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Audience Research Report: 'Spearhead from Space'

Viewers share their thoughts on Jon Pertwee's first 'Doctor Who' story.


British Broadcasting Corporation


(Week 1)

Spearhead from Space, by Robert Holmes. Part 1
Designer: Paul Allen
Producer: Derrick Sherwin
Director: Derek Martinus
Saturday, 3rd January, 1970 5.15-5.40 pm, BBC 1

1. Size of audience (based on results of the Survey of Listening and Viewing)
It is estimated that the audience for this broadcast was 16.6% of the United Kingdom population. Programmes on ITV at the time were seen by 12.3%. There was no transmission on BBC 2.

2. Reaction of audience (based on questionnaires completed by 200 members of the Viewing Panel who saw all or most of the broadcast).

The reactions of this sample of the audience were distributed as follows: -
A+ = 5%
A = 25%
B = 54%
C = 13%
C- = 3%

giving a REACTION INDEX of 54, equal to the average of the previous series.

3. Reaction to this first episode of the new Dr. Who series can hardly be described as enthusiastic but the majority of the reporting sample were clearly quite satisfied with it. It was perhaps early days to judge, most would say, but at least this introductory episode seemed up to standard and if the story so far merely 'set the scene' and, rather neatly and quite convincingly introduced the 'new' Dr. Who, there was every indication that, once under way, the story would develop into the usual quite diverting 'science-fictionish escapist' tale they had come to expect of the series. A few (but very few) admitted that they never had anytime for this 'childish rubbish', while a considerable number remarked that although a new Dr. Who series was not unwelcome and this first episode had its appeal, compared with the series it replaced, 'Star Trek', it seemed naive, and, to them, less satisfying. 'Hardly an adequate substitute for Star Trek, and by comparison rather childish. But time will tell, and it's good enough in its own way'. Altogether the consensus of opinion seemed to be that this new series gave every indication of becoming a Dr. Who adventure in the expected tradition - and certainly (many added) it appealed very much to children.

4. There was little additional comment on either acting or production but both appear to have been considered satisfactory and there was some comment to the effect that Jon Pertwee had made a most acceptable and satisfactory 'new' Dr. Who.

5. Comment by, or on behalf of children viewing seemed to indicate that most found this introductory episode very much to their taste. The new Dr. Who appears to have been accepted without question, except by some very young viewers, and the episode found 'most exciting'. A number (of all ages) were disappointed to find Dr. Who operating on earth among 'ordinary people' - 'I like it best when Dr. Who lands on a planet and meets monsters and things' (Boy, aged 9) - while others declared flatly that in their opinion 'it wasn't nearly as good as 'Star Trek'. However, most of these would go on to say that, even so, the programme 'wasn't too bad', and only a few in the 14/15 age bracket had no time for what they described as 'this boringly childish programme'.

Copyright of the BBC
Audience Research Department
27th February, 1970

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Document Type | Audience Reaction Report

27 February 1970

Document version




The opening story from the seventh series of 'Doctor Who' is reviewed by a sample of viewers. The first to be broadcast in colour, this adventure also revealed a new approach to the ongoing narrative as the Doctor found himself exiled to Earth by his own people. As a result, there would be no trips to alien worlds that year, much to the disappointment of some viewers.

Did you know?

To adapt production for colour broadcast, 'Doctor Who' had been off air for six months. At the time, this was the longest gap in transmission since the series began. The BBC decided to try out a new import from the USA that summer - 'Star Trek' - and from that point onwards 'Doctor Who' would often be compared unfavourably to its new, more expensive-looking rival.


Robert Holmes
Derek Martinus
Derrick Sherwin

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