The Vanquishers final results complete Doctor Who: Flux’s viewing figures, and Blogtor Who looks at the series as a whole. Plus Eve of the Daleks’ overnights!
The viewing figures collection for Doctor Who: Flux is now complete, with the final +28 viewing figure for the finale now available. The Vanquishers has been seen by 5.14m people. That’s down 0.18m (3.4%), a marginal drop from previous episode Survivors of the Flux. It’s also 0.03m (0.6%) less than previous series finale The Timeless Children, an almost negligible year on year reduction, reflecting the stability of Flux’s viewing figures.
This number means The Vanquishers’ final chart position for the week is #19 across all channels and #7 for the BBC. It was also #5 for the day. Significantly, every episode of the series has now finished in the Top 20. This is the first time Doctor Who has accomplished that feat since 2015. Moreover, it’s one of only five times the show has managed all Top 20 hits, with Series Thirteen joining Series Two, Three, Five, and Nine in the distinction.
The overall picture of Doctor Who: Flux’s performance suggests an audience comfortable with serialized storytelling
Now that we have the complete viewing figures for Flux, it’s possible to take a look at its overall performance. Ratings ranged from 5.01m (for Village of the Angels) to 6.39m (The Halloween Apocalypse). Conversely, Village of the Angels had the biggest time shift percentage, with 31.1% of its audience watching on catch-up services, while the smallest time shift was for Once, Upon Time (28.1%). In the chart, it moved from #7 (The Halloween Apocalypse) to #19 (both Survivors of the Flux and The Vanquishers). The average audience for Doctor Who: Flux was 5.46m, with a time shift of 29.7%. Meanwhile, the median chart position for the series was #15. The overall pattern for Series 13 is of the normal premiere boost for its first episode, before settling down into a relatively stable audience for chapters three to six.
It’s impossible to say with certainty if this fairly consistent result from week to week is a benefit from the serial format or not, although it’s tempting to speculate. We may yet see the experiment repeated, of course. Most of returning showrunner Russell T Davies’ work has been heavily serialized, with his first run on Doctor Who the exception to the rule. We know he’s already written multiple scripts for Series 14. However, it’s possible that future series may reflect this apparent willingness to stick with Doctor Who for longer serials.
Comparing the Whittaker era so far with previous modern Doctors reflects the growing importance of time shifting
Jodie Whittaker now has three series under her belt (well, braces), the same as every modern Doctor since David Tennant. So this is a good opportunity to compare the overall results for the modern Doctors.
If we average out the results for each Doctor to obtain a number for a ‘typical’ episode for each one, there are a couple of stories that emerge. First is the growing importance of time shifting. It’s been mentioned by many commentators many times, but expressed graphically it’s clear to see how it’s gone from an interesting addendum to the overnight number to a key part of the audience in just sixteen years. When Christopher Eccleston first bounded onto our screens, it accounted for only 8% of his viewers. Yet around 30% of the audience for Peter Capaldi and Jodie Whittaker choose to watch that way.
The highs of the 00s may be behind us, but Doctor Who retains admirable audience loyalty for a seventeen year old format
The second clear narrative is what a huge success Doctor Who was upon its return, and how the David Tennant era built on that. The next several years featured a slow, but steady, decline until it was largely arrested in Jodie Whittaker’s era. Whittaker’s first series benefited by possibly the biggest, most successful launch of a new Doctor. And arguably it was an opportunity frittered away as her audience returned to Capaldi levels for her next two series.
But equally arguably without that shot in the arm in 2018, the rate of decline seen from Tennant to Smith and then from Smith to Capaldi might well have continued unabated. As it stands Whittaker and Capaldi are effectively tied in their results. Strictly speaking, Whittaker’s average audience of 6.82m gives her a tiny 0.1m (1.5%) margin over Capaldi’s 6.7m. But as the +28 metric was only introduced with Capaldi’s first Christmas special, we can engage in a bit of guesswork from his existing numbers that if it had been brought in a year earlier he might have wound up with a 6.83m average; a genuinely minuscule 0.01m (0.1%) more than Whittaker. And by the same token if we strip all the +28 numbers from both, he’s 0.11m (1.7%) ahead.
It underscores just how close their results are, whichever way you to look at it. And whether you interpret it as a 1.5% rise or a 1.7% fall, in the environment of big name shows losing large chunks of their audience in just a few years, as discussed last week, either is downright impressive.
Eve of the Daleks: An extraordinary year on year drop for what may be Doctor Who’s last New Year’s Day special
This week, of course, we also have a brand new episode of Doctor Who. The initial overnight result for Eve of the Daleks is 3.21m. That’s down 0.37m (10.3%) on previous episode The Vanquishers. This continues a trend unique to the New Year’s specials of getting a lower result than the proceeding series finale. It continues to suggest that of all the various scheduling experiments of the current era, moving the specials from the once traditional Christmas Day slot has not been a success. It’s also down a frankly massive 1.48m (31.6%) lower than last year’s special Revolution of the Daleks.
Some of that can be accounted for as part of the general desertion of New Year’s Day viewers this year. It’s notable, for instance, that Eve of the Daleks was still #6 for the day, sliding only three places from #3 for last year’s special. And even the top programme of the day, The Tourist, didn’t get as many viewers as last year’s Doctor Who. The thriller, starring Jamie Dornan as an amnesiac lost in Australia, was seen by 4.59m viewers compared to Revolution of the Daleks’ 4.69m overnight last year. And that 4.59 is also 8.6% down from last year’s #1 New Year’s program, Coronation Street. But this general drop in New Year’s Day audience doesn’t account for the scale of Doctor Who’s drop.
Various factors mean the time shifting for this will be interesting to see, but Eve of the Daleks is unlikely to regain much ground
As always, however, overnights are just our first hint of what the actual result may be. Eve of the Daleks was the first episode of Doctor Who to go out on a Saturday evening since 2017. And New Year’s Day falling on a Saturday also means that many viewers had the Monday off, making time-shifting their viewing more appealing than usual. And certainly being directly up against The Masked Singer on ITV will have done the same. That’s a programme which effectively demands live viewing, after all, and got an overnight of 4.16m. It will be interesting to see next week and next month if Eve of the Daleks will have a larger catch-up audience than usual. But it will certainly have its work cut out for it.
As an aside, Blogtor Who promised last to update you on whether Doctor Who beat the Mrs. Brown’s Boys New Year’s Day special. We can confirm that it did, and by some margin, but we can’t say by exactly how much. Ultimately, from regularly beating Doctor Who just a few years ago, the love-it-or-loath-it comedy’s audience has shrunk enough not to feature in the reported numbers for the day at all. What we can say is that even Eve of the Daleks’ 3.21m bested Mrs. Brown’s Christmas Day overnights performance of 2.78m. Speaking of Christmas Day, this year’s Doctor Who special would still have been #9 in the overnights chart if it had given the same performance then.
With only two episodes remaining, 2022 will be a virtual year off for viewing figure obsessives
With all the viewing figures for Doctor Who: Flux reported, next week we’ll have the +7 rating for Eve of the Daleks. After that, it will be time for the Viewing Figures blog to drift off into hibernation. But we’ll still pop up now and then during the year with updates on the 2022 specials. With only two episodes in the next twenty-two months, Doctor Who will then be primed or its next big relaunch. But what will the television landscape in which it emerges look like?
Doctor Who returns this Spring with Legend of the Sea Devils
Legend of the Sea Devils finds the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Dan (John Bishop) in 19th century China, where a small coastal village is under threat – from both the fearsome pirate queen Madame Ching (Crystal Yu) and a monstrous alien force which she unwittingly unleashes. Will the Doctor, Yaz and Dan emerge from this swashbuckling battle with the Sea Devils to save the planet?