With the current era of Doctor Who coming to a close, we look back at the most popular Thirteenth Doctor episodes to date, as determined by their AI scores.
AI – in case you didn’t know – is the Audience Appreciation Index, and is a measure of how much people enjoyed a particular programme. Generally, anything below 60 is considered poor, whilst anything above 80 is considered excellent. The maximum score is 100, although no programme has ever achieved such a feat (even ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ struggled to get above 60!)
As such, the AI scores from Series 11 and 12 can show us which are the most popular (or most enjoyed) Thirteenth Doctor episodes so far, as determined by the British public. Each of the following stories achieved an AI score of 83, which is the current record for Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor.
Fugitive of the Judoon
‘Fugitive of the Judoon’ was perhaps one of the more ground-breaking Thirteenth Doctor episodes – until, of course, the transmission of ‘The Timeless Children‘ just a few weeks later. It introduced the mysterious Ruth Doctor who (spoiler alert) transpired to be a forgotten incarnation of the famous Time Lord, complete with her own TARDIS and a labyrinthine backstory involving a strange organisation known as The Division.
However, ‘Fugitive of the Judoon’ was also notable for re-introducing the popular character of Captain Jack, as played by John Barrowman. He had first appeared alongside the Ninth Doctor Christopher Eccleston, and had gone on to star in his own spin-off series Torchwood, before making his final appearance in Doctor Who at the end of David Tennant’s era. His return in ‘Fugitive of the Judoon’ was definitely a surprise, and one that the audience appreciated, although viewers would have to wait until ‘Revolution of the Daleks’ before he would finally get to meet the Thirteenth Doctor.
Arachnids in the UK
‘Arachnids in the UK’ was one of the first Thirteenth Doctor episodes to be set in the present day, and arrived near the beginning of Jodie Whittaker’s first season. Intriguingly, it was a rare example of Doctor Who using spiders as the main baddie – something which might have happened earlier in Doctor Who‘s classic run had it not been for the technical difficulties involved. (Of course, Jon Pertwee was menaced by arachnids in his regeneration story, but the models used were criticised by some.)
This was also the first of the Thirteenth Doctor episodes to feature Chris Noth as the tyrannical Jack Robertson – a character who some would argue was a parody of a well-known American business tycoon. As with Captain Jack, he would return in 2021’s ‘Revolution of the Daleks,’ but here, he’s wreaking havoc with shed-loads of toxic waste, which is causing Sheffield’s spiders to mutate.
Of all the Thirteenth Doctor episodes, ‘Rosa’ is perhaps one of the most powerful, addressing the issue of racism in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. The story revolves around the African-American activist Rosa Parks and the famous incident in which she refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white person. The event triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which in turn started the wider civil rights movement across the US, and ultimately ended the segregation on buses, among other things.
Of course, being Doctor Who, there’s an evil plot brewing in the background – namely a psychopath called Krasko, who’s determined to stop the Montgomery Bus Boycott by whatever means. Naturally, it’s up to the Doctor and friends to thwart his plans, culminating in a powerful moment in the episode’s closing scenes when they are forced to remain seated on Rosa’s bus as events unfold around them.
‘Rosa’ proved to be one of the most popular Thirteenth Doctor episodes, viewed by 8.41 million people. It also received a Visionary Honours award for having “a positive social impact.” Moreover, it was also one of the few Doctor Who episodes to omit the closing theme music, opting instead for the song ‘Rise Up’ by Andra Day.
The Woman who Fell to Earth
‘The Woman who Fell to Earth’ might be the most popular of all the Thirteenth Doctor episodes, having been seen by 10.96 million viewers. This made it the highest series premiere for a Doctor in the history of the programme, coming at the start of Jodie Whittaker’s first season. It was set in Sheffield and took place almost entirely at night, as the Doctor and her new companions found themselves stalked by the wicked Tzim-Sha, who’s arrived on Earth to take part in a ritualistic hunt.
‘The Woman who Fell to Earth’ was different from many other Thirteenth Doctor episodes in that it featured no opening titles (which was a first for the series) and also no TARDIS. Indeed, the Doctor still hasn’t located her machine by the story’s conclusion, and viewers were left wondering just when they would see the iconic police box again – if ever.
In addition, the adventure finished with an opinion-dividing trailer which showcased the many guest stars who would be appearing throughout the rest of Series 11, along with a haunting new version of the Doctor Who theme by Segun Akinola.
But overall, like the other Thirteenth Doctor episodes in this list, ‘The Woman who Fell to Earth’ was well received by critics. The Independent described Jodie Whittaker’s performance as “blockbuster,” adding that “after all the hype, hyperbole and inevitable internet hate, she acquits herself wonderfully in her full-length debut.”
So there we are – those are the most popular Thirteenth Doctor episodes as determined by their AI scores. Do you agree with the rankings? And which of the Thirteenth Doctor episodes is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below.
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