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Audience Response Report on 'Doctor Who' in 1984

Audiences review Peter Davison's final year as the Doctor and Colin Baker's debut.


Not for publication
BBC Broadcasting Research Information Desk

From the BARB Audience Reaction Service

[Reference number] TV/84/66
Thursdays/Fridays, 5th January - 30th March, 6.40 pm, BBC-l.

Producer: John Nathan-Turner

Average Audience: 7.lm
Series AI: 57

In Summary

- There was a mixed but reasonably favourable response to this latest series of Dr. Who.

- The series AI of 57 compares unfavourably with the average taken over individual episodes (65) and both figures are lower than for UK originated drama series Weeks 1-13, which was 73.

- While Dr. Who was still widely regarded as a likeable character, the latest portrayal by Colin Baker was given a rather cool reception by the sample audience.

- The series was most popular with males and those viewers under 34. These groups also showed greatest enthusiasm for another series.

On Other Channels
- Programmes were too varied to produce meaningful average audiences or AIs.

Reactions in detail
(A copy of the computer tabulations is attached; illustrative comment is drawn from viewers' open response).

1. There was a rather mixed reaction to this latest series of Dr. Who. Although the numerical data reveal that a significant proportion of the sample (about 25%) appeared to hold no strong opinions about the programmes, the response of the remainder of respondents revealed some well-defined views. A reasonable majority considered that the series provided a high standard of entertainment suitable for the whole family ('It is a tradition to view Dr. Who in our family'). Among those respondents who reacted enthusiastically to the series was a small but devoted band of viewers who had remained loyal fans of Dr. Who over many years. This group, who sometimes admitted to being 'Dr. Who addicts' had thoroughly enjoyed the story-lines and often commented on the ingenuity of the special effects.

2. 'The whole concept is now outdated and overworked. The stories have become predictable and lack excitement. I'm afraid it has lost its appeal'. This comment by a young male respondent echoes the sentiments expressed by many in the critical minority who comprised about a fifth of the sample audience. An alleged lack of originality in the plots and the 'silly childish' quality of the scripts led some dissatisfied and disappointed viewers to conclude that Dr. Who was now aimed at a very young audience; indeed, more than two fifths of the sample considered that the programme was for children.

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3. Only a small number of respondents made any comments concerning the regeneration episode on March 16th. However, among those who did, the opinion expressed was generally favourable, with one or two viewers considering that it was a 'neat method of making a cast change while keeping the continuity of storyline'. The arrival of Colin Baker as Dr. Who rather late in the series produced a rather cool response from sample members. Less than half were impressed by his portrayal so far; however, one or two of those who had found his performance convincing expressed the view that Mr. Baker had potential to become an excellent Dr. Who because his face was 'not associated with so many other roles and he seems less wishy-washy than others who have played the part'. Respondents who were dissatisfied with Colin Baker's interpretation of Dr. Who (a quarter of the sample) expressed the reasons for their disapproval quite clearly. The new Doctor was felt to be so totally different in character from others who had gone before him that he seemed 'unreal'. In the opinion of his critics, he lacked amiability and was not a very likeable character. In the words of two respondents: 'I find him too aggressive and just not as pleasant as other Doctors'; 'The new Doctor is too stern and doesn't have enough humour'.

4. Asked which was their favourite story in the series, viewers' memories proved to be dim and few respondents were able to recall any episode particularly well. Only the Resurrection of the Daleks received more than one mention; other episodes recalled included: The Planet Of Fire; The Caves of Androzani; The Regeneration and Frontios. There was less difficulty in remembering favourite monsters and villains; the daleks were unrivalled in popularity, with the Master running a poor second. It may be of interest that other favourites recalled included Davros, The Dractators, the militant slugs and the sterileptils.

5. About a fifth of reporting viewers had made a positive decision to stop watching the series. Such respondents (most frequently aged 55+) often remarked that they had found the stories boring and rather repetitive; a few had only stopped watching late in the series because they disliked the 'aggressiveness' of the new Doctor.

6. 55% of the sample audience indicated that they would welcome a further series of Dr. Who; strongest support for the idea came from male viewers and those in the youngest age bracket.

Report prepared by Ann Speakman
Copyright of the BBC
14th June, 1984

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Document Type | Audience Reaction Report

14 June 1984

Document version




In his third and final series as the Doctor, Peter Davison faced enemies old and new. His last adventure, the penultimate of the series, saw him replaced by Colin Baker, who then starred in the concluding story of the season. This document shows the audience's reaction to the series as a whole and to this change of leading man in particular.

Did you know?

Long-term fans of 'Doctor Who' might be able to decipher the true names of the aliens cited in this document. The Tractators had appeared in the story 'Frontios', the militant slugs were the Gastropods, seen in Colin Baker's debut adventure 'The Twin Dilemma', while the Terileptils had featured in 'The Visitation' that had been broadcast two years earlier.



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