Jodie Whittaker bows out with an episode of twists and turns, and time-shift friendly word of mouth
4.04m viewers watched Jodie Whittaker regenerate last night in The Power of the Doctor. That was the episode’s peak, with an overall overnight rating of 3.59m. That’s up 1.39m (a massive 63.2%) from previous episode The Legend of the Sea Devils. Back at Easter, that was a number Blogtor Who called out as a surprise low and Doctor Who’s worst overnight performance of modern times. But for the Thirteenth Doctor’s finale it returned to an even keel. At least in the context of the present ratings landscape. It’s about the same viewing figure as Series Thirteen got last year, when the six episodes averaged 3.83m.
It also makes The Power of the Doctor #4 for the day in the overnights chart. Doctor Who was behind Strictly Come Dancing (8.01m), the Antiques Roadshow BBC 100 special (4.44m), and the BBC News (3.88m). All three are programs that typically get almost all of their audience live, with little time-shifting. So there’s a good chance Doctor Who will ultimately finish one of two places higher in the final results. Meanwhile, Peter Davison and Bradley Walsh beat Bradley Walsh and Peter Davison. The Larkins, starring Walsh and Davison, got 3m viewers on ITV opposite The Power of the Doctor.
With the shock and awe displayed on social media since Power of the Doctor aired, we can probably expect larger than usual time-shifting this week
Whittaker’s exit may get stronger time-shifts than usual too. It a very well received episode, with viewers still enthusing about it the following afternoon, likely to cause a lot of word-of-mouth viewing. Moreover, there were so many twists and surprise appearances. Each one provides a hook for casual fans to have to check it out for themselves. The type of fans that read these types of articles might not have expected the level of shock on social media about David Tennant’s return. Blogtor Who posted yesterday about how nobody knew quite how Tennant was going to turn up. But even we took it for granted audiences knew he was back in some form or other.
As it is, Twitter went into meltdown, with people who had no idea thrilled and delighted by the Doctor recognizing a familiar set of teeth. That too, may result in more people checking out the episode on iPlayer over the coming weeks.
We now have a complete set of overnights for the Thirteenth Doctor era
In a wider Doctor Who context, The Power of the Doctor is down 2.07m (36.6%) from Peter Capaldi’s exit in Twice Upon a Time. That’s the lowest audience for a regeneration yet. It’s certainly a far cry from the 10.4m that watched the last time David Tennant was all yellow and glowy. But even Tennant and Davies themselves are unlikely to quite manage those types of numbers next year. The TV landscape has changed and for flagship shows in recent years it’s a matter of holding as much of your audience as you can.
It’s remarkable then, that the Whittaker era of Doctor Who is overall on course not only to retain the audience it was given, but actually very slightly grow it. The average Thirteenth Doctor was watched by 4.67m viewers, up 0.12m (2.6%) on the 4.55m average of the Twelfth Doctor. It’s median viewing figure of 4.21m, meanwhile, is 0.34m (7.4%) lower than Capaldi’s, representing the boost Whittaker’s average is given by the large audiences for her first series. But overall, we haven’t seen Doctor Who just do a respectable job all things considered. Rather, it actually got ratings that would be good a decade ago.
Next month, the +28 official final results will allow us to put the entire era in context at last
Next month, we’ll be able to step back and see this era in the round. We’ll have the official final viewing figures and chart positions for each episode. And Blogtor Who will be doing a full analysis of the whole run. Every episode from The Woman Who Fell to Earth, to The Power of the Doctor. We’ll be placing it in the context of the TV around it, the history of Doctor Who, and the ever more challenging changes to how people, and if people, watch TV.
Doctor Who returns in November 2023 for three 60th Anniversary specials