Launched simultaneously on three continents, millions tuned in for this past weekend’s premiere of the new series of “Doctor Who”, the seventh since the show’s 2005 relaunch.
In the United Kingdom, the show drew 6.4 million viewers in overnight figures and a 29.3% share, easily winning its timeslot and second for the day only to reality juggernaut “The X Factor”.
The number is up on last year’s mid-season premiere “Let’s Kill Hitler” which scored 6.2M in overnights ahead of an 8.1M final audience figure.
The show also had an Appreciation Index score of 89/100, a measure of how much the audience enjoyed the episode. That was the highest score by far for the day, the highest for a ‘Who’ season opener, and the highest figure for the show itself since Season 5’s finale “The Big Bang”.
In Australia it premiered on the ABC’s online iView service immediately after the UK broadcast in an effort to stop piracy. The move worked – the episode drew 75,900 plays in less than 24 hours – easily the highest amount of daily plays on the service to date.
In comparison the most heavily downloaded television show by piracy in Australia, the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” of all things, took a month to reach only half that level in illicit copies viewed.
As a lifelong Who-vian who fell out of love with the show after last year’s dive in quality post mid-season, I found this a big step back in the right direction and away from the juvenile stupidity of stories like Cybermen being killed by love, or the overthought but underwhelming ‘death’ arc of last year which started strong but collapsed under its own weight.
Both show runner Steven Moffat and star Matt Smith have now reigned in their excesses of smugness and silliness, stripping the show back to its core elements while still retaining their clever and whimsical signature. The ‘guest star’ made a big impression, the story returned to classic sci-fi staples, the humour seemed less forced, the arc elements were nicely layered rather than hijacking the narrative, and the tone was more mature.
It also seemed to begrudgingly respect the pre-Moffat era lore rather than flippantly dismissing or running away from it, even giving us pre-reboot fans a bone by starting the episode on Skaro. The big question now is if ‘Who’ will be able to keep up (and even improve) the quality standard in the four subsequent episodes over the next month.