Making Sense of the Doctor Who Ratings

Robert B. Marks
4 min readDec 15, 2023

One of the things that drives me crazy about the culture war is the declarations of ratings disaster by culture warriors as evidence that a show has failed, and the audience is turning against it. The problem with this in regards to Doctor Who is that most of these declarations are made without:

  1. Understanding how the UK ratings work;
  2. Waiting for the seven day accumulated ratings to come in; and
  3. Actually checking it against the ratings history of the show.

So, let’s take a look at the actual ratings for these three specials, and check them against the history of the show and see how they’re actually doing. But first, we need to define some terms:

  • Overnight TV ratings: This covers everybody who watched the show at the time it was broadcast.
  • Consolidated TV ratings: This covers everybody who watched the show within seven days of the broadcast through DVRs and the like.
  • Audience Appreciation Index (AI): This is a measurement of how the audience rated the show in terms of enjoyment. As a quick guide put it, “Over 90 is considered exceptional, 85 or over is excellent, 60 or less is poor, and less than 55 is very poor.” (Source:
  • Share: What percentage of the audience watched that show, as opposed to something else.

So, let’s take a look at these figures and do a quick analysis. A breakdown of the three specials thus far is here (minus the Share), and a breakdown of the history of the show is here (minus the Overnight TV).

(Please note that the Consolidated TV Ratings for “The Giggle” are still being gathered, so we don’t have those yet.)

  • Market share: The first two specials both scored over 40% share, with “The Star Beast” topping out at 44.3%. This is the most successful the series has been in terms of market share in years. The last episode to break a 40% share was “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” with 45.1%, and prior to that it was “The Day of the Doctor” at 40.9%. In fact, having two episodes in a row break 40% is not something that has happened since “A Christmas Carol” and “The Impossible Astronaut”. So, in terms of audience share, the show is more successful than it has been in years, and it is maintaining levels we haven’t seen since the first couple of seasons run by Steven Moffat and the original run of Russell T. Davies.
  • Audience Appreciation Index: By the far the most important of these statistics, all three specials are between 83–85, with “The Giggle” the highest at 85 (as the guide says, “exceptional”). A handful of episodes under Chris Chibnall reached 83, the most recent being “Fugitive of the Judoon”. AI figures in the high 80s are frequent under Steven Moffat and Russell T. Davies, and these figures represent the lower end of what was representative under both Moffat and Davies — so, it is, in fact, in line with the last time Davies ran Doctor Who.
  • Consolidated TV Ratings: We do not have the ratings for “The Giggle” yet, but there is a trend of a dropping number in the Overnight TV rating that is reflected in the Consolidated. However, these are only two data points, and that is not a pattern. That said, we can see that the Consolidated for “The Star Beast” was 7.61m, and “The Wild Blue Yonder” had 7.14m. If you compare these to past seasons, this puts the Consolidated numbers within the range of David Tennant’s previous run as the Doctor, where numbers could drop as low as 6.08m (“The Satan Pit”), although dropping below 6.5m was fairly rare after series 2. If you look at the figures, you will also see that with the exception of David Tennant, every single Doctor has seen a slow decline in viewing figures from their debut to their exit, which suggests that Tennant was the exception (and even he saw that in his first season with a mid-season lull where four episodes in a row had viewership of under 7m).

So, actually looking at the figures and the history of the show, we can make a few proper conclusions:

  1. These last three specials have seen the most success the show has had in years. The viewership may have been below 8 million per episode, but they also represent almost half of the people who turned on their television to watch something. This audience share makes the show a smashing success, and more successful than the 50th anniversary special.
  2. There is a trend of declining viewership, but this is the same trend that had happened with every Doctor in their first series. Further these viewership figures are in line with both the earlier tenure of Russell T. Davies, and the tenure of Steven Moffat. There is no evidence of mass audience rejection — that would require a much larger drop that put it outside of the normal pattern.
  3. The audience clearly enjoyed and embraced these episodes. The AI numbers are the highest the show has been since Capaldi. Also, the AI number for “The Giggle” is higher than both previous specials, indicating that most viewers enjoyed it more than the other two.

So, when you put the ratings in their proper context, what we have here with these specials is an unquestioned success. It captured almost half of the British audience, it returned viewership figures to pre-Chibnall levels, and the actual measure of whether viewers enjoyed the episodes rated them at “excellent” or just below it.

And, for the culture warriors, please stop. This is getting ridiculous. Scrounging for evidence that something is failing while ignoring the actual metrics and audience share to do it is intellectually dishonest.




Robert B. Marks

Robert B. Marks is a writer, editor, and researcher. His pop culture work has appeared in places like Comics Games Magazine.