‘Doctor Who’ 50th Anniversary Episode Breaks Ratings Records 

Published 1 year ago by

David Tennant Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Episode Breaks Ratings Records 

It’s as if fiction became real and millions united thanks to the Archangel network and the word “Doctor” on Saturday afternoon, pushing the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special to huge success across the world. Of course, after the BBC arranged a simulcast across a record-breaking 94 countries, theatrical showings in 11 US cities (as well as 660 other showings going on tonight through Fathom Events), and an endless run of celebratory specials, we all expected ‘The Day of the Doctor‘ to be huge, but the final tally is still breathtaking.

Watched by 10.6 million people in the UK (though the show finished with lower ratings than a dance show) and untold millions across the world in those 94 countries and six continents, the special episode ranked as the highest rated broadcast in BBC America history, with 2.4 million people (L+SD) watching the tenth and eleventh Doctor team-up with John Hurt’s War Doctor. And that doesn’t count the amount of people who watched the show on BBC’s iPlayer service.

What’s equally impressive – or perhaps even more impressive – is the dominance that ‘The Day of the Doctor’ showed as a buzz topic across social media. According to the BBC, the special set a record as the most popular TV event in the history of Tumblr, with over 14 million views on the Doctor Who Tumblr page. The episode also generated the most activity in the history of Get Glue and 1.83 million tweets.

doctor who 50th matt smith Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Episode Breaks Ratings Records 

As networks increasingly quest for legitimate social media mentions to stay relevant to the key demo (18-49-year-olds) at a time when viewing choices are plentiful and always on a viewer’s terms, the BBC surely turned some of those crumbs into cookies (or viewers). As fans gathered online to group-anticipate, watch & tweet, and offer their own bite-sized post-game commentary on the show, they likely converted a few followers into the cult of Who while re-inspiring a few ex-pats as well.

Did some of that social chatter have a hand in converting a few new followers into the cult of Who or return some Whovian ex-pats to the fold? Quite possibly, but it likely also had a hand in the successful launch of Atlantis (which followed Who) and the second life popularity that ‘The Day of the Doctor’ is having on Amazon and iTunes, where it topped sales charts.

When you add all of this together, it marks a big win for Doctor Who, but as the show moves toward the Christmas special and a transformative season with a new Doctor, the question is – will these new and returning viewers remain, giving the Capaldi era and the next 50 years of Who a chance to start on the good foot? As always, it all depends on what Steven Moffat puts on the screen.

What do you think? Are you looking forward to where Moffat takes The Doctor in the new season?


Doctor Who returns with the Christmas Special and Matt Smith’s final episode in December.

Follow Jason Tabrys on Twitter @jtabrys
TAGS: Doctor who
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  1. Good for it! follow might be a spoiler…

    So i guess in an interview, Moffat said that the Doctor has already used up his 12 regenerations. That is why Trenzanor is such a big deal. He said the Regeneration from season 4 finale counts, so that along with the war doctor makes Matt Smith the 13th doctor. So they will have to solve that during the christmas episode so we can have peter capaldi. Kinda interesting but i was hoping we would get the vale yard, or at least a lead up to it and i thought i read that the vale yard was in the doctors 12th or 13th form. I guess we’ll see if that is ever addressed.

    • Wait that makes no sense.


      When the doctor froze his home world in a new dimenson, the other time lords said “It’s the doctor, all 12 regenerations. No… 13!” when he said 13 we get a close up to peter capaldi’s face.

      • yeah like i mentioned, one of his regenerations was Tennant regenerating into Tennant. even though he was still the same man, he still used a regeneration. So thats why there was only one that showed up.

        So in other words, counting Capaldi its: 14 versions, 13 different Doctors, 13 regenerations.

          • So I take it river giving the doctor all of her regenerations are not going to go in effect in the story?

          • Moffat’s comment doesn’t make sense at all. Yes, Matt Smith’s Doctor doesn’t call himself the “11th Doctor”, but the prophecy of Trenzalore clearly includes “the fall of the Eleventh”, obviously referring to Smith’s incarnation. So he must be, to some degree be the 11th Doctor (since Tennant’s Doctor doesn’t fall at Trenzalore)…

            Anyway, they wouldn’t possibly stop after Capaldi if the show continues to be such a success, so they will, one way or another, introduce a 14th incarnation, somehow…

            Hurt IS the ninth incarnation, no matter if he didn’t call himself the Doctor. It’s still the same person. Tennant’s semi-regeneration obviously doesn’t count though. There are 13 versions of the Doctor, including the Original Doctor and his 12 regenerations. So according to Whovian Lore, the regenerations are used up.

            BUT: even the Master was given a second cycle of regenerations by the Timelord Council at some point (I think it was the 20th Anniversary Special The Fice Doctors), so why shouldn’t The Doctor be granted this honor?

            They’ll find a way… If they could save Galifrey from obliteration, they can save the Doctor from eventual death. As long as the show makes money, they won’t kill him off…

            • Tennant’s regeneration obviously counted, it just didn’t result in a change of appearance, so he still used up a life.

              • If so, maybe McGann into Hurt doesn’t count because it was aided / initiated by the Sisterhood of Karn and their elixir…

                Or maybe that elixor has already removed any sort of regeneration limit from the Doctor. It would be a bit lame, telling such an important detail in a web-based minisode, but it could explain any future incarnation past Smith or Capaldi…

                • Smith’s regeneration will be yet another one of Moffat’s beloved Deus Ex Machina’s, there is a big crack in the sky and it conveniently gives the Doctor a ‘second chance’. It also conveniently gets rid of the remaining Daleks on Trenzalore. Watch this space.

                • Or maybe the Timelord’s could just give the Doctor a couple more regens for services rendered. That would not be setting any kind of precedent.

            • Also Matt Smith’s first episode is called “The Eleventh Hour”. It’s a play on words but it’s also referring to his incarnation#.

                • I’m sorry… Hadn’t realised the Christmas Special already has a name: “The Time of the Doctor”…

            • Or…. Perhaps the resolution of the Moment, cuts off the timeline that gave us the Eccleston, Tennant and Smith doctors, and the War Doctor regenerates into a new form entirely. (Capaldi?)

    • *cough* Trenzalore *cough*

      sorry, had to nitpick :P

      • Yeah sorry, i knew it was spelt wrong, but didn’t feel like looking it up. thanks for the correction though!

        • They could say that he got more from River in the episode ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’

          • I was always under the impression that the regeneration limit was an artificial control applied by the Timelords. I don’t know what the fuss is about… a precedent was set with Colin Baker for granting more regens ;)

    • Doctor Who has rarely been all that concerned with continuity until modern times. For crying out loud, Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor destroyed the Dalek home world and it still pops up once in a while. The Time Lords were supposedly destroyed and they show up again (led by Timothy Dalton).

      • Timey wimey init.

        Skaro was destroyed yes, but when? I’ve not known Skaro to “pop up” after its destruction.

        As for the Timelords being destroyed, they were prior to the 50th, where we discover they were simply shunted to a parallel universe. Even then, the High Council led by Dalton was part of a convulted plot to reopen the time war. They didn’t just show up again.

        • Skaro was destroyed in “Remembrance of the Daleks” after their sun is caused to go supernova. Skaro is back at the beginning of “Asylum of the Daleks” (Season 7, episode 1, first appearance of Clara).

          The Doctor supposedly destroyed all the Daleks during the great war. He meets the last one in season 1 of modern Who which dies at the end. The Daleks are still all over the place in the new series for convoluted reasons.

          You can nitpick my Time Lords reference but I’m just pointing out that the show does find convoluted ways of resolving plots and isn’t really bogged down with continuity.

          • He could’ve been lured there prior to its destruction just as easily as the assumption he is there *after* its destruction :)

            • You’re blowing my mind! :)

              • Yes, I realize that ““Asylum of the Daleks” wasn’t actually episode 1 of season 7 but it kinda feels that way. Another convoluted Doctor Who thing. ;)

                • Timey wimey :D

                  • Nooooooo! Moffat is obviously tying to put that phrase back in the box, so to speak, after it’s abuse all over the internet since his “Blink” episode. Stop it!!!!! You’re making the “War Doctor” exasperated. ;)

                    • haha yes, I loved his “For God’s sake” retort :P

  2. I think the moff has a plan, and I expect that it will pay off big time. I mean season 6 finale I feel did exactly that, all these strands coming together for an ultra awesome finale. But he did suffer from a writers block which I hope was fleshed out during the 7th series which I thought was really crippled by it.

  3. I just recently watched The Deadly Assassin and one of the Time Lords on Gallifrey can definitely be heard to say that after 12 regenerations is death. It’s a Tom Baker episode….. He’s number 4 so I imagine the writers back in the 70′s never envisioned that the show would last this long.

    Moffat will write his way out of it.

    • I know the time lords are able to give more regenerations to people. so maybe in the xmas special he (spoiler!!!) saves galifrey and to thank the doctor they give him more regenerations!

      • Matt Smith received all of River Song’s remaining regenerations. Depending on how that’s muddled, he could have 9 more right then and there, with what’s already been put onscreen.

        • It was never said that matt got all of rivers remaining regenerations, that is just a fan theory that some people think is fact. if it turns out to be current then good prediction on those peoples part, but until then that is just one of several theories.

  4. Yeah, I was forced to watch Saturday’s Strictly Come Dancing (the US remade it as Dancing With The Stars for American readers here who won’t know what Strictly is, which is basically a celebrity version of an old show we had for decades until it got cancelled) and watch Doctor Who later (3am to be exact).

    I wasn’t really surprised that Strictly beat Doctor Who in the ratings, despite Doctor Who airing during Strictly’s usual time and Strictly airing earlier at 6:30pm. Sure, it’s whole-family entertainment but I don’t recall much advertising if any stating what times they were on, so I can imagine a minority tuned in and saw Doctor Who about to start instead and maybe wondered what was going on.

    Comparing the two shows that night and with the added knowledge I’ll state here that I don’t watch either show usually (Strictly always bored me and Who hadn’t been good since the Tennant days), I have to say that for me, Strictly was the more entertaining show because it had more moments that genuinely surprised me and Who had moments that were cool and nicely tied into the times I used to watch (from McCoy up until Tennant with Eccleston being my fave) but overall, they simply passed by with a mildly expressed “that was kinda cool” reaction and nothing more.

    Definitely not the “holy crap, that was amazing!” that I got with the previous two Doctors then. Midway through the episode, I was sort of watching just to get to the end and see how it would conclude rather than being genuinely excited about what was happening.

    I’d give it a 3 out of 5 personally and look forward to seeing my first Christmas episode since the last regeneration (although it’s a shame David Morrisey’s now busy with The Walking Dead and this new show he’s playing the lead in because he played a great Doctor in that one Christmas episode years ago and for the first hour of Capaldi’s Doctor, I’ll be expecting him to break out in expletives and omnishambles thanks to The Thick Of It being brilliant and hilarious and on the nose when it comes to British politics).

    I’m sure a “die-hard” Who fan who’s only been watching since David Tennant took over the role will come along and try to explain how “wrong” I am so I’ll counter that early with the word “OPINIONS” and move along swiftly.

    On a side note, I hope Susanna Reid wins Strictly cause damn, she’s good. Her or the guy who plays Dr Martin Ashford in Casualty, either one is good with me.

    • Oh yeah I understand people not liking it so much. I don’t think anyone here is going to go on some vindictive rampage because you didn’t fanspasm at the event. I really hope we’re all wrong though when it comes to the Regeneration topic, and I’m pretty sure we are, we might have it half right but I think that Moffat will go out of his way to surprise us. If you think back to the “Family of Blood” two part episode in season three (2005 series), you might recall the Chameleon device which can alter the DNA of a being. I’m thinking even that may be capable of altering his DNA to give him more life.

    • Personally I loved it. Of course I also wanted to know how it ends because I had been craving for a more optimistic solution of the Time War for the last 8 years now but I was really blown away by the episode.

      There were two quibbles though:

      1. Although I loved the feel of it, the other 10 doctor and their Tardises popping up to save Galifrey from the Daleks didn’t make much sense at all… that was not fleshed out very well but just thrown in to please the fans of the old show.

      2. I would have loved to see David Bradley as the original Doctor at some point. It was a waste not to put him in there somehow, maybe right after the main titles. He could have had a scene with Jenna Coleman who was around with all doctors in a way. A bit of a waste…the First Doctor should have been in there…

      But these are minor aspects. All and all I was blown away…

  5. I don’t understand the “hate Moffat” bandwagon everyone is on, Smith is better as the Doctor than Tennant was IMO, and the show was far improved when Moffat took over as Showrunner.

    • Sorry, I just don’t see it. I think this “hate Moffat” bandwagon is just your imagination or you trying to rile people up. Moffat has written some of the best modern Doctor Who period, regardless of the Doctor.