Classic Series New Series

Doctor Who’s popularity over five years

If there were any doubts over what a slick machine Doctor Who has become under Steven Moffat and his revolving-door production team, have a gander at this graph of search terms over the last five years, tracking the relative popularity (in Google search frequency) of Chris Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi.

Granted, this isn’t strictly a measure of their popularity solely in terms of Doctor Who, but all of the peaks in these charts represent some big new from the programme. The first heralds Smith’s arrival, with subsequent high points for Tennant’s departure, the 50th anniversary and Smith’s final episode. However, one of the peaks bows the rest out of the water: the announcement of Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor.

It’s a phenomenal response to the news, albeit with an absolutely vast BBC campaign behind it generating unprecedented interest in Capaldi’s arrival. It’s debatable what we can take from this, but I think it tells us a lot about how important Doctor Who is to the BBC – and how much of a part the internet has to play in the continuing popularity of its greatest hits. Having said that, we can see that the programme has made significant year-on-year gains.

To be fair Doctor Who lends itself particularly well to this medium but the fact the announcement regarding Capaldi dwarfs the announcement of Smith by a factor of three suggests the Beeb has recognised – and very much courted the power of the web and social media.

What else? Well, it’s interesting to note that Tennant tracks ahead of Smith at virtually all times, even after Tennant vacates the TARDIS. Eccleston, perhaps unsurprisingly doesn’t have a huge volume of search engine hits, nor does Capaldi until he gets the Sonic Screwdriver.

As Smith’s career has arguably been driven mainly by Who – and as he was The Doctor during the BBC’s harnessing of the net in pushing its shows – let’s have a look at how the respective actors have done around the world.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that English-speaking countries have taken to the show, but the breadth of the international popularity is as surprising as Ian Levine maintaining a dignified silence on Twitter. South America, south-east Asia and Scandinavia all seem to have gone timey-wimey too.

Meanwhile, searching by news illustrates how social media and the web have overtaken traditional news sources – Smith’s arrival easily outstrips Capaldi’s. No Doctors have any meaningful coverage outside of English-speaking countries in news searches either.

Meanwhile Youtube searches indicate that the series remains popular across the board, with the unusual exception of Eccleston – perhaps he’s too long ago for the internet generation to get a handle on, or perhaps his relative lack of episodes meant here not as much penetration – from Tennant onwards there’s been a deliberate tactic to target online video with mini-episodes, trailers and exclusive content.

Meanwhile the surviving classic Doctors are fairly well represented. Colin’s spell in the jungle, Sylv’s Hobbit excursion, Paul’s Night of the Doctor and Tom’s return in the 50th special all generated notable peaks, thought it’s interesting to note that they all maintain a certain level of interest.

Also, nice to see the departed Doctors are still popular on Teh Internets. A pleasant reminder that, here or not, they live on across the web.

Lastly, a reminder of the power of memes – and why you will always hear these bloody catchphrases.

Classic Series

Caves and Twins: The TV Movie

For some reason I decided to watch the TV Movie – mainly as I reckon I’d not seen it this century. Like all ming-mongs do, I decided to go back and watch it, well, because it’s Doctor Who.

Obviously I didn’t watch it without listlessly browsing the internet at the same time, so I live tweeted it. I got a bit of feedback form Hellyer, so there’s the occasional bit of interplay.

However, it’s mainly what I thought of it – what occurred to me at any given time during the 90-odd minutes of running time.

How does it hold up? Well, very very badly is the answer. Praise the Lord that there wasn’t a resulting series, because if you’ve seen the calvacade of dross produced by various writers employed by Philip Segal it will have you running into the arms of Chris Chibnall.

Incidentally, Philip Segal’s role is an interesting one to ponder at this time. Even though some of instincts were correct and others woefully off-kilter thanks to years – at a guess – of working on dross like SeaQuest DSV, it’s fairly clear that he was pretty much the only one looking out for Doctor Who and believing in the series in those wilderness years. I’d buy him a beer.

What works? Well, McGann has some good moments, as does Eric Roberts. Geoffrey Sax has some deft touches too and Mathew Jacobs manages to salvage a few nice lines from the group-thunk nonsense that was left after the BBC, Amblin, Fox, Universal, ABC, NBC, WWE, WCW, NASA, BNFL, ITV and Gary Frigging Russell had their way with it.

Overall, however, I think Daphne Ashbrook does best in the TVM. No doubt Big Finish will be commissioning a 400-disc box set written, produced, scored, directed and staring Barnaby Edwards and Nick Briggs soon. And I might even listen to one or two.

Caves and Twins – the TVM

I’m watching the TV Movie. What can possibly go wrong? It’s a request my brother should never have granted.


Who sniffs a Jelly Baby before eating it? And with a cup of tea?

The bit where Sylv is frantically pushing TARDIS buttons console is so good it made up most of the TV trails for the TVM. And little else

Ah, a gun fight between San Francisco triads. If that doesn’t scream ‘Doctor Who’ I don’t know what does

Why – apart form idiotic exposition and ‘injured’ acting would the Doctor be saying ‘timing malfunction to a hoodlum he’s only just met?

That’s a lovely introduction for Grace, though. Wonderful cleavage too.

‘I need a beryllium atomic clock!’ Uh-huh. I know this is inviting scoff, but Sylv is absolutely terrible in this. Is he even acting?

That scream is pretty amusing though. All Docs should do that just before they regenerate. #tvm

Surely Bruce the ambulance driver should have been called Seth Terma or something? #tvm

Will Sasso being a comedy fattie. Actually bits of this are OK. Oh, Frankenstein – is there a really subtle metaphor I’ve missed here? #tvm

Walking down the corridor humming Puccini is nice – and the mirrors in the old wing of the hospital. But Who Am Argh! is crap #tvm

Lee going through the Doc’s belongings is nice. And someone is going to a fancy dress party as Tom Baker? #tvm

Great murder by The Master. They should have played is Dudley Simpson leitmotif though #tvm

Ah, the American health system. Evil through and through. This would never happen under Obamacare #tvm

@james_hellyer [Eric Roberts] gets it in the same way that Graham Crowden and Paul Darrow did

I really hate the thing about the Doctor knowing everyone’s future and/or their deepest desires. He just comes across as a sex pest #tvm

And now it looks like he’s trying to take his trousers off in the back of Grace’s car #tvm

Grace Holloway drives a Range Rover. And Bruce owns a pair of aviators and a massive leather trench coat #tvm

The nurse doesn’t see anything odd about Bruce peeling off his finger nail and flicking it onto her work? Ridiculous #tvm

I also hate it that the Doctor goes around moodying famous figures from history, like some desperate time-travelling starfucker #tvm

Murray Gold must have been taking notes when watching this. Bad ‘magical’ Hollywood-lite music #tvm

McGann’s really short. #tvm

I really dislike that ‘these shoes fit perfectly’ stuff. It just comes across as try-hard kookiness. #tvm

Why would Lee be bothered about who Genghis Khan was? Or this weird backstory The Master concocts? Didn’t he just threaten to kill him? #tvm

Well, at least the cloister room doesn’t have a fucking pterodactyl or vortisaur in it #tvm

Oh dear, the plot’s kicking in. Things are about to take a turn for the worst. #tvm

So, TARDISes are designed to open their power source when a human eye looks into a blinding beam of light hidden beneath a staff? #tvm

How long was the Doc kissing Grace for? Why did he remember who he was or know the Master’s plans? ACK! The crippling exposition! #tvm

The Doctor drinks tea. BECAUSE HE”S BRITISH. #tvm

Midnight huh? Neat dramatic coincidence. ‘By 4.37pm next Friday this planet will be pulled inside out’ #tvm

‘…always seeing patterns in things that aren’t there’. The Eighth Doctor is obviously a climate-change denier with that comment #tvm

Eric Roberts is great in that bit I’ll give him that. The transference line and ‘I don’t like it!’ – Ainley would’ve done it better tho #tvm

All of the bike cop bit is quite well done by all concerned too. “He’s British” explains everything. #tvm

I prefer the ambulance chase in Spearhead From Space. And the bit where the Doc is strapped to a table in Mark of the Rani #tvm

I finally meet the right guy and he’s from another planet? Where on Earth did that come from? Apart from a different draft. #tvm

The constant supply of coincidences is surely a record – the clock; the guest list, the ambulance – even in Doctor Who #tvm

They tell cock jokes on Gallifrey? Quite a good line though. That professor dude looks like a paedophile #tvm

The Master has jizzed on those security guards? ‘Liven things up’ is another Doctorish thing though. #tvm

Phew. It’s one of those ‘slow release’ fire hoses. Thanks God for that. #tvm

The universe hangs by such a delicate thread of coincidences. That’s a stroke of fucking luck, eh Doc? #tvm

That’s a really crapulous Scooby Doo bit of throwaway, desperate attempted humour. The pseudoscience bit quite good tho #thebikebit #tvm

‘are you any good at setting alarm clocks?’ Eh? Scary black-eyed Grace is good though. #tvm

Yes, I can’t see anything wrong with buddying up with this green-eyed, possessing, sadomasochistic pervert #tvm

Bit of a design flaw, that. #onlyhumanscanopengallifreyantimecapsules #tvm

There’s some nice directorial touches here by Geoffrey ‘Tenor’ Sax in the back-and-forth between the Master and Doctor #tvm

Lucky Grace know how’s to rewire a time machine #tvm

McGann sounds a bit like Colin Baker there. Wouldn’t it have been fun if he’d been recast? #tvm

It would’ve been great if Pertwee / Delgado or Davison / Ainley had had a punch-up #tvm

[replying to Hellyer’s observation that the Doctor doesn’t try too hard to rescue the Master form the Eye of Harmony] Yeah, his hearts aren’t in that. At least he doesn’t cry like Captain Emo #tvm

Be great if the TARDIS brought back the Master as well. Big fat reset switch. Better get used to it. #tvm

That punch of the TARDIS console is McGann’s best moment #tvm

The music swell, the fireworks, the kiss. I expect it rankles because I’m a sad fanboy who’s never had sex, rather than it being shit. #tvm

Oh no, not again. Well, quite. Chances are I’ll never watch that again. #tvm