The Halloween Apocalypse proves both a Trick and a Treat in the overnight viewing figures. But what impact did Halloween itself have? And what can we expect the final results to be?
We now know the overnight viewing figures for the The Halloween Apocalypse. The initial audience for the first chapter of Doctor Who: Flux was 4.43m. That’s down 0.26m (5.8%) on the previous episode, New Year’s Day’s Revolution of the Daleks’ 4.69m. But a better comparison to the Series 12 premiere, Spyfall Part One, which scored 4.88 viewers in the overnights. That’s a significant 10.15% drop series on series. On the other hand, it’s certainly a climb back up from the average of 4.11m for Series 12. Of course, if Flux features a similar viewing figures curve to recent seasons, its own average may wind up as low as 3.9m
That’s overnights though. If we assume, for a moment, that Series 13 will follow similar trends, that also points to a possible final consolidated result for Halloween Apocalypse of around 6.4m viewers, time shifting included. While the potential average for Flux overall might be something akin to 5.7m.
But what impact did Halloween itself and Trick and Treating have on overnights? There is precedent…
But – and this ‘but’ deserves the bolding – there’s an almost unprecedented factor at work here. Halloween. This first episode didn’t even just air on the 31st of October, either. It aired at 6.25pm, when many of Doctor Who’s core audience were running from door filling their bags with loot. And when many older fans were standing at the end of driveways reminding their little monsters to say thank you. Even some who were home might well have given up on the battle for their attention between a dog faced alien at Dan’s door and the banging at their own, saving the episode to savour later. Could this have had an effect?
Well, almost unprecedented isn’t totally unprecedented. In recent years, Series Nine’s The Zygon Invasion, starring Peter Capaldi, also aired on Halloween. And while Blogtor Who is generally loathe to use a single point of data, the viewing figures for Zygon Invasion are undeniably fascinating reading. Firstly, its overnights, compared to the episodes around it, make an almost symmetrical dip in the charts. Previous episode The Woman Who Lived scored 4.34m in overnights, and following episode The Zygon Inversion had 4.13m viewers on the night. But sandwiched between them, Zygon Invasion sank to 3.87m; an 11% week on week drop (and 0.56m less than Halloween Apocalypse). The Zygon Anomaly, to coin a phrase, is hard to interpret as anything else but the impact of competing with Trick or Treat.
The premiere of Doctor Who: Flux may yet benefit from strong time-shifting
But there’s more… its comparatively low overnights were compensated for by some sterling timeshifting. While the average timeshift for Series Nine added an extra 52%, going as low as 35% for Hell Bent, The Zygon Invasion added 61% to its initial audience by the time the official final results came round.
It’s hard to use this information to many any predictions for Halloween Apocalypse beyond speculating for larger than usual time-shifts. The closest we can do is some mathematical jiggery pokery, taking the Series Twelve average timeshift and positing Halloween Apocalypse will be as out of step with that as Zygon Invasion was with Series Nine. That would give us a ‘Halloween factor’ of about 0.6m. So a highly speculative prediction of the finals for the launch of Flux would be around 7m. Possible? Especially given the strong word of mouth about this episode (something Zygon Invasion also shared). Whatever any of us personally thinks of the Chibnall/Whittaker era one way or another, it’s hard to deny that few of their episodes have been greeted by such a positive consensus by critics and fans. Likely? Well, let’s not go that far.
This year’s unique structure also makes it difficult to predict trends for later episodes of Flux
One last point to ponder over the coming weeks. The structure of a single six part epic was necessitated by Covid, but viewing figures wise it’s a bit of a gamble. Some people will be encouraged to make sure they watch every single week. That might make the normal downward curve across a series more shallow. But one of Doctor Who’s strengths has always been that if you don’t like one story, a new one will be along soon. Flux might risk losing some viewers for a whole series, simply by not grabbing them with the first episode.
Doctor Who: Flux is just beginning. And due to its shorter run, this year we won’t have the final viewing figures for even the premiere until after the penultimate episode has aired. As with the story itself, there’s an unpredictable rollercoaster ahead. All we can do for now is strap in and see where it takes us.
Doctor Who: Flux continues next Sunday at 6.10pm on BBC One, and on BBC America in the US, with Chapter Two: War of the Sontarans
The Doctor has an unexpected encounter with one of her deadliest enemies when the Sontarans become a new faction in the Crimean War. As the British army goes into pitched battle with the warlike aliens, the Doctor and her companions seek the help of renowned nurse Mary Seacole (Sara Powell), while an ancient temple hides mysterious secrets.