2018 was a pretty big year for science fiction television, despite a few bumps in the road. Arguably the year’s biggest genre event was Doctor Who Season 11, which introduced Jodie Whittaker as the franchise’s first female Doctor. For all the semi-controversy that followed that casting, Season 11 was a huge success. It not only averaged better stats than Peter Capaldi’s final season in the U.S. and UK, but it also beat out other Doctors’ premiere seasons.
When the tallies are added up for Nielsen’s Live+7 delayed viewing stats, Jodie Whittaker’s first Doctor Who season has averaged around 1.6 million viewers through its first eight episodes in the U.S.. (Since its finale just aired, those totals are not available for the final two eps.) That’s up 20% from Season 10 averages of 1.3 million viewers per episode. What’s more, the need to watch episodes live has dramatically increased, with the Live+Same Day viewership jumping up 47% over last season.
In the UK, Jodie Whittaker’s advantage is even more noteworthy, if because the audiences there are much larger on the whole where Doctor Who is concerned. There, Season 11 episodes averaged 8.1 million viewers across the first nine, while Peter Capaldi’s farewell season only averaged around 5.4 million viewers through its twelve episodes. (None of the totals here account for Christmas specials.) In fact, only two Season 10 episodes were watched by more people than Season 11’s least-viewed installment. That’s quite a boost.
Those overall viewership gains indicate that Doctor Who was also having bigger success in certain key demographics, and BBC America reported 46% spikes in Live+Same Day viewings for adults in the all-important 18-49 demographic. For adults 25-54, the sci-fi icon saw a 32% increase, which is still huge. Understandably, the series’ female viewership went up a few notches from last season to the current one, and it’s doubled its Season 10 numbers in female viewers aged 18-34.
As hinted at earlier, Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor has experienced the kind of first-season success that no Doctor has had since the franchise was brought back in 2005. The average number of viewers who watched Season 11 totaled greater than those for the debut seasons of Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor, David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor and Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor.
Time(y) will tell(y) if Whittaker’s sophomore season as the Time Lord will continue ranking above her predecessors in the role. Of course, it’s definitely worth noting that up until very recently, Doctor Who aired on Saturday nights instead of Sundays, which definitely had an impact on who was watching weekly.
Because it’s one of the rare modern TV series that actually boosted its totals from one season to the next, Doctor Who is being touted as the “fastest-growing scripted series” in the U.S. in 2018, at least by BBC America. That’s good news for everyone who fell in love with Jodie Whittaker’s quirky and fun-loving Doctor in Season 11. Let’s hope that all the love and goodwill for Number Thirteen stays strong, since Doctor Who‘s next season isn’t set to air until 2020.
The finale is behind us, even if its central villain might not be, but we DO still have at least one more bit of Doctor Who to enjoy before Season 12 gets here. The New Years special will air on BBC America on January 1, 2019. For before and after that, though, the rest of fall TV and the upcoming midseason shows have much to offer those in need of quality TV.