It’s official. The new series of Doctor Who will debut on 7th October 2018. On inputting that information into your calendar you will note that this is a Sunday. Doctor Who will not be on a Saturday this year.
With the exception of the Christmas Specials, Doctor Who has consistently been broadcast in a Saturday slot. Saturday is thought to be the traditional home for Doctor Who. After all, the show debuted on Saturday, November 23rd 1963. When the programme returned to the BBC schedules in 2005, it reinvigorated family viewing on a Saturday evening. But 13 years later a move away from that traditional slot is not only logical but a great idea.
Firstly, Saturday evenings are a crowded place. Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor will compete for viewers once again this year and dominate Saturday night television. Early on in the respective competitions there are a lot of contestants. Strictly for instance has 15 contestants. Each individual needs their time to perform and have that performance critiqued. Trying to fit Doctor Who into the BBC1 schedule before or after Strictly has been tricky in the past. Results shows on a Sunday are typically shorter in duration, allowing scope for Doctor Who to fit in more conveniently. ‘Countryfile’ is a staple of Sunday evenings but Doctor Who will fit alongside it comfortably, much like other dramas do.
Sunday evenings are also the home for drama and higher end programming. For instance, ‘Fake or Fortune’ delves into the art world and Sunday feels appropriate. ‘The Bodyguard’ hit screens recently and has been one of the biggest debuts in years. On ITV ‘Vanity Fair’ has also debuted, a slot also occupied by shows such as ‘Victoria’ with Jenna Coleman. Placing Doctor Who in this environment elevates it. Whilst many dismiss Doctor Who as ‘a kids show’, typically by those who don’t watch it, it has always been made by the drama or series and serials departments. Never by CBBC. Although the science fiction element is at the forefront, Doctor Who has always been a drama for all the family. Now it is rightfully positioned up amongst other highly regarded BBC drama, where it belongs.
In recent years Doctor Who has not been afforded a regular time slot. Moving to Sunday night will hopefully see Doctor Who given the same broadcast time each and every week. Although many won’t watch the show live, having a consistent broadcast time does make it easier for potential viewers to find the show. Whilst Doctor Who fans will plan their day around the episode, casual viewers knowing that the show is on at 7pm, for example, might be more inclined to change the channel to watch. If they are not sure about what time it is on then they may pass on watching it. Providing a consistent time also demonstrates that the BBC is firmly behind the programme. With a new era on the horizon, confidence from the broadcaster will elicit confidence from viewers too.
New Era, New Day
Moving Doctor Who away from Saturday night has happened before. Peter Davison’s debut Season, due out on Blu Ray soon, debuted on Monday and Tuesday evenings. Whilst there was some variation between the regions, the twice weekly broadcasts saw ratings increase. Everything about Series 11 feels new and fresh. Shifting to Sunday night highlights this new era all the more. Much like Season 19 did in 1982, Series 11 will attempt to reinvigorate a show that has plateaued. This is only natural after being on our screens for over a decade.
New Doctor. New Companions. New Sonic Screwdriver. New day of the week. It all fits.