’t got the viewing figures that Doctor Who can still pull in. And to come in that high on the viewing charts alongside other shows which are institutions in themselves proves there is still life in this 59-year-old show.
Of course, it is a drop in viewing figures from those The Woman Who Fell to Earth got, but every Doctor’s era does eventually drop off, even the most popular ones. Looking at the top 10 list for the week’s consolidated figures, it beat two popular soap operas, Coronation Street and Emmerdale, shows that always gain more viewers than Doctor Who, so it’s nice to see our little show finally getting higher figures than them… and it was also nice to not see EastEnders even making the top 20!
With the news that Disney+ is going to be distributing Doctor Who outside of the UK, the next few years should be very interesting in terms of viewing figures. Not just being released on BBC America and ABC in Australia will make the show much more accessible to people worldwide (though we do feel sorry for those channels and audiences). Who knows, it might become a worldwide phenomenon again! I think it will pull in many many more viewers and make some fresh fans. The news of Disney+ being in charge of distributing outside the UK has been met with mixed reactions, as everything does with us Doctor Who fans, but for me, it feels like this could be a bold, brand-new start for our favourite show!