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.
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.