Doctor Who is a show that many have grown up with, whether it’s the more recent version of the show, relaunched in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, or the original series, which started in 1963 and ran until 1989. For many, the show has become a family staple, and having watched it as a child, adults are now watching with their children.
While still undoubtedly very popular, there’s no denying that in recent seasons, viewing figures have been in decline. In season 9, the BBC saw figures drop below the 4 million mark for the first time this run, and even the season 9 premiere only drew 4.6 million viewers in the U.K. The drop hasn’t gone unnoticed by current Doctor Peter Capaldi, either, who says that paying attention to viewing figures is a necessary part of the job.
Here is what Capaldi told Newsweek, regarding the matter of Doctor Who‘s ratings:
“I’d rather not—but it’s the way the business is. I think overnight ratings are a thing of the past. You can’t really measure the success of the show by its overnight ratings, which is what the papers do. But there’s still a place for families to sit down and watch the show—that’s still a great, fun thing to do. That’s what the show’s success has been based on. That has to be protected.”
And the way Capaldi wants to protect the ‘family viewing’ aspect of the show? Well, in a criticism of the BBC, Capaldi blames the haphazard scheduling as the reason for the waning viewership, and, declaring that they “took their eye off the ball,” he says they need to find a regular slot for the show to ensure families don’t miss out.
“If you’re going to have a family show, I think you have to build up a little ritual around it—and that ritual usually starts with having it on at the same time [every week]. Even I didn’t know what time it was on because it got later and later and later. The BBC is an incredible organization, but…sometimes people there think, That’s looking after itself. And it’s not being looked after. I think maybe their eye was taken off the ball, or the show was seen as a thing they could just push around. It’s not. It’s a special thing.”
Interestingly, Capaldi doesn’t attribute dwindling numbers to the show’s writing, and he continues to have nothing but praise for showrunner Steven Moffat, who will step down at the end of season 10, in 2017. Calling him an astonishing talent, Capaldi is also very aware of the toll that running a show like Doctor Who can take on a person, and jokes that Moffat is leaving before he “has a heart attack.” As for his own future, Capaldi continues to be vague. After reports that he would leave the TARDIS at the same time as Moffat, he recently revealed that the BBC have asked him to stay on, but that he has yet to make up his mind. Capaldi confirms that again, and also adds that he’s had talks with Chris Chibnall, who will succeed Moffat ready for season 11.
“I love doing Doctor Who. Obviously things are going to change with it and I might want to carry on and see what that’s like—or I might not. It’s a very difficult decision to make, as Steven says, when it’s time to say goodbye. I’ve not made that decision yet. I think [Chibnall] is great, he’s got great ideas. I don’t really think any of us are certain what’s going to happen in two years’ time.”
The next Doctor Who episode to arrive on our screens will be the 2016 Christmas Special, which seems a long way off right now. At present, the Doctor is still without a companion since the departure of Clara Oswald, and it’s not yet been revealed if a new companion will be unveiled at Christmas or not, but Capaldi does confirm that casting is underway, and when asked if (as rumored), the show is looking at actors from a diverse range of ethinic backgrounds, he gives an emphatic “Yes, definitely.”
“The thing about Doctor Who is, it’s at its best when it reflects the culture and the times that it’s in. Because it’s a very successful show, sometimes it just digs its own groove of success, and I think it’s time for us to be more recognizable as being in the 21st century.”
Adding fuel to the fire, just because he can, Capaldi also reignites the long running battle over whether subsequent Doctor incarnations could be a different race, or even a different gender, to the usual white male castings we have had.
“The world’s in a tough place at the moment and the Doctor is a hero for all times. So I think he, or she, or it—because he’s not a human being—should reflect the times. But it also has to be somebody who works within the creative hub of the show.”
Whether the Doctor could ever be a woman or not is one of the most divisive arguments among fans of the show – but any future decisions pertaining to that could have a much stronger effect on ratings than the BBC schedule.
Doctor Who will return in December of 2016. Season 10 will air in Spring 2017.