Jodie Whittaker is taking her final turn as the good Doctor this season. She’s expected to retire her TARDIS use sooner than later and regenerate for good, handing the proverbial torch over to someone else for the future. But based on this season’s ratings, there is starting to be a question over whether this franchise can maintain enough interest going forward. The fourth episode of the season, the 13th for Doctor Who, once again continued a trend of decreasing ratings for the series despite the critical reaction remaining more than positive.
The last Doctor Who episode, which aired on November 21st was “Village of the Angels”. By and large, the reception to the episode was in line with what critics have thought about Jodie Whittaker and her run as the lead in the show. That is to say, more than positive. The stories have maintained and there’s been a sense of legit awe around some of the ways director James Magnus Stone has helmed three of the first four episodes. But the rating for this episode continued something of a precipitous decline for the series which could be in danger of losing its core audience.
The overnight ratings for Doctor Who in this last episode were 3.45 million which was down nearly 10% from the 3.76 million the previous episode. And the decline from the start of the season is even more drastic with “The Halloween Apocalypse” ringing in at 4.43 viewers. In some ways, from a ratings perspective, this was probably to be expected for this season of Doctor Who which averaged overnight ratings of 4.15 million per episode. It wasn’t like this was burning a hole through television sets worldwide. And for what it’s worth, the consolidated numbers did tick up to an average of 5.4 million per episode. Season 13 is too new for us to have a handle on that latter data right now. But the early data points do tell a story of a series that is struggling.
Again, from a critical perspective, this season has seemed to have been a success. The AV Club called this last episode “everything you could want from a Doctor Who story” and The Guardian called it “exemplary”. From the start, even the Rotten Tomatoes aggregated score for this season, “Flux” is sitting at 88%. So from a story and cinematic standpoint, this season has more than lived up to expectations. But if the franchise is in decline, there could be more significant changes on the way.
Look, it’s hard to call a show that’s been on the air, in some form, for the better part of the last 56 years “struggling”. In fact, it’s been pretty much the opposite over the course of its decades (and decades) long run. It’s been one of the true outliers in the history of television, continually “reinventing” itself with new Doctors who also adhere to many of the same philosophies around the story. Jodie Whittaker’s run as the first female doctor has even shown the series’ willingness to adapt and change further. She is set to finish that turn at the end of the season with no word on who will take her place (even Whittaker doesn’t know). But will these latest numbers scare off future versions from hitting the air at all?