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Doctor Who (2005 series): Ratings and averages for the first eight seasons May 15, 2015

Posted by ce9999 in Doctor Who.
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A while back I made a disparaging comment about recent Doctor Who episodes, and when I went back later and read those remarks again, I realized it might be a good idea to double-check what I said.  However, in order to do that adequately, I realized it would also be a good idea to re-watch the entire Doctor Who 2005 series, from beginning to end.   So that’s what I’ve been doing over the past few months.  I’ve finished season 8, and only have one Christmas special to watch after this writing.

In an attempt to bestow a hopefully useful level of objectivity on this, I decided early on to use a special rating scale that I devised for my iTunes library over 10 years ago.  You may be aware that iTunes has a built-in 5-star rating scale, but after using that for about a year I realized that five stars wasn’t enough.  There were a number of five-star songs which were clearly better than the rest, as if they deserved an additional star.  They “broke the rating system,” so to speak.  I realized I could use the “grouping” column in iTunes to mark each one of them as a “6-star song,” and adapt my existing smart filters to act as if the extra “star” was just as real as a normal iTunes rating.  Over the years this has worked surprisingly well, and, to date, my iTunes library contains a total of 130 songs with this improvised 6-star rating (out of a total of 3055 songs).

When I decided to re-evaluate all the 2005 series Doctor Who episodes, I decided a similar setup would be useful for that as well:  The normal part of the scale would be a simple 5-point system, with the 5 point rating meaning “excellent.”  The six-point rating would be reserved for episodes so outstanding that they “broke” the normal scale, but they would still act like any other number in terms of calculating averages.  I could then come up with a score for each season, and for each Doctor.

So, without further ado, here are the season ratings:

  • season 1: 4.08
  • season 2: 3.77
  • season 3: 3.62
  • season 4: 3.77
  • season 5: 3.46
  • season 6: 3.23
  • season 7: 2.92
  • season 8: 2.36

The theoretical maximum average would be 6.00, however that would never happen in practice, since the six point rating is only used in exceptional circumstances.  That means an average score above 4.00 is really very high.

Some additional remarks need to be made.  First, I do not include ANY of the following in the seasonal averages: Christmas specials, David Tennant’s four farewell specials at the end of his tenure, and Matt Smith’s two series-anniversary specials at the end of his.  None of those have any effect on the seasonal ratings, not even The Snowmen, which occurred midway through season 7.  All of these specials do, however, affect the overall ratings for the four Doctors:

  • Eccleston: 4.08
  • Tennant: 3.66
  • Smith: 3.39
  • Capaldi: 2.67 (with one story to go)

I didn’t start out with the aim of having Eccleston come out on top.  In fact, I went into this with a strong bias against the early seasons simply because I find Russell T. Davies’ histrionic production style to be so annoying.  But, after the re-watch, I have to admit that the man is a very talented writer, and season 1 is overall the best of the eight so far. Eccleston is quite excellent as well—I sometimes wonder what might have been if he had stuck around for a second season. Then again, we would have been deprived of the David Tennant/Billie Piper interaction which proved so fruitful in season two.

I don’t think the four Doctor ratings are entirely fair to the actors.  Capaldi, in particular, has only had one season so far, which happened to be the worst season in the history of the series. Smith’s last season was almost as bad—in fact, the second half of his last season featured the worst continuous run of episodes in the series’ history. Is it Capaldi or Smith’s fault that the series is currently plagued by mediocre (or worse) writing?  Does the fact that Eccleston’s single season happened to coincide with some of the best stories in the history of the show mean that he was also “the best” of the four?  My answer to that is “no” in both cases.

In fact, I rather like Peter Capaldi and am looking forward to what he comes up with in season 9, while keeping my fingers crossed that the writers will grow a brain or two between them.  I also liked Christopher Eccleston quite a lot, but not to any degree more than the others.  Overall, I think we have been incredibly lucky to have four such talents playing the role, and if the series appears to be falling flat of late, it’s due to the writers and to the completely ridiculous political climate that television is a part of nowadays.  (That, however, is a whole other subject.)

Getting back to the original topic, the very best episodes, those that “broke the scale” and rated at 6 points, are:

  • The Parting of the Ways (113)
  • The Girl in the Fireplace (204)
  • Doomsday (213)
  • Blink (310)
  • The Time of the Doctor (special)

(Numbers in parentheses are episode numbers, where applicable.)

We have one in the first season, two in the second, one in the third, and then a long, long dry spell.  With the exception of the 50th anniversary special, there have been none of these top-drawer episodes in seasons 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8.

The listing of 5-point episodes is a bit longer.  Remember, these legitimately qualify as “excellent” or “outstanding”:

  • The Unquiet Dead (103)
  • Father’s Day (108)
  • The Empty Child (109)
  • The Doctor Dances (110)
  • Bad Wolf (112)
  • The Christmas Invasion (special)
  • School Reunion (203)
  • Army of Ghosts (212)
  • The Shakespeare Code (302)
  • Gridlock (303)
  • The Family of Blood (309)
  • The Fires of Pompeii (402)
  • Forest of the Dead (409)
  • Turn Left (411)
  • The Stolen Earth (412)
  • The Eleventh Hour (501)
  • Vincent and the Doctor (510)
  • A Christmas Carol (special)
  • The Impossible Astronaut (601)
  • The Doctor’s Wife (604)
  • The Angels Take Manhattan (705)
  • The Rings of Akhaten (707)
  • The Day of the Doctor (special)
  • Listen (804)

Tallying that up we get five in season 1, which is the best of any season.  If you also include the one 6-point episode in season 1, that comes to six total, which is the best proportion of excellent episodes of any season by far.  After that, we have two in season 2, three in season 3, four in season 4 (unfortunately, this pattern didn’t maintain itself), two in season 5, two in season 6, two in season 7 and one in season 8. Plus three in the specials.

I’m not going to separate out all the 4-point and 3-point episodes because there are just too many of them.

This next part should be fun:  The list of BAD episodes.  First, the worst of the worst, those receiving the ignominious 1-point rating.  In the vernacular, this rating means “epic fail” or “steaming pile,” depending on your preference.  There are (thankfully) not very many of these:

  • Fear Her (211)
  • The Lazarus Experiment (306)
  • Night Terrors (609)
  • Cold War (708)
  • Kill the Moon (807)
  • Dark Water (811)

Only five overall, but I see a definite clustering in the more recent seasons, with none at all in seasons 1, 4 and 5. More ominously, note that two of these turkeys fall in season 8, and fully 66% of them in seasons 6, 7 and 8.  Yowch.

The 2-point episodes are unfortunately far more numerous, especially in more recent seasons. These are bad enough to merit punishment or derision, but fall short of utter failure:

  • Last of the Time Lords (313)
  • Journey’s End (413)
  • The End of Time, Part 1 (special)
  • Vampires of Venice (506)
  • Cold Blood (509)
  • The Lodger (511)
  • The Rebel Flesh (605)
  • The Almost People (606)
  • A Town Called Mercy (703)
  • Hide (709)
  • Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS (710)
  • The Crimson Horror (711)
  • Nightmare in Silver (712)
  • Into the Dalek (802)
  • Robot of Sherwood (803)
  • Time Heist (805)
  • In the Forest of the Night (810)

There is one more episode to re-watch, so this or the 1 point list may yet be revised.

Obviously there is an increasing quantity of crap episodes in the more recent seasons, compared to not a single bad episode in season 1, only one really stinky episode in season 2, two bad ones in season 3, only one in season 4, plus another in Tennant’s string of four farewell specials.  Season 6, on the other hand, showed a marked uptick with three baddies, and then the shite really hit the fan in season 7 with six bad episodes.  That’s as many bad episodes as there were great episodes in season 1.  What’s really notable, though, is that five of the six are clustered in the second half of that split season, with no less than five crap episodes in a row. Wow. It’s a wonder I made it through that season at all.  Luckily, The Name of the Doctor was a very good 4-point episode, otherwise I might have given up.

Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, season 8 turns out to be even worse!  Six bad episodes again, but this time two of them are 1-pointers. They’re also spread around the season more evenly, leading to a more general impression of crappiness.  There is no significant clumping of non-bad episodes in season 8 the way there was in the first half of season 7.  So, I hope you will pardon my French, but seriously: WTF?

Lastly, here are all of the episode ratings. Please keep in mind that a rating of 3 is perfectly respectable, covering the range from “average” to “good”:

Season 1                                 4.08
101    Rose                                 3
102    The End of the World                 4
103    The Unquiet Dead                     5
104    Aliens of London                     3
105    World War Three                      3

106    Dalek                                3
107    The Long Game                        3
108    Father's Day                         5
109    The Empty Child                      5
110    The Doctor Dances                    5

111    Boom Town                            3
112    Bad Wolf                             5
113    The Parting of the Ways              6

       The Christmas Invasion               5

Season 2                                 3.77
201    New Earth                            3
202    Tooth and Claw                       3
203    School Reunion                       5
204    The Girl in the Fireplace            6
205    Rise of the Cybermen                 3

206    The Age of Steel                     4
207    The Idiot's Lantern                  3
208    The Impossible Planet                3
209    The Satan Pit                        3
210    Love & Monsters                      4

211    Fear Her                             1
212    Army of Ghosts                       5
213    Doomsday                             6

       The Runaway Bride                    3

Season 3                                 3.62
301    Smith and Jones                      3
302    The Shakespeare Code                 5
303    Gridlock                             5
304    Daleks in Manhatten                  3
305    Evolution of the Daleks              3

306    The Lazarus Experiment               1
307    42                                   3
308    Human Nature                         4
309    The Family of Blood                  5
310    Blink                                6

311    Utopia                               4
312    The Sound of Drums                   3
313    Last of the Time Lords               2

       Voyage of the Damned                 3

Season 4                                 3.77
401    Partners in Crime                    4
402    The Fires of Pompeii                 5
403    Planet of the Ood                    3
404    The Sontaran Strategem               3
405    The Poison Sky                       3

406    The Doctor's Daughter                3
407    The Unicorn and the Wasp             3
408    Silence in the Library               4
409    Forest of the Dead                   5
410    Midnight                             4

411    Turn Left                            5
412    The Stolen Earth                     5
413    Journey's End                        2

       The Next Doctor                      4

       Planet of the Dead                   3
       The Waters of Mars                   3
       The End of Time, Part 1              2
       The End of Time, Part 2              4

Season 5                                 3.46
501    The Eleventh Hour                    5
502    The Beast Below                      4
503    Victory of the Daleks                3
504    The Time of Angels                   4
505    Flesh and Stone                      4

506    Vampires of Venice                   2
507    Amy's Choice                         3
508    The Hungry Earth                     3
509    Cold Blood                           2
510    Vincent and the Doctor               5

511    The Lodger                           2
512    The Pandorica Opens                  4
513    The Big Bang                         4

       A Christmas Carol                    5

Season 6                                 3.23
601    The Impossible Astronaut             5
602    Day of the Moon                      4
603    The Curse of the Black Spot          4
604    The Doctor's Wife                    5
605    The Rebel Flesh                      2

606    The Almost People                    2
607    A Good Man Goes to War               3
608    Let's Kill Hitler                    3
609    Night Terrors                        1
610    The Girl Who Waited                  4

611    The God Complex                      3
612    Closing Time                         3
613    The Wedding of River Song            3

       The Doctor, The Widow & The Wardrobe 4

Season 7                                 2.92
701    Asylum of the Daleks                 3
702    Dinosaurs on a Spaceship             4
703    A Town Called Mercy                  2
704    The Power of Three                   3
705    The Angels Take Manhattan            5

       The Snowmen                          4

706    The Bells of Saint John              3
707    The Rings of Akhaten                 5
708    Cold War                             1
709    Hide                                 2
710    Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS  2

711    The Crimson Horror                   2
712    Nightmare in Silver                  2
713    The Name of the Doctor               4

       The Day of the Doctor                5
       The Time of the Doctor               6

Season 8                                 2.67
801    Deep Breath                          4
802    Into the Dalek                       2
803    Robot of Sherwood                    2
804    Listen                               5
805    Time Heist                           2

806    The Caretaker                        3
807    Kill the Moon                        1
808    Mummy on the Orient Express          3
809    Flatline                             3
810    In the Forest of the Night           2

811    Dark Water                           1
812    Death in Heaven                      4

       Last Christmas                       ?

Well, that was fun! :)