Legend of the Sea Devils achieves a respectable, if unremarkable, chart result following one of Doctor Who’s biggest ever time shifts
The +7 viewing figures for Doctor Who’s Easter Special, Legend of the Sea Devils, are now available from BARB. The results are a mixed bag that tell two very different stories depending on how you look at them. So far, Legend of the Sea Devils has been seen by 3.47m viewers. This includes those who watched on any of the ‘four screens’ (TV, laptop, tablets and phones.) That’s an extra 1.27m (57.7%) viewers who’ve caught up on the Doctor’s piratical adventure in the week since it originally aired. But that still makes it the lowest +7 audience for any episode of Doctor Who in the 21st century. It’s also down 0.93m (21.1%) on previous episode Eve of the Daleks. Despite the strong time-shifting, it’s an ignoble record that the special is likely to hold for some time to come.
But that time shifting number bears looking at. The average +7 time-shift since 2005 has been 26.1%, and the average for the Thirteenth Doctor’s era before this was 30.5%. So Legend of the Sea Devils’ 57.7% is a genuine surprise. In fact, it’s the show’s third biggest +7 time shift by percentage ever, after The Eaters of Light (63.7%) and The Lie of the Land (60.1%).
Legend of the Sea Devils leap frogged over Sunday’s other programs to climb to being the night’s #1 BBC show
While time shifting didn’t take the special out of its wooden spoon position among episodes of Doctor Who, it had a sizeable effect on its expected place in the weekly chart. In the overnights, the episode was originally #11 for the day on BBC One. Indeed it raised eyebrows that a repeat of Antiques Roadshow on BBC Two was beating Doctor Who in overnights. But this time shift performance leap frogs over the rest of the channel’s output to make it the BBC’s #1 program for Sunday, and the #3 show of the day across all channels.
It also means that Doctor Who is currently at #25 in the weekly chart. That’s still significantly below average, with the median chart position for the show since 2005 being #14. But it’s still some way off its worst chart performance either – #35 for Can You Hear Me? Meanwhile, Thin Ice and The Woman Who Lived were among those also at #25 in their weekly charts. And the likes of Silence in the Library (#27), Hell Bent (#29) and Face the Raven (#30) have previously landed even lower in the charts.
That 3.47m viewers was enough to claim a #25 chart position indicates it was a bad week for television this Easter
Comparing the six times Doctor Who has been at #25 in the +7 chart is a useful illustration of this overall change, where 3.47m viewers in 2022 gets you the same placement as 6.11m did in 2015, just seven years ago.
This disconnect between viewing figure and chart position emphasises is important to note. It suggests that even given recent drops in television audiences overall, Easter was a remarkably poor week for television. The combination of apparently fewer viewers to go round, and Doctor Who’s lacklustre performance resulted in that historically low viewing figure for Legend of the Sea Devils. A combination that hopefully won’t arise again any time soon.
There’s now only one episode of the Thirteenth Doctor’s era remaining. It’s been an era that’s seen some of Doctor Who’s highest ever viewing figures and, now, some of its lowest. How that final regeneration special will fare remains to be seen. However, with it being promoted as part of the BBC’s centenary festivities, and one of the headline shows in an entire schedule of celebratory programs, it should have every opportunity to grab audiences’ attention.
Doctor Who returns later this year for the Thirteenth Doctor’s final episode…