The Halloween Apocalypse is a Top Ten hit after seven days, while War of the Sontarans makes its first assault on the viewing figures
We’re now over a week into the high octane adventure that is Flux. And that means the +7 viewing figures for the Doctor Who Series 13 perspective are now available. After a week of catch-up viewing, The Halloween Apocalypse has been seen by 5.79m viewers. That’s a drop of 0.57m (8.96%) on Revolution of the Daleks at the start of the year. It’s also a 0.9m (13%) fall from the Series 12 premiere.
On the other hand, it’s an increase of 1.36m (32%) on the initial overnights result, including 100,000 additional viewers on laptops, phones and other mobile devices. As a percentage, that’s a significantly higher seven day timeshift than the Series 12 average of 24%. In fact it’s well ahead of the 26% average timeshift since Doctor Who returned in 2005. This is very likely that Halloween factor Blogtor Who discussed last week at work. There’s no doubting that 6.30 on the 31st of October is not the most relaxing time to sit down in front of a television. It doesn’t, however, match the truly exceptional 49% timeshift the last time this happened, with Halloween 2015’s Zygon Invasion.
Flux’s opening chapter scored a surprising low AI at odds with most fan reaction
The rather surprising AI of 76 may have been a factor in that. Based on scores out of ten given by a demographically diverse panel of viewers, the AI is the closest we have to an indicator of what the audience at home actually thought of the episode on the night. Halloween Apocalypse seemed to enjoy general popularity with fans, even those who haven’t always liked this era. So it’s a shock to see it get Doctor Who’s joint lowest AI of the 21st century. Tying for that dubious honour with the Russell T Davies scripted The End of the World and Love & Monsters, it’s possible Apocalypse could have done even better business, time-shift wise, with stronger word of mouth.
However, with another three weeks before the final viewing figures, and the focus of complaints being on the first chapter trying to set up too much, too quickly, the binge watch mentality and stronger word of mouth on later episodes may still help it’s final results.
The Series 13 premiere landed in the week’s Top Ten as one of the BBC’s top performers
But let’s also put Halloween Apocalypse’s 5.79m viewers in the context of the week. Flux’s premiere currently sits in the Top Ten of the week, at number 9. It was the second most watched show of Sunday, behind Strictly Come Dancing’s 8.70m. And it was the fourth biggest show on the BBC for the whole week, behind both Strictlys and crime drama Shetland but beating every edition of EastEnders. It’s Doctor Who’s highest placing in the chart since Spyfall Part One. It’s also well above the show’s average performance, 2005-2021, of being just outside the Top Ten at 14.
Combined with the episode’s 31.5% audience share, it illustrates how even as television audiences shrink overall, Doctor Who remains a strong performer for the BBC. Though, Blogtor Who feels obliged to tip their hat to the premiere of Pearl Mackie’s new ITV crime drama The Long Call. Mackie’s new show overtook her old one to land at number 6 with 6m viewers.
War of the Sontarans’ initial overnight ratings are also out today, with Skaak’s legions taking on all comers last weekend (well, except Strictly…)
But a new Monday also means new overnights. Which means we now know War of the Sontarans was watched by 3.96m viewers overnight. This is far from the first time the show’s viewing figures have dipped underneath the four million mark, with it being a semi-regular event in both the Whittaker and Capaldi eras, and Series Ten even dipping below three million at one point. It’s an 10.6% drop from Halloween Apocalypse’s overnights but that’s actually a reasonable good retention for a second episode. For context, 12.6% is Doctor Who’s average drop between first and second episode overnights. So, on the face of it, Flux and its serial format appear to be doing a fair job of keeping viewers from week to week. So far, at least…
And again, let’s compare Doctor Who to its teammates and competition. War of the Sontarans beat ITV’s Angela Black by over a million viewers – with the Sunday night drama getting 2.9m viewers compared to Who’s 3.96m. It also secured a place as one of the BBC team’s most valuable players. The BBC’s prestige drama Showtrial had 2.6m viewers and the charming, and rightly much talked about, Worzel Gummidge had 3.1m. Only the upstoppable glittery gladiator that is Strictly Come Dancing dominated the weekend more than Commander Skaak and his legions.
The unique nature of Flux makes it impossible to tell what will happen next on, on screen or in front of it
It’s too early to say if this will result in Doctor Who’s second top ten finish in a row. But we can be cautiously hopeful for now. And it will certainly be weeks before we can start to draw conclusions about the Flux strategy’s impact on rankings. Unlike with most seasons, this year’s serial format means strong word of mouth for Sontarans and later episodes may prompt people to revisit the premiere. And we’ve no idea if there’s a hidden binge viewing audience, holding off until they can watch all six together. By the same token, time will tell if people missing or disliking an episode in the middle of the run will have an impact on chapters further down the line.
But then, time always does.