Rating Doctor Who, post “reboot,” episode 1

Maybe it was because my wife had gotten me to watch Love Actually the night before, but I found the romance aspect of The Return of Doctor Mysterioso, the 2016 Doctor Who Christmas special, more compelling than the “aliens attack Earth on Christmas” aspect.

Come to think of it, there was not much Christmas in the episode either.

The lack of Christmas in a “Christmas episode” may explain why this episode has an IMDB rating of 7.7, lower than the average Christmas episode rating of 8.1 (n=12 since the 2005 “reboot”), and why its AI score (Appreciation Index, the BBC version of the Nielsen ratings) was 82, tying it for the lowest Christmas episode rating with Last Christmas (2014) and The Husbands of River Song (2015); the average Christmas episode AI score is 84.1, though the range is quite narrow (82-87).

Regardless, after a year-long hiatus Doctor Who is back; Series 10 will debut in April 2017. In the interim, I entertained myself by watching old episodes and TARDISArchives reviews, which got me thinking…

Which of the 131 Doctor Who episodes (115 Series episodes, 12 Christmas episodes, three 10th Doctor specials [Planet of the Dead, The Waters of Mars, The End of Time: Part 2], and The Day of the Doctor [50th anniversary]), nine Series’ and four Doctors have been the most (and least) admired since Rose first aired on March 26, 2005?

To answer these questions, I collected three data points for each episode: its AI score, its IMDB rating and the number of IMDB users who have rated the episode (“user-raters”). The AI score is an integer (0-100) expressing how a sample of British viewers felt about the episode when it first aired. IMDB ratings are a weighted average of 0-10 integer user ratings. For AI scores and IMDB ratings, the higher the value, the more admired the episode was. All IMDB data were current as of December 28, 2016.

The presence of the War Doctor between Paul McGann’s 8th Doctor and Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor complicates the numbering, but I will use the generally-accepted numbering of Eccleston as the 9th Doctor, David Tennant 10th, Matt Smith 11th and Peter Capaldi 12th.

OK! Enough table-setting: here are the results…

Individual episodes. The average AI rating is 85.1, ranging from 76 to 91 (standard deviation [SD]=2.7). For comparison, most episodes in the “classic” era of Doctor Who (1963-89) had AI ratings in the 50’s and 60’s, suggesting either that the perceived quality of the show has increased over time, that the modern audience is a self-selected group of Doctor Who fans, or some combination of the two.

The average IMDB score is 8.2 (SD=0.8), ranging from 6.2-9.8, and the average number of user-raters is 3,663 (SD=1,489), though this is skewed by two episodes with more than 12,000 user-raters. The median number of user-raters is 3,437, with 90 episodes (68.7%) having between 3,000 and 4,999 user-raters.

Table 1: Most- and least-admired Doctor Who episodes (2005-16) when first aired

Title Series-Episode Doctor AI Score
Journey’s End 4-13 10 91
The Stolen Earth 4-12 10 91
Forest of the Dead 4-9 10 89
Doomsday 2-13 10 89
Silence in the Library 4-8 10 89
Asylum of the Daleks 7a-1 11 89
The Parting of the Ways 1-13 9 89
The Big Bang 5-13 11 89
The End of Time: Part Two 10th Doctor Specials 10 89
14 Episodes 3 – 50th Anniversary 10 (8), 11 (6) 88
13 Episodes 1,8-10 12 (11), 9 (2) 82
World War III 1-5 9 81
The Long Game 1-7 9 81
The Woman Who Lived 9-6 12 81
Heaven Sent 9-11 12 80
The Unquiet Dead 1-3 9 80
Sleep No More 9-9 12 78
Rose 1-1 9 76
Love & Monsters 2-10 10 76
The End of the World 1-2 9 76

According to Table 1 above, it took some time for British audiences to warm to the “reboot,” as seven of the 13 Series 1 episodes rank in the bottom 22 in AI score. Indeed, the first two episodes—Rose and The End of the World—are tied for the lowest AI score (76) with the forgettable Series 2 episode Love & Monsters; five of the first six episodes aired are in the bottom nine. These data also suggest a severe drop-off in initial episode appeal with the 12th Doctor: 14 of his 27 episodes rank in the bottom 22 in AI score.

At the other extreme, four of the five episodes with the highest AI score came as the 10th Doctor’s song was ending: the two-part Series 4 finale (The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End; each 91) and the two-part introduction of River Song (Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead; 89). The top nine also include four other “finale” episodes: The Parting of the Ways (9th Doctor’s exit), Doomsday (part two of Rose Tyler’s exit), The End of Time: Part Two (10th Doctor’s exit) and The Big Bang (2nd part of the two-part Series 5 finale). The first episode of Series 7a, Asylum of the Daleks, rounds out the top nine.

While AI scores suggest how British audiences felt about Doctor Who episodes as they aired, the IMDB ratings (for all their flaws) in Table 2 below reveal how a broader audience (those who take the time to rate a Doctor Who episode, anyway) have come to view episodes over time, after they have been watched and re-watched, shared with others, and discussed at length.

Table 2: Doctor Who episodes (2005-16) with the highest and lowest IMDB ratings

Title Series-Episode Doctor IMDB Rating # User-Raters
Blink 3-10 10 9.8 12,881
Heaven Sent 9-11 12 9.6 5,090
Forest of the Dead 4-9 10 9.4 5,230
The Day of the Doctor 50th Anniv 10/11 9.4 14,050
Doomsday 2-13 10 9.3 5,127
Silence in the Library 4-8 10 9.3 5,033
Vincent and the Doctor 5-10 11 9.3 5,935
The Girl in the Fireplace 2-4 10 9.3 6,394
5 Episodes* 1,5-7a 10 (3), 11 (2) 9.2 4,069-4,687
4 Episodes 1,3,8 9 (2), 12 (1), 10 (1) 7.1 3,207-3,603
The Idiot’s Lantern 2-7 10 7.0 3,388
Victory of the Daleks 5-3 11 6.9 3,328
The Lazarus Experiment 3-6 10 6.8 3,220
The Curse of the Black Spot 6-3 11 6.8 3,092
In the Forest of the Night 8-10 12 6.4 2,901
Sleep No More 9-9 12 6.3 2,460
Love & Monsters 2-10 10 6.3 4,172
Fear Her 2-11 10 6.2 3,652

 * Journey’s End, The Big Bang, The Name of the Doctor, A Good Man Goes to War, The Family of Blood

Aliens of London, World War III, Kill the Moon, Evolution of the Daleks

Twenty-three episodes have an IMDB rating of 9.0 or higher, topped by the Series 3 masterpiece Blink at 9.8. This episode has 12,881 user-raters, second only to the 14,050 for The Day of the Doctor (at 9.4, tied for 3rd in IMDB rating with Forest of the Dead, whose companion episode Silence in the Library is at 9.3). The very high number of user-raters for Blink suggests there is truth to the notion that this is the episode most often used by Doctor Who fans to introduce the show to non-fans. Two other similarly-used episodes (OK, this is pure speculation on my part), with IMDB ratings of 9.3, are The Girl in the Fireplace (Series 2) and Vincent and the Doctor (Series 5), ranked 3rd and 4th, respectively, in user-raters. Rounding out the top eight are Heaven Sent (middle episode in the three-part Series 9 finale) and Doomsday. My personal favorite episode, A Good Man Goes to War (Series 6) is tied for 9th with a 9.2 IMDB rating. Finally, the only other Doctor Who episode with at least 5,000 user-raters is the Series 8 opener Deep Breath (IMDB rating=8.0).

Bringing up the rear are eight episodes with IMDB ratings between 6.2 and 7.0. Three of these episodes are from Series 2: Fear Her, Love & Monsters and The Idiot’s Lantern. This was a remarkably uneven series as it featured these three episodes AND the highly-rated Doomsday and The Girl in the Fireplace (as well as The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit [8.8, 8.9] and Army of Ghosts [8.6], the first part of Rose Tyler’s two-part farewell as a regular companion). Another 10th Doctor episode, The Lazarus Experiment, has a 6.8 IMDB rating. Rounding out the bottom eight are two 11th Doctor episodes—Victory of the Daleks (Series 5) and The Curse of the Black Spot (Series 6) and two 12th Doctorepisodes—In the Forest of the Night (Series 8) and Sleep No More (Series 9).

There is some overlap across these three rankings: Doomsday, Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End, The End of Time: Part Two, The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang, A Good Man Goes to War and The Day of the Doctor are still among the most admired (and oft-rated) episodes, while Sleep No More and Love & Monsters are still best forgotten. On the other hand, an episode like Heaven Sent, which was (relatively) poorly received when it first aired in November 2015, is now the 2nd-highest rated episode on IMDB! Other episodes such as Blink, The Girl in the Fireplace and Vincent and the Doctor met with more modest admiration when they first aired, but have since become three of the most-admired episodes ever.

A correlation coefficient (r) is a quick way to measure how well two measures “agree” with each other. R ranges between -1.00 and 1.00; if r is negative, then as one measure increases, the other decreases, and if r is positive, as one measure increases, the other measure increases. When r=0, the association is completely random.

The correlation between AI score and IMDB rating is a moderate 0.43, while the correlation between IMDB rating and number of user-raters is a moderate 0.47. These associations can be seen more clearly in Figures 1 and 2 below. The correlation between AI score and number of user-raters was a weaker, though still positive, 0.19 (data not shown).

Figure 1: AI Score vs. IMDB Rating, Doctor Who episodes, 2005-16 (n=131)


Figure 2: AI Score vs. IMDB Rating vs. # of User-Raters, Doctor Who episodes, 2005-16 (n=131)


As this post is already over 1,000 words, I will continue this discussion of most- and least-admired revamped Doctor Who episodes, Series’ and Doctors in a later episode. I mean, post.

Until next timey-wimey…



6 thoughts on “Rating Doctor Who, post “reboot,” episode 1

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