Rating Doctor Who, post “reboot,” episode 3

In a previous post, I posed the following question (edited for brevity):

Which of the 131 Doctor Who episodes (115 Series episodes, 12 Christmas episodes, three 10th Doctor specials, 50th anniversary special), nine Series’ and four Doctors have been the most (and least) admired since Rose first aired on March 26, 2005?

I then posed a follow-up question:

Which episodes have become more admired over time, and which have lost their luster?

Answer: A total of 77 episodes remain below- or above-average in stature. Twenty-seven episodes have moved from below- to above-average, topped by the Series 9 finale Heaven Sent/Hell Bent; the first two 9th Doctor episodes (Rose, The End of the World) also have increased stature, though they are still below average. Twenty-seven episodes moved in the opposite direction, topped by The Lazarus Experiment, The Curse of the Black Spot, and Daleks in Manhattan. Many of these latter episodes feature the 10th Doctor.

In this “series finale,” I will use AI scores, IMDB ratings and number of IMDB user-raters to determine which of the nine Series’ and four Doctors since the 2005 reboot were—and are—the most- and least-admired.

Series’: There have actually been 10 post-reboot Doctor Who Series’ (Table 1), as Series 7 was split into two halves: one with companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams, and one with companion Clara Oswald. While Series 6 featured a nearly three-month gap between the first seven and the final six episodes, this will be treated here as a single Series because there was no change in regular companions or unifying story arc.

Further complicating the demarcation of individual Series’ are the 12 Christmas episodes, three 10th Doctor specials (Planet of the Dead, The Waters of Mars, The End of Time: Part 2) and the 50th anniversary special (The Day of the Doctor). It is not clear into which, if any, Series these episodes should be placed.

For simplicity, I will assess individual Series’ using only the 115 episodes listed in Table 1; I list the AI scores, IMDB ratings and number of user-raters for the 16 non-Series episodes in Table 2 below.

Table 1: Doctor Who Series’ (2005-16)

# Dates # Episodes Doctor Primary Companion(s)
1 March 26-June 18, 2005 13 9 Rose Tyler
2 April 15-July 8, 2006 13 10 Rose Tyler
3 March 31-June 30, 2007 13 10 Martha Jones
4 April 5-July 5, 2008 13 10 Donna Noble
5 April 10-June 26, 2010 13 11 Amy Pond/Rory Williams
6 April 23-June 4, 2011;

August 27-October 1, 2011



11 Amy Pond/Rory Williams
7a September 1-29, 2012 5 11 Amy Pond/Rory Williams
7b March 30-May 18, 2013 8 11 Clara Oswald
8 August 23-November 8, 2014 12 12 Clara Oswald
9 September 19-December 5, 2015 12 12 Clara Oswald

Just bear with me while I briefly discuss data presentation. In a more formal analysis, for each average score/rating there would also be a 95% confidence interval. However, I have chosen not to bog down this blog (oy) with unnecessary statistical arcana. If you crave additional details, however, send me a short note, and I will do my best to oblige.

Figure 1: Average AI Scores and IMDB Ratings, Doctor Who Series’ (2005-16)


Series 1 started slowly (Figure 1; AI scores are divided by 10 for ease of comparison), although four of the final five episodes rank among the most well-regarded now (The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways, average IMDB score=9.0). Each of the next three Series gained in stature, both at the time and with further reflection, peaking with Series 4.

Regardless, in terms of both average AI scores (88.1) and IMDB ratings (8.42), Series 4 is the most-admired. This Series started slowly: while Partners in Crime through The Unicorn and the Wasp (n=7) have a solid AI score average of 87.3, their average IMDB rating is only 7.84. This Series turned dramatically, however, with the two-part episode Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead: the six episodes from Silence through Journey’s End have astonishingly-high average AI score (89.0) and IMDB rating (9.10)! Outside of the three episode sequence of The Name of the Doctor (88, 9.2), The Day of the Doctor (88, 9.4) and The Time of the Doctor (83, 8.4), this is the pinnacle of the modern Doctor Who, rivaled only by the end of Series 9.

Following the 10th Doctor’s regeneration, however, Series’ 5 and 6 dropped back to the Series 3 stature level. As noted earlier, Series 6 had two distinct parts: while The Impossible Astronaut through A Good Man Goes to War (n=7) have solid average AI score (86.7) and IMDB rating (8.27), the averages for Let’s Kill Hitler through The Wedding of River Song (n=6) drop to 85.7 and 8.10, respectively.

Starting in Series 7a, these measures diverge, with average AI score jumping to 87.2 and average IMDB rating dropping to 8.14; the Series started (Asylum of the Daleks, 89, 8.8) and ended (The Angels Take Manhattan, 88, 9.1) well, while faltering in between (n=3, 86.3, 7.6).

Table 2: AI Scores and IMDB Ratings for the Doctor Who Christmas and Special Episodes (2005-16)

Title Date Doctor AI Score IMDB Rating
Christmas Specials
The Christmas Invasion December 25, 2005 10 84 8.2
The Runaway Bride December 25, 2006 10 84 7.6
Voyage of the Damned December 25, 2007 10 85 7.7
The Next Doctor December 25, 2008 10 86 7.6
The End of Time: Part One December 25, 2009 10 87 8.3
A Christmas Carol December 25, 2010 11 83 8.6
The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe December 25, 2011 11 84 7.4
The Snowmen December 25, 2012 11 87 8.5
The Time of the Doctor December 25, 2013 11 83 8.4
Last Christmas December 25, 2014 12 82 8.4
The Husbands of River Song December 25, 2015 12 82 8.6
The Return of Doctor Mysterioso December 25, 2016 12 82 7.7
 David Tennant Specials (after Series 4, excluding Christmas)
Planet of the Dead April 11, 2009 10 88 7.6
The Waters of Mars November 15, 2009 10 88 8.7
The End of Time: Part Two January 1, 2010 10 89 8.9
 50th Anniversary Special
The Day of the Doctor November 23, 2013 12 88 9.4

Still, admiration for Doctor Who declined sharply in Series 7b, as Clara Oswald became the 11th Doctor’s companion, and further still with the 12th Doctor in Series 8, before rebounding sharply at the end of Series 9 (average IMDB rating=9.1 for the three-part Series finale (Face the Raven/Heaven Sent/Hell Bent).

There is little to say about the Christmas episodes other than that, on average, they were less admired at initial airing (average AI score=84.1) than all other episodes (85.2), while being equal in current admiration (average IMDB rating=8.16). The four other Specials, however, were—and, with the exception of Planet of the Dead, are—much more admired.

Which brings me, finally, to…

Doctors. Figure 2 displays average values for the 13 9th Doctor episodes, 47 10th Doctor episodes (including five Christmas episodes, three Specials), 44 11th Doctor episodes (four Christmas episodes, 50th anniversary special), and 27 12th Doctor episodes (including three Christmas episodes). Excluding Christmas episodes and Specials made no appreciable difference in these averages.

Figure 2: Average AI Scores and IMDB Ratings, Doctor Who Doctors (2005-16)


While websites like WatchMojo.com suggest that David Tennant’s 10th Doctor is the most well-regarded Doctor ever (even more than Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor), this is not as clear in the data. In terms of initial reception, there is a clear demarcation between the 10th and 11th Doctors, with the former barely edging the latter in average AI score 86.3 to 86.0, and the 9th and 12th Doctors (82.2 and 82.7, respectively). And when you consider their current appeal, as measured by IMDB scores, the 9th Doctor (8.06) is well below the other three Doctors, with #10 (8.19) again edging out his two ensuing regenerations (8.15 each).

Conclusions. The Doctor Who reboot started slowly, not really finding its footing until late in Series 1, though there has been a positive reconsideration of the earliest episodes. The 10th and 11th Doctors were held in higher regard than the 9th and 12th Doctors, while the 9th Doctor is currently the least-admired of the four and the end of Series 9 (12th Doctor) is very highly-regarded now. The pinnacle of the reboot is the latter half of Series 4 (particularly at the time these episodes first aired), although the most highly-rated episode currently is Blink (Series 3), followed by Heaven Sent (Series 9) and The Day of the Doctor (50th anniversary special). Blink and Day also have received the most IMDB user-ratings by far (well over 12,000). At the same time, many 10th Doctor episodes have lost stature over time. Finally, multi-episode arcs tend to have higher stature, especially when they conclude a Series.

Bear in mind that the vast majority of these AI scores and IMDB ratings are fairly high, even if they are lower relative to other Doctor Who episodes. Indeed, an average AI score of 85.1 and an average IMDB rating of 8.16 are remarkable figures, demonstrating just how well-received the Doctor Who reboot has been.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have created a PDF of the data I used in these analyses (doctor-who-episode-data-2005-16). Please feel free to analyze them and challenge my conclusions!

Until next time…



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