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.

General TV stuff New Series

Distinctly Doctor Who-themed political broadcast for Labour Party

Oddly enough, there’s a party political broadcast floating about the web at the moment starring Sean Pertwee – son of Jon, who was a big mate of Jim Callaghan – and boasting a voiceover by none other than David Tennant.

As if to underscore the Who connection, Pertwee even quotes his father:

My father always said “Don’t give up.”

“Show resolve,” he said. He was so right.

Pertwee is presenting a fairly unsubtle metaphor in this election broadcast for Labour, but it’s a polished, and gently powerful message in a good-looking broadcast that brings to mind Hugh Hudson’s films for Labour in 1987.

There’s been something of an explosion in Doctorly support for Labour recently, with Peter Davison stating that he ‘tremble[s]’ at the idea of a Tory government; David Tennant calling David Cameron ‘terrifying’; and Steven Moffat claiming ‘stuff would be s**t’ under the Tories.

There’s also some recent stuff about The Beast Below containing an anti-Tory message; RTD has made his anti-Conservative feelings known on several occasions; and Andrew Cartmel and Sylvester McCoy recently suggested that their era was anti-Thatcher. And don’t forget the left-wing Dalek.

For his part, Gordon Brown says Tennant is favourite Doctor (well, it was going to be either him or McCoy wasn’t it?).

Extraordinary stuff. Of course, actors and creatives naturally lean to the Left, and if Doctor Who isn’t a show that revels in left-wing, or at least liberal, ethics then I don’t know what does. There’s a long-running debate as to whether there are any Tory Doctors, with the Third mentioned most frequently, though this has always struck me as unlikely.

The Doctor Who Forum’s politics thread currently shows a heavy bias against the Conservatives in a poll on likely voting behaviour of those on the board, which poses some rather chicken-and-egg kind of questions.

What would The Doctor make of it all? It’s tempting to imagine Hartnell, wildly off-script and taking advantage of time constraints in 1964 urging ‘all of you at home’ to vote for the pipe-smoking chap. Then again, with Billy’s habit of fluffing names, he’d probably end up backing Herman Walton.

Sean Pertwee and David Tennant in The Road Ahead