Entertainment Television

Sunday 24 March 2019

Pat Stacey: Right wing Doctor Who haters are lying - series is far from failing with Jodie Whittaker

Jodie Whittaker as Doctor Who, with (left to right) Tosin Cole as Ryan, Bradley Walsh as Graham and Mandip Gill as Yasmin (BBC/PA)
Jodie Whittaker as Doctor Who, with (left to right) Tosin Cole as Ryan, Bradley Walsh as Graham and Mandip Gill as Yasmin (BBC/PA)

Pat Stacey

Let’s look at the fake news first, shall we? It goes like this: Doctor Who is in trouble; the ratings have plummeted, they’re down the toilet. Viewers are deserting it in their millions, turned off by too many preachy PC storylines and liberal snowflake virtue signalling about race, gender and equality.

Casting a woman, Jodie Whittaker, in a role that’s been played by men since the series began in 1962 has backfired. It’s turned into a ratings disaster for the BBC, an absolute catastrophe.

This is the agenda being pushed and the lies being peddled by right-wing, pro-Brexit newspapers.

Now, let’s look at the actual news, otherwise known as the truth. It goes like this: Doctor Who is in great shape; better shape, in fact, than at any time since the successful 2005 relaunch with Christopher Eccleston.

Christopher Eccleston played the Doctor when the BBC revived the show in 2005 (BBC/PA)
Christopher Eccleston played the Doctor when the BBC revived the show in 2005 (BBC/PA)

Yes, the viewing figures have dipped by 3m since Whittaker’s first episode, which drew a consolidated audience of 10.95m — the biggest Doctor Who launch since the revival — but history shows that this is what always happens.

As well-regarded websites, including Digital Spy and Den of Geek, have pointed out, the decline is no greater than it was under previous (male) Doctors, and considerably less than under some of them.

Eccleston lost 4m viewers during his first and only season. David Tennant, frequently named as the best loved Doctor of all, shed 3m, the same as Whittaker. Matt Smith’s Doctor said goodbye to 3.5m viewers during his time in the TARDIS.

While it’s true that ratings dropped by no more than 2.5m when Peter Capaldi was playing the Doctor, the reality is that the overall audience for the programme hit its lowest ever point during his divisive tenure. Capaldi’s final season averaged a weekly audience of 5.45m, which wasn’t enough to place it among BBC1’s top 20 programmes.

Peter Capaldi as Doctor Who
Peter Capaldi as Doctor Who

These genuinely worrying viewing figures were what persuaded the BBC that its biggest international money-spinner needed a radical rethink and an injection of fresh talent with fresh ideas for the show.

Whittaker’s average, on the other hand, is 8.55m, which is even better than the 8.05m Tennant pulled in during his most successful season.

Since she came on board, the programme has consistently finished in the upper tier of BBC1’s top 10 shows.

Taking into account the fact that viewing habits have changed drastically since 2005, when there were fewer channels, no Netflix and no BBC iPlayer, and that the terrestrial TV audience across the board has shrunk, the truth is Whittaker is turning out to be one of the most popular Doctors.

Record number of viewers: Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor
Record number of viewers: Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor

Not that you’d believe it if you read certain British papers.

Reading the below-the-line comments on some of these dailies’ websites after a Doctor Who episode is a nauseating experience that leaves you wanting to rinse your eyeballs with Optrex.

It’s like plunging into a sewer of misogyny and racism. Regular complaints tend to include the following: “Too many women. Too many black and brown faces. Too many namby-pamby plots, smuggling in messages about racism, imperialism and inclusiveness. The lefty pinkos at the BBC won’t be happy until the Doctor is played by a one-legged black lesbian wearing a #MeToo T-shirt.”

In the grand scheme of things, the fate of a mere TV series ranks low on the list of priorities. But don’t be fooled: this is The Big Lie in action.

The Big Lie, invented by Hitler, perfected by Goebbels and practised with dismaying success by Trump on his obliging base, is an ingeniously simple concept. Tell an outrageous lie often enough and soon people will begin to accept it as fact.

Well, don’t accept it. Doctor Who is doing just fine without a penis.

Doctor Who is on BBC1 on Sunday at 6.30pm

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