Jodie Whittaker's Thirteenth Doctor has driven Doctor Who to its highest ratings since 2010. Doctor Who season 11 proved to be a time of great change for the long-running science fiction series. Not only did Whittaker replace Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, becoming the show's first female lead in the process, but Chris Chibnall also replaced Steven Moffat as showrunner, bringing an entirely fresh approach to the franchise and a new group of companions along with him.
Whittaker's debut run was largely well received by both fans and critics and the actress herself attracted plenty of acclaim for her performance as the iconic Time Lord. Likewise, the new companion dynamic proved a successful combination and Bradley Walsh's Graham was arguably the highlight of the entire season. Season 11 wasn't without fault however, and many fans didn't enjoy the distinct lack of villains or the fact that the Thirteenth Doctor failed to encounter any returning enemies, monsters or characters from the show's history.
Despite these issues, it appears that Doctor Who season 11 did enough to reverse the ratings dip of recent years, posting the highest figures since Matt Smith's debut run in 2010. According to BARB (via BT), the latest season of Doctor Who achieved an average viewership of 7.7 million, taking into account both live numbers and streams over the seven day period following the episode airing on TV. This puts Whittaker's first season fifth overall in average ratings since Doctor Who returned in 2005.
It is perhaps worth taking into account that these figures are somewhat skewed by the massive anticipation for the season premiere. As the first female to play the Doctor, there was immense curiosity surrounding Whittaker's introductory episode and this resulted in a bumper audience of over 10 million. Naturally, not all of those viewers intended to stick around for the long haul and the season finale was, also according to BARB, seen by 6.48 million. This contrast contributes to a somewhat misleading average figure, but the drop-off was not entirely unexpected and the ratings for the season finale still show a marked improvement compared to recent seasons.
All things considered, the figures add weight to the argument that Whittaker has had a positive impact on Doctor Who and while there may be some discord among fans with regards to stories and villains, it's clear that the show is now moving in the right direction. Interestingly, after this year's New Year's Day special, Team TARDIS won't be returning until 2020. Whether this will increase fans' appetite and boost ratings or kill the buzz around the new Doctor and cause viewers to lose interest, only time will tell.
Doctor Who returns with "Resolution" New Year's Day on BBC.
Source: BARB (via BT)