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Why is Doctor Who losing ratings?

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Another series of Doctor Who, another wave of media reports that the ratings are crashing dramatically. The Sun has gone as far as to suggest that the BBC were forcing Peter Capaldi out, blaming his old age for the reason viewers were switching over. While there has been little else to back up The Sun’s claims, viewing figures have seen a decline, averaging 2 million viewers under what Tennant could bring in during the peak of the show’s popularity. With viewing figures declining so drastically, it seems an examination of the show’s problems are in order.  

Quite simply, one key reason is that the way we are watch TV is changing. With the advent of iPlayer, Netflix and the like watching programmes live has become increasingly irrelevant for a binge-watch/on-demand hungry crowd. Few dramas have decade-old viewing figures to compare to, and while the press often likes to dramatize the fall in overnight viewing figures it is somewhat of a trend among the TV industry. The show will likely never regain the 10 million plus overnight viewers the revival could pull in over a decade ago, but that is not necessarily a loss, and the BBC is clearly cottoning on by making Series 10 available to binge for a month after it finished.

A brand new female Doctor in the form of Jodie Whittaker signals that the BBC has faith in the show

However, overnight figures aside the overall average viewing figures have dropped, and this must be blamed on the show itself. From personal experience I have seen many fellow viewers become disillusioned with the show particularly after Steven Moffat took over as showrunner, and is something the press have picked up on also. The key complaint is easily that the show has become increasingly over-complex and nonsensical, especially for a family show, with Moffat seen as being self-indulgent with his scripts and convoluting existing mythology. Combined with an increasing number of duff episodes, poor villains and some divisive storylines (see the Monks three-parter, or indeed the Doctor’s relationship with River Song), the problems soon start stacking up.

The Sun was not alone in suggesting that Capaldi himself was the problem – too old, too grumpy, trying too hard with sunglasses and a guitar – a mighty shame as Capaldi is a mighty fine actor and a wonderful Doctor. Even worse was the erratic scheduling – the show has experimented with splitting series in two, spring and autumn launch dates, increasingly later air times and worst of all a complete absence in 2016 save for a Christmas special. With a lack of consistency in both show quality and scheduling, one can see why some viewers have switched off in their millions, despite solid work from Capaldi and some truly great episodes.

However, does this mean the show is in trouble? Even if ratings have dropped somewhat in the UK, they have only continued to grow abroad, especially in America. The show also likely makes too much from DVD sales, merchandising, and overseas licensing for a ratings dip to cause too much trouble – a recent deal with a Chinese broadcaster included the upcoming series 11-15, suggesting that Doctor Who will be safe for many years to come. While viewership may have slipped, a brand new female Doctor in the form of Jodie Whittaker signals that the BBC has faith in the show, and she has every chance to pull those figures up again.

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Comments (18)

  • While viewership may have slipped, a brand new female Doctor in the form of Jodie Whittaker signals that the BBC has faith in the show, and she has every chance to pull those figures up again.

    end of quote. jodie whitaker wont save doctor who. How do you know doctor who is losing viewers because of lack of diversity? what if jodie whitaker does not bring new fans? you thought of that? you may think this is a bold gamble which the bbc seems in favor of boldness. However, I feel the move is p.c. and divisive. What doctor who has done is split the fandom in two some for jodie whitaker (sjw liberals) and traditionalists (those opposed to diversity and social justice) It was affirmative action for chicks! Have you seen Jodies racy screen past? Not very kid friendly. Why does the new doctor have to be a woman? We are diluting the essense of the character. The doctor has shown male characteristics over the years. Not sexist, fact. Im sure some feminists are not pleased shes white and shes a woman. Some feminists want a black, transvetite. You see what happens when you dilute a character to please a intense lobbying effort by feminist groups and individuals on twitter! Why cant the boys have male role models? Why is that bad? the doctor is turning into a political football. the hard left wants to make him a symbol of white privilege. Why are they so angry (online & in the industry)? The doc over the years being a man only has come to represent masculine (positive) masculine virtues. Why do chicks want to chickify everything. im afraid jodie wants to turn the tardis full of bras. #nursewho # tardisofloveandfeelings. Why dont they make new shows that pander to feminists. Feminists are angry lesbians who are whining and moaning that the female characters are supplementary to the man! oh no, they want to be our equal and they wont stop until theyve kicked us in the balls time and time again! You realize chicks taking over male franchises arent going to help sexism (cough, cough) it will lead to violence against women (not that i advocate violence). Liberals are hysterical analysising every cinematic production with the bechdel test. Listen folks you cant equate and legislate diversity outcomes. Theres going to be inequality. Sorry! Thats life. When you force people to conform to liberal orthodoxy (to accept diversity) (target” conservatives)they will become passive agressive (traditional gender role believers). It will explode unto social media. Thank God for social media. Its like a tiwn hall for discussion. This is free speech not hate speech, ok! Case in point Donald trump elected; why ? Common man throwing off muzzle (Shakles of p.c.) Besides how does the bbc have faith in the show? They canceled it in the 90s. They have faith in a liberal divisive casting decision. and exclude conservative views. (keep calm and carry on mind set) How was capaldi bad? Did you see hell bent? and face the raven? I Didnt mind the grumpiness. (hartnell was grumpy, t. baker was c. baker was) He is a good guitar player. Peter capaldi was not eye candy yes i get this and did i miss the flirtation between the doctor and clara yes but peter brought a much needed old school feel to the character #oldwho. Peter capaldi is an amazing actor! on screen, he brings the machismo. off screen, hes more low key and a little bit liberal. Doctor whos viewership is changing not everyone can sit down in front of the tv set. Some of us have school, work, college. Some are watching on their devices (ipad, computer, phone, laptop) some watch online (legally netflix, itunes, some illegally)

  • The problem was not with the show or the actors it was with the scheduling putting it on too late for the younger contingent of the fans and at a time where teenagers go out. No repeating it on BBC 2, like it used to do is another mistake – well it was on at 2 am the following Friday but that’s not much good for fans that prefer to look at it on TV.

    Moffat and Capaldi did talk about its issue but it fell on deaf ears, after all the build up and hype about Capaldi when he started they didn’t follow through for the show. Capaldi bounced all over the globe promoting DW but BBC ignored it.. there used to be reruns of the last few series during the summer, during Capaldi’s there hasn’t been a sigle one. …apart from the announcemen of #13 that’s been it until Xmas!!!

    Do they want it to fail ? They’d a brilliant opportunity with Capaldi as Doctor Who to rejuvenate DW, instead they ignored him. No wonder the ratings are going down.

    As for the hiatus – why couldn’t they have been straight with everyone and said Capaldi had had an operation and needed time off – people would have understood. The during that there were no reruns of Capaldi’s prior series.

    Then that ad – “The Doctor and Clara Oswald in the tardis same old, same old” – disaterous publicity for any DW – it should have been egnimatic enough to make people curious as to what the programme is about for new viewers- so they would want to see it. As for spoiler trailers – get rid of most of them only one short one to get people interested.

    Why go to all the trouble of killing a person off in DW only for them to miraculously appear alive and well in the next episode – if they’re dead they’re dead – Adric/Peri didn’t make a reappearance and that’s the way it should be. Let’s face it Clara was eye candy for the male viewers but, dull as diswater for the rest of us – the addition of Danny only made them even more annoying.
    Lastly, BBC stand behind it’s decisions to hire Doctors – people may have out about the new one – they always have – what i’s new?. They get used to it once they see them in action – and really if they stop looking at DW because of silly reasons like age, appearance, or accent well, I hope # 13 keeps her original accent and confuses the hell out of them all – time they learned there are worse accents that Scots ones.

  • The end is near I’m afraid. Where’s the Watcher when you need him? I’ll miss you Doctor. The great PC war had your number all along, not a trial, not the Daleks or the Master. Not even the last great Time War or Trenzalore. RIP my hero.

  • DITTO. RIP my hero. killed by the pc feminazi movement

  • Common Sense SJW (apparently)

    Hey guys, have you though that maybe it isn’t so-called feminazis that made the Doctor a woman, it’s common sense? The viewers are increasingly women and girls. No one can afford to cater to a patriarchal view point left over from the 1960s. Face it, gender is fluid for someone that has a fluid personality. The Doctor won’t even notice the change, since s/he changes so much each time any way. The sixth is as unlike the fist as the upcoming Doctor will ever be. Gender is not the main character trait, nor the most important.

    Nor is it the point of this article. So if you hate the show, stop watching. That’s what everyone else has done as it has soldiered on under Moffatt with the exact same story as it had 50+ years ago. If you don’t hate it that much, do what I do and rewatch the parts you love. But don’t waste time and energy fighting a change that was as good for the viewers as it is for the business. I tried when Moffatt took over and all that’s happened is I’ve disagreed with people for five years.

    The point of the article is to discuss what has gotten ratings down, and since there are no ratings for the series headed by a woman actor your rantings are as completely out of place as they are uneducated.

    I for one welcome any changes. I love the new TARDIS look. I’m not happy about the Doctor’s new outfit, but we’ll see. I’m also worried about Chibnall, since I think his Silurian reboots were awful. But change is what this show needs, since the Moffatt era has tried and failed to maintain a Doctor and companion flirtation with dark story lines most reminiscent of the painful fifth-Doctor era. It’s the convoluted story lines and creepy sexist weirdness (Clara’s short skirt, looking up Amy’s skirt, meeting all companions as little girls) that turn people like me off. If there are more of us out there then that’s part of the slippage. And change can solve that.

  • Star Superion

    The doctor who viewership isn’t increasingly becoming more girls…fake geek girls maybe, they like to cosplay, but rarely watch the show. That premise and notion is complete Rubbish.

  • Ratings are down. It isn’t rocket science. BBC can claim all they want that ‘Bill’ is a big hit with viewers and they can post anonymously all over the net how ‘great’ she is. Every fan I’ve talked to can’t STAND her! For every black, lesbian, feminist fan, there are a hundred ‘traditional’ viewers and families who are tired of having minority, gay/lesbian/transgender agendas shoved down our throats, but the minute we voice our opinions, we’re labelled as ‘racist’ or ‘intolerant’. How dare we, etc. It isn’t popular to voice our love for the traditional family anymore. Maybe thats what the ‘silent majority’ of the viewing public wants. And the ratings reflect it. The majority of viewers apparently don’t like your forced agendas, BBC. Take a hint.

  • A female Doctor Who is an Insult to the history of the show. That’s the reason on one is watching. The show it’s self has always been great taking us places only our wildest thoughts could go.

    Somethings you just don’t mess with and a Strong Male roll for the Doctor is something you don’t screw with. I like his female companions as much as him, they challenge him at every turn and we can watch him grow into the roll, adapting to who and what is needed to save the day.

    Everyone is closed minded to one thing or another. However just because a female has the same job title doesn’t mean they can do the same job as well nor earn the same pay and before someone goes postal the same can be said for a male filling a roll a woman can do much better.

  • Me & my father have watched the show from the start its the best show and we love it.
    Most sites wont admit the PROBLEM is a female doctor.
    Its a joke to the show ruining it.
    There was NO problem with a strong male role.
    Females dont have to be in every show and its not sexist if there not the lead.
    There are PLENTY shows where woman are the leads.
    Doctor who did not need nor want a female doctor who.
    The series was a fantastic male lead show and suited a male lead.
    Me and my father wont be watching the docotor who as much as we would love to as it was gone down hill thanks to the stupid people thinking the role as suitable for a woman.

  • Doctor Who should be renamed Doctor Womb.

  • Bring back David Tennant, IMHO the best doctor ever. If you need to appease the PC brigade, put him in a frock, the viewing figures will look after themselves.

    I know:
    1. Let’s make a sequel to Ghostbusters and replace all the cast with women.
    2. Let’s make Doctor Who a female.

    option 1 didn’t work out too well, bets on option 2?

    It brings to mind the sketch in the life of Brian:

    JUDITH: Well, why do you want to be Loretta, Stan?

    LORETTA: I want to have babies.

    REG: You want to have babies?!

    LORETTA: It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.

    REG: But… you can’t have babies.

    LORETTA: Don’t you oppress me.

    REG: I’m not oppressing you, Stan. You haven’t got a womb! Where’s the foetus going to gestate?! You going to keep it in a box?!

    LORETTA: crying

    JUDITH: Here! I– I’ve got an idea. Suppose you agree that he can’t actually have babies, not having a womb, which is nobody’s fault, not even the Romans’, but that he can have the right to have babies.

    FRANCIS: Good idea, Judith. We shall fight the oppressors for your right to have babies, brother. Sister. Sorry.

    REG: What’s the point?

    FRANCIS: What?

    REG: What’s the point of fighting for his right to have babies when he can’t have babies?!

    FRANCIS: It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression.

    REG: Symbolic of his struggle against reality.

  • George Jeffreys

    I used to be an avid Doctor Who fan however began to lose interest around the time they screened Voyage of the Damned where Kylie Minogue turned up. Then too many lovey dovey scenes with Rose that diverted the show from hard sci-fi into some sort of soap opera romance. Far too many complex and convoluted stories followed that rode roughshod over key DW tenets. Now whenever the Doctor is in a real corner he just lets some golden glow regenerative power leave his body and the whole Dalek empire or suchlike can be destroyed – what a ridiculous way to plug a massive hole in the writing.
    Then lets introduce a bit more sexual innuendo and titillation – a woman Master, a lesbian Silurian, a lesbian companion and now to cap it all a quick sex change for the Doctor himself.
    I have not bothered to watch the 2017 Christmas special as I do not want to participate in the final demise of Doctor Who, a demise brought upon by a total lack of leadership at the BBC that has allowed DW to be overcome by an especially poor writer and political correctness taken beyond the extreme.

  • You’re (mostly) right. But I think it’s much simpler than all of that – republicans watch TV too. Also remember, it’s the BBC. It isn’t specifically feminists and they’ve been considering the idea of a female doctor since the 80s. I’m a woman and I would prefer him to remain a male character. Quite frankly I’d prefer him to remain Peter Capaldi – I like the older, slightly patriarchal character (in case people don’t understand, that means a sort of father figure, not misogynist). Because it’s the BBC I can forgive their obvious, despite attempts for diversity. But what really turns people away are the biased political comments sprinkled throughout the script. For example, in smile when Bill said “Is it a sexist thing, are we in bloke utopia?” or when the Doctor said “History is a whitewash.”

    One last thing, about your #nursewho remark, I don’t appreciate that. Not because I’m a woman but because I’m a nurse. Women overwhellmingly dominate the medical field and nursing specifically is a difficult and noble profession.

  • Russell Redden

    The problem is that the show under Moffatt ceased to become only a sci-fi show, but became a platform for social opinion, weiring fans with a horse that “wants to be called susan.” A ridiculous form of dialogue, to preach a social opinion.
    That is not what the show is about.
    Also, Moffatt literally “jumped the shark” after his first season, bringing quick resolutions to the same formula. Of course, there are good episodes. But having the doctor duplicated via transmat over a billion years demonstrates trying to force new ideas to gain ratings, which are beyond reason. Let’s go to space and breathe.

  • Thank you. I’m not opposed to diversity but when literally every popular show just takes a huge left turn and have gay momentsX10, colored people trying to act like people are judging them based on their color when they are clearly taking precaution because their lack of experience in whatever the situation is, #feminism being flung around an episode where they could have just shown the badass chicks being cool and it was unnecessary to say the least. I didn’t buy the Wayward Sisters episode of Supernatural because I knew what it would be, I’m about done with DC shows, the crappy new Star Wars ripping themselves off and going PC, Atomic Blonde, Spider-Man, skipping over the real Captain Marvel and making Ms. Marvel Captain, and Marvel’s CEO doesn’t understand. It’s not that the fans are racist homophobic idiots it’s that there is a way to do diversity, there is a way to introduce new characters, WITHOUT PANDERING. No one does it.

  • They actually flat out admitted to being as PC as possible and said something along the lines of “by 2019 we want to have at least half of our staff be gay, trans, disabled, or persons of color.” I’m all for diversity I have NO problem with it itself, I have a problem with essentially propaganda and shoving it down people’s throats. I have gay friends, I have black friends, my aunt is gay, my uncle on my dad’s side is super gay lol doesn’t bother me f#$k it, but if they went around like Jehovah’s Witnesses spreading the message you HAVE to be okay with gay people and colored people I’d have a problem. Everyone with a brain understands it’s acceptable and if they don’t adapt they will be seen as idiots by every functional member of society.

  • Dr. Who has been a man since 1963. How would you feel if we made Barbie a transvestite? or just a full on dude completely replacing a pop icon that in and of itself should remain as unchanged as possible. The problem isn’t diversity BUT the problem IS it being shoved down everyone’s throats. Look at Marvel Comics and their sales as soon as Thor and Iron Man were made women and Captain America was replaced with Falcon. The problem is that lefties can’t make something original and good and pump out their propaganda they have to get their hands on something pure and simple and iconic and screw with it, Star Wars ripping itself off and making their two main characters a black guy that acts like a stereotypical high schooler from earth asking “so uh you gotta, gotta boyfriend or anything like that?” trying to hit that instead of what we expect out of the series when it comes to writing and then the main female just to prove “oh women can be cool Jedi too” yeah WE actual fans know this and wouldn’t mind a movie made on the badass women Jedi that already exist. I hate feeling like I do, I am extremely tolerable especially considering where I was born and raised but I swear cinema and TV is making me NOT want diversity in it, I never cared till the last year or two.

  • The ratings went down because they pretty much tried a female doctor in Clara. Clara became the main character of the show (even tried to call herself the docror), and when there was a crisis the doctor could not solve the crisis without her. It was even to the point that Clara was solving problem that all of unit was not able to. The campion in the show always had a key role and not the damsile in distress. And now doctor who will be a 1000 year old woman that will be told what the right thing to do is by a male companion to show in the name of feminism? Now there is a paradox

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