Doctor Who - The Classic Series

(Audience Viewing Figures 1963-1989)

Click here for the New Series figures

Click here to go back to the Doctor Who Home Page.


OK, so why did I do this? 

Well I was getting fed up all the non-substantiated fan hyperbole about how great/appalling the classic series of Doctor Who was. How the viewers hated this season and loved that one, and how things were better/worse/exactly the same.  So I thought I'd have a look myself. Click on each thumbnail to load the relevant page for that Season.

Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4 Season 5
Season 6 Season 7 Season 8 Season 9 Season 10
Season 11 Season 12 Season 13 Season 14 Season 15

I'm not interested in the quality, percieved or otherwise of the Classic series. I don't even want to know what The Fans back then thought of it (I can find that on any Doctor Who forum). All I want to know is how many people watched it. Because if you're looking for what the UK General Public thought of a TV programme, then their viewing figures are a pretty safe indicator.  However there is a very real danger in trying to interpret these figures, particularly with a view to what they tell us about Doctor Who at the time.

The problem with this view is that Doctor Who itself, and Doctor Who alone, is not the sole influence on who watches Doctor Who. An increase in viewers is fairly easy to explain when it coincides with a return appearance of the Daleks, or a Doctor's first/final story. But what about a drop?  The commonest reaction among fans is to look to the series' own percieved failings. Has the budget been cut? Is the current/new Doctor unlikeable? Has a favourite companion left?  These could have a bearing, but this ignores a very important fact about Doctor Who viewers - the overwhelming majority of them aren't fans. They therefore don't care as much as fans about companions, or the Doctor.  They generally watch the programme because it's science-fictiony and it's fun, but they'll quite cheerfully switch over if there's something more interesting on the other side. 

In its 50 years on the screen Doctor Who has not only seen television change around it, it has definitely influenced some of those changes.  Doctor Who not only rode the wave of Science Fiction popularity in the 60s and 70s, it also proved that SF was popular, and in doing so influenced TV stations to promote and show more SF themselves...often opposite Doctor Who itself!  I remember myself being torn between watching Doctor Who and Land of the Giants in the early 70s...and I'll be honest, sometimes Land of the Giants won.  The same is true today, when Doctor Who is regularly up against ratings monsters like X-Factor or Ant & Dec.  We can see these trends in today's Television and analyse closely the effect each of them has had on Doctor Who's current viewing figures. 

But when faced with figures from 40 years ago or more, although we may know what was on TV at the same time as Doctor Who, we can't know what people of those decades thought about what they were watching.  For example, if people switched over to the other side because it featured an actor incredibly popular at the time, but now obscure and almost forgotten, we would have no way of knowing or understanding this fact and its inevitable effect on viewing figures.  All we have today are the effect with a long-forgotten cause. A ghost of an event.

Season 16 Season 17 Season 18 Season 19 Season 20
Season 21 Season 22 Season 23 Season 24 Season 25
    Season 26    

As you can probably see I've done a simple colour-coding for Doctors, just to group the particular seasons together, and to indicate where Regeneration has occurred mid-season. These aren't fancy graphs. They're just functional Excel. They tell the story and that's it - and quite an interesting story it is too.  I haven't included AI (Appreciation Index) figures because they all seem to be around 62-68%, and anyway after 30-odd years I have no context to tell if those are good, bad or indifferent.

As to the comments on each page, they are purely my own opinions on viewing the graphs.  They are not canonical explanations of the reasons behind the figures, just my take on them. You may disagree with them if you wish (and if you have something interesting to add, there's a Guestbook on my Home Page), but hopefully they will provide a slight framework or context to hang the figures on.

And finally, an overall view of the average figures for each season:

Many thanks to Shannon Sullivan's excellent site A Brief History of Time (Travel) for the viewing figures.

- Spacewarp, June 2013