Doctor Who ratings are often the subject of intense scrutiny! How has Doctor Who: Flux fared so far? (Updated 24/11/21)
We’re three weeks into the new series of Doctor Who and the press and fans alike have been scrutinising the all-important numbers. Whilst some people question the relevance of viewing figures in the age of on-demand TV and streaming, they do still paint a picture of how many people are engaging with a programme. Indeed, the Doctor Who ratings also take into account those people who accessed the show on BBC iPlayer, and those who caught up with the programme seven days after the original transmission.
Inevitably, the Doctor Who ratings are generally lower than they were, say, during David Tennant’s era. The way people consume television has changed; when David Tennant was the Doctor, there was no such thing as iPlayer (not before 2007, anyway.) Catch-up TV was in its infancy. If you missed a programme during its original broadcast, you could have to wait a long time before you could see it again. It was all-the-more important to be in front of your TV when a show aired.
So with all this in mind, how have the Doctor Who ratings fared so far? Well, the first episode of Doctor Who: Flux – ‘The Halloween Apocalypse’ – did respectfully with a final viewing figure of 5.79 million, making it the ninth most-watched programme of the week on British TV.
Naturally, there was a dip by the time the second episode ‘War of the Sontarans’ came around. Doctor Who ratings often drop after the start of a new season, and this trend continued with Flux episode two, which achieved 5.10 million viewers and became the 13th most-watched of the week.
The third episode, meanwhile, also saw a slight decline. ‘Once, Upon Time,’ achieved a final figure of 4.67, which is the lowest figure recorded since the show returned in 2005.
So what are we to make of these Doctor Who ratings? Are they good? Bad…?
Well, at the time of writing, the Doctor Who ratings are in a similar ballpark to Series 12, where many of the season’s episodes came in around the 4-5 million mark. But the Doctor Who: Flux season opener was roughly a million lower than the Series 12 season opener ‘Spyfall: Part One’ – which got 6.89 million viewers – and was in fact the lowest-rated season opener for any series of New Who.
This is a trend that the Doctor Who ratings have followed since 2017. Series 11 frequently saw episodes which exceeded 8 million, such as ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth,’ ‘The Ghost Monument,’ ‘Rosa,’ and ‘Arachnids in the UK.’ Indeed, ‘Arachnids’ was the last time the Doctor Who ratings went above 8 million.
There was a slight uptick with the launch of Series 12, with the two-part opener ‘Spyfall’ achieving 6.89 and 6.07 million respectively. This dipped to a low of 4.90 for the seventh episode ‘Can You Hear Me?’ and ended on 4.69 for ‘The Timeless Children.’
But what about the episodes themselves? Are people enjoying them?
One of the best ways to answer this question is by looking at the Audience Appreciation Index – a score out of a hundred which is derived from a survey of 5,000 specially-selected people. Generally, a figure of 60 is considered poor, and anything above 85 is excellent.
With this in mind, it’s fair to say that Doctor Who: Flux is performing averagely. ‘The Halloween Apocalypse’ achieved an AI figure of 76, whilst ‘War of the Sontarans’ scored 77 and ‘Once, Upon Time’ scored 75. However, it should be noted that the latter score is actually the lowest achieved by an episode of New Who since it began in 2005, its nearest competitor being the 2006 episode ‘Love & Monsters,’ which scored 76.
Indeed, as the Radio Times put it: “‘Once, Upon Time’ is one of the most dizzying and blatantly confusing episodes of Doctor Who – and I’ve sat through a fair few – which makes it tricky to engage with… At a time when Doctor Who needs to broaden its appeal, alienating its potential audience rather than drawing it in is a risky business.”
It added: “Followers who abhorred ‘The Timeless Children‘ (the series 12 finale in 2020), especially the dismally ‘Mastersplained’ new backstory for the Doctor, will likely throw up their arms in horror as those missing chunks of the Doctor’s past are given further currency and legitimised by the events of ‘Once, Upon Time.’ But this is where some of the gems lie. One glistening jewel is the unexpected return of ‘Doctor Ruth’ (the ‘Fugitive Doctor’ as she is billed), the past incarnation played majestically by Jo Martin. Any excuse for another glimpse of her, please.”
And speaking of the critical response, it goes without saying that you will get a different impression depending on which publications you read. But if we take a look at Rotten Tomatoes (which consolidates scores from a number of publications to come up with an average figure) ‘The Halloween Apocalypse’ currently has an average score of 6.8/10, followed by ‘War of Sontarans’ which has an average score of 7.30/10. ‘Once, Upon Time,’ meanwhile, currently has an average score of 7.20/10.
Now, usually when Doctor Who ratings come under such close scrutiny, people often speculate about the show’s future and potential cancellation, even when the ratings are good! But we know this is not a discussion that can be had around Doctor Who: Flux, no matter what the ratings do; we already know that the former showrunner Russell T Davies will be returning to the fold in 2023 to oversee the show’s 60th anniversary and series beyond. So even if the ratings fall off a cliff and everybody hates Jodie Whittaker’s final episodes, there will still be more Who to look forward to.
Undoubtedly, Doctor Who: Flux has been a confusing story so far, but it hasn’t pretended otherwise. For a rundown on who all the key characters are, check out our handy guide.
What do you think of the latest Doctor Who ratings? And have you been enjoying Doctor Who: Flux? Let me know in the comments below.
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