There have been many Dalek stories in Doctor Who‘s 58 year history. The metal mutants from Skaro first appeared in the 1963 adventure ‘The Daleks,’ and have since featured in 25 TV tales with the Time Lord from Gallifrey, not including brief appearances in episodes such as ‘The Waters of Mars’ or ‘The Pilot.’ But which is the most viewed story of all time?
Of course, it’s hard to answer that question accurately. There will never be a way to quantify all the worldwide repeats, DVD re-watches and late night Netflix sessions. But we can look at the UK viewing figures and average them out, and see which stories pulled the biggest crowds at the time of their original airings. Sounds fun, no?
Actually, it kind of is. If you’re me. I’ve always been interested in viewing figures, and honestly it didn’t take long to trawl through Wikipedia, armed with a pad, pen and iPhone calculator. Plus a rather strong cup of Joe, as I began at 6:30am (I’m committed.) And honestly, the results weren’t quite what I was expecting.
You see, when trying to find the most watched story, I hadn’t factored in the possibility of TV strikes on rival networks – something which helped ‘City of Death‘ (a 1979 adventure) to achieve Doctor Who‘s highest ever figure for a single episode at 16.1 million, as ITV was not broadcasting at the time.
And interestingly, the Dalek story that preceded ‘City of Death’ had a similar advantage, meaning that Terry Nation’s 1979 tale ‘Destiny of the Daleks’ is actually the winner here, with an average viewing figure of 13.5 million. Who knew?!
Now ‘Destiny of the Daleks’ is notable for a number of reasons. First, it is the first story in Doctor Who history to feature the regeneration of a companion, as the adventure beings with the Time Lady Romana adopting a new body in the shape of Princess Astra, who appeared in the previous story ‘The Armageddon Factor.’ It also saw the return of Dalek creator Davros, who was last seen in 1975’s ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ (which pulled in an average of 9.6 million viewers, for you fact fans out there.) But more on that in a sec.
In addition, ‘Destiny’ is only one of two occasions in which the Fourth Doctor meets the metal mutants – which is quite surprising given that he played the part for seven years. Indeed, he is the longest-serving Time Lord to date.
But TV strikes notwithstanding, the second most watched story is 1964’s ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ which garnered an average audience of 11.9 million. This period of Doctor Who history is typically referred to as Dalek Mania, when the metal mutants had really captured the public’s imagination. The creatures had become popular playground characters for the younger viewers, and were being re-produced as miniature toys and playsuits. They even found their way into contemporary pop records.
But after ‘Invasion of Earth’ we have the Third Doctor story ‘Planet of the Daleks,’ which pulled an average of 9.7 million. After that, the scoring becomes a bit tighter; ‘Day of the Daleks’ and ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ both have averages of 9.6 million. And incidentally, the latter story topped a 1998 poll for being the greatest Doctor Who story of all time, slipping to third place in 2014.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Seventh Doctor story ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ is the least watched, with an average audience of 5.4 million viewers. It’s followed by the 2015 adventure ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ / ‘The Witch’s Familiar’ which had an average of 6.1, and the 2021 festive special ‘Revolution of the Daleks‘ which had 6.3.
But which is your most viewed story? And which one have you watched the least? Let me know in the comments below.
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