The Genesis of Doctor Who | Creating a science fiction hero
WRITTEN DOCUMENT 1963
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British Broadcasting Corporation
AN AUDIENCE RESEARCH REPORT
(Week 48) [File number] VR/63/668
1: An Unearthly Child
Designer: Peter Brachacki
Produced by Verity Lambert
Directed by Waris Hussein
Saturday, 23rd November, 1963.
5.15-5.40 pm, Television Service
1. Size of audience (based on results of the Survey of Listening and Viewing.)
It is estimated that the audience was 9%. Programmes on ITV at the time were seen by 8%.
2. Reaction of audience (based on questionnaires completed by a sample of the audience. This sample, 124 in number, is the 12% of the Viewing Panel who saw the broadcast.)
The reactions of this sample of the audience were distributed as follows:-
giving a REACTION INDEX of 63, close to the current averages for television drama (62) and children's programmes (64).
3. 'Tonight's new serial seemed to be a cross between Wells' Time Machine and a space-age Old Curiosity Shop, with a touch of Mack Sennett comedy. It was in the grand style of the old pre-talkie films to see a dear old Police Box being hurtled through space and landing on Mars or somewhere. I almost expected to see a batch of Keystone Cops emerge on to the Martian landscape. Anyway, it was all good, clean fun and I look forward to meeting the nice Doctor's planetary friends next Saturday, whether it be in the ninth or ninety-ninth century A.D.' wrote a retired Naval Officer speaking, it would seem, for a good many viewers in the sample who regarded this as an enjoyable piece of escapism, not to be taken too seriously, of course, but none the less entertaining and, at times, quite thrilling - 'taken as fantasy it was moat enjoyable. I presume it is meant for the kiddies but nevertheless I found it entertaining at Saturday teatime and look forward to seeing the Cave of Skulls in the next episode'. Some viewers disliked the play, either because they had a blind spot for science fiction of any kind or because they considered this a rather poor example, being altogether too far-fetched and ludicrous, particularly at the end - 'a police box with flashing beacon travelling through interstellar space - what claptrap!' Too childish for adults, it was at the same time occasionally felt to be unsuitable for children of a more timid disposition and, for one reason or another, proved something of a disappointment to a sizeable number of those reporting. Generally speaking, however, viewers in the sample thought this a good start to a series which gave promise of being very entertaining - the children, they were sure, would love it (indeed, there is every evidence that children viewing with adults in the sample found it very much to their taste) but it was, at the same time, written imaginatively enough to appeal to adult minds and would, no doubt, prove to be quite intriguing as it progressed.
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4. The acting throughout was considered satisfactory, several viewers adding that it was pleasant to see William Hartnell again in the somewhat unusual role (for him) of Dr. Who, while the radiophonic effects were apparently highly successful in creating the appropriate 'out of this world' atmosphere, the journey through space being particularly well done.
Copyright Audience Research Department of the BBC
30th December, 1963.
- DOCUMENT ENDS -
Document Type | Audience Reaction Report
30 December 1963
Back in 1962, a report on the viability of science fiction as a genre for BBC drama had concluded that it could never guarantee a large TV audience. 'Doctor Who' was inspired by that report and in this document from the BBC Audience Research Department we can finally see whether there was any truth in those early findings. As expected, those who liked the show seem passionate about it, while those who didn't like it appear almost as determined.
The first episode of 'Doctor Who' attracted a modest 4.4 million viewers, but the ratings did rise slowly as the four-part serial progressed. It was with the second story, however, that the series began to gain an ardent following. The introduction of those perennial villains the Daleks added over 6 million viewers to the ratings.
A report into whether the BBC should make science fiction drama.
A report into the kind of stories BBC science fiction dramas might handle.
CE Webber and Sydney Newman outline the format for the new 'Doctor Who' series.
A summary of ideas for a new science fiction BBC TV series.
A preview of the first 'Doctor Who' episode, 'An Unearthly Child'.
How 'Radio Times' recorded the first episode of 'Doctor Who' in the TV listings.
What the viewers thought of the first episode of 'Doctor Who'.
A gallery of images showing the original stars of 'Doctor Who'.
The people behind the scenes who brought us TV's greatest science fiction hero.
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