I finally found some time to watch the latest Series 10 of the British sci-fi fave TV show Doctor Who. It made a good impression with the first two episodes (“The Pilot”, “Smile”). But as usual the series then sagged heavily in the middle, with standalone episodes such as “Oxygen” re-hashing creaky old ideas and shoe-horning in even creakier political jibes. The audience ratings apparently went into freefall with the sluggish three-part “Monks” trilogy. Overall the whole series felt like the ideas team had run out of ideas, and were stitching together bits of old well-worn plots, monsters and moments. Even the humorous banter often felt like it was lifted from old scripts.
As usual the series picked back up for the final episodes, with an enjoyable historical 2nd century AD romp “The Eaters of Light”. This led into the paired finale episodes “World Enough and Time” and “The Doctor Falls”. So I felt Series 10 had five episodes worth a viewer’s time, though only if they were already a Who lover. But it wasn’t enough. Judging by the audience ratings for the two finale episodes, compared to Series 9, Doctor Who had lost around 1.8m ‘previously regular’ viewers by the end of Series 10. That’s not to knock the star Peter Capaldi and his excellent co-stars. After a patchy start his incarnation of the Doctor has certainly had some fine moments, mostly in the previous Series 9, but even that was lumbered with one too many poorly written episodes and a cruelly wasted running sub-plot involving the awesome new character Ashildr.
All of which means the show is going to have to work very hard to pick up those lost viewers, and bring them back. If some 1.8m previous viewers can’t even turn up to see ‘genesis of the Cybermen + The Master’ finale episodes, will they bother to return for the start of Series 11? But a newly regenerated Doctor is due at Christmas 2017, and perhaps a new star will give the series a chance at a much-needed boost. There’s also rumored to be a joined-up week-to-week plotline, rather than a disjointed ‘monster of the week’ approach which swamps the subtler sub-plots. Though even if both of those things somehow work wonderfully, there seems faint hope the series can be brought up to standards of the great David Tennant years (2005–2010, series 2, 3, 4, specials + the Tenth Doctor Adventures in audio). The first three episodes of Series 11 look like they’ll be ‘make or break’ for the audience, with a ratings failure risking Doctor Who being forced into taking a three or even five-year break for a re-think. In that context it’s not encouraging to hear that the BBC has just shuttered its UK visitor attraction The Doctor Who Experience.