Producers of a TV programme will naturally have an attachment to something they have helped make and as such will defend its quality and creative vision until the cows come home, but one thing that cannot be argued with (for better or worse) is ratings, especially those in consistent timeslots, unless your name is Steven Moffat, of Doctor Who.
The showrunner of the long-running BBC1 sci-fi series has defended an apparent decline in ratings in recent times, and while that sort of argument usually starts and ends with cold hard statistics, Moffat claims other factors are responsible, with suggestions that audience numbers overall have ‘barely changed’ since the show’s revival in 2005.
Speaking on the panel of Doctor Who: Anatomy of a Hit at the Royal Television Society earlier this week, Moffat said of the show and its performance: “The figures are the same – they’re just the same. If by ‘ratings’, you mean the number of people who watch the show… they are the same. The headline – boring though it is – is that they’ve barely changed since Doctor Who came back.”
He then brought in the argument of how catch-up TV is affecting scripted series’ first broadcast performances due to being able to catch-up to episodes in their own time rather than on a more traditional linear schedule, adding: “Since Matt Smith took over Doctor Who – the time I’ve been doing it – the number of people that watch the show on iPlayer has trebled. The way people watch it has changed. People watch it on catch-up to a much greater degree, but there is no drop-off in the ratings. For the record, if our overnights were our final rating, that would still count as a hit. I would be working hard, even as a Scot, to be disappointed!”
Ending on 5.4m with their most recent season finale last weekend (8 November), the show will move into its Christmas special with high hopes of getting more viewers on a one-off basis, but more permanently is Moffat right in believing that the end figure for high-profile TV isn’t all that important considering the streaming options now on offer?
One surefire way to improve the ratings on all formats, though, is to invoke in the current ‘Doctor’ character even more of an edge from the actor’s previous roles. Moral guardians aside, who wouldn’t want to watch Doctor Tucker in a battle of wits against the villains of space and time: