DEEP BREATH, the eighty-minute debut episode for Peter Capaldi’s incarnation of DOCTOR WHO screened last night (Saturday) on BBC1, attracted an average audience of 6.79 million viewers in the UK, according to ‘overnight’ figures released today (Sunday). The figure peaked at 7 million for the last five minutes of the episode, written by showrunner Steven Moffat.
Easily the highest-rated programme on British television yesterday, DEEP BREATH rated 2.6 million higher than the second-placed transmission, an episode of long-running BBC medical drama CASUALTY that scored 4.2 million viewers. DOCTOR WHO currently rates as the joint third highest-rated programme screened on British TV in the last seven-day period, out-rated only by one episode of the ITV soap opera CORONATION STREET (another episode of which currently ties with DOCTOR WHO for third place) and the BBC’s hugely popular cookery show, THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE-OFF.
The BBC have been heavily promoting the new series, and its new Doctor, for the past fortnight, the cast have recently returned from a whistle-stop twelve-day tour of the show’s highest-profile international territories. Numerous trailers and teaser images have been broadcast in the schedule junctions on BBC1 and the cast have been appearing on UK magazine/chat shows all week, so fan expectations may have anticipated a higher ‘on the night’ figure for the new episode. However, taking into account the fact that the episode was scheduled fairly late in the evening on the last public holiday in the UK before Christmas, and the fact that catch-up/timeshift figures will inevitably add enormously to the final ‘consolidated’ figure (which will provide the BBC with a truer picture of the show’s overall ‘reach’), it appears that the new Doctor has made a reasonably strong start. TV ratings are, in any event, typically low in the UK at this time of the year; the country’s three big soap operas - CORONATION STREET, EASTENDERS and EMMERDALE - which often (or usually) out-rate DOCTOR WHO on overnights, are struggling to regain their pre-summer form. Even BBC drama big-hitter NEW TRICKS, which launched its eleventh series earlier in the week, posted a rating 2 million below its typical figures.
DOCTOR WHO's consolidated figure is expected to be on or around the nine million mark, with the potential for the episode to be either the highest or second-highest rated programme of the week on UK television. Next week’s episode, INTO THE DALEK, by Phil Ford and Steven Moffat, airs from 7.30pm on BBC, its last fifteen minutes clashing with the first edition of ITV’s returning talent menagerie THE X FACTOR, which this year sees the return of the satanic Simon Cowell to the panel of ‘judges’. Although THE X FACTOR's ratings have been slowly declining in the last two years, it’s possible that its clash with DOCTOR WHO (the third episode of which is currently slated to run directly opposite) may pull down DOCTOR WHO's overnight figures. STARBURST will keep a watchful eye on the viewing figures as the weeks roll by…
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