Doctor Who: What Happened to the AI?

Full disclosure here, I am a Doctor Who fan, and I really enjoyed Peter Capaldi’s portrayal of our beloved Time Lord. I love Fantasy, SciFi, CosPlay, Superheroes, and between my husband and I own quite a bit of merchandise. I looked at the AI figures for some of my favourite episodes and I was astounded that they were so low. Clearly they never asked me for my opinion. This tells me that their way of collective data is limited. But working with what we have, we take the AI as a benchmark. In future I will probably take a look at other ratings on fan forums, and do a comparison with the BBC data to determine whether or not AI is a good metric to use as it takes into account a broader interest group to the one accumulated on the Forums.

The Short Answer

Peter Capaldi’s Doctor was the Doctor that the diehard fans wanted… I’ll need to drill down into the detail of the article comments somehow, but my memory is of fans wishing for someone more classic era, classic era plots, classic era monsters, and no love interest at all. Which is exactly what they got. But you know how they say be careful what you wish for?

Having the return to the classic era meant saying “Hello!” to a more serious doctor, and going into deeper science fiction concepts, exploring politics, and conflict, and saying goodbye to all the non-traditional fans that enjoyed the antics of David Tennant and Matt Smith, who incidentally probably contributed more to the collection of positive AI (Appreciation Index) feedback as a result of being connected to the show. In other words, it was a decision that was great for the traditional fans, but not so great for the metrics.

I have used a limited dataset – one available publicly on Wikipedia, and I have used Appreciation Index (AI) as a key metric. I am interested in finding a way to dig deeper into social media, but I haven’t quite got around to that. I said it before, I need a Time Machine. Anyone know of one to hand?

Internal guidance to BBC production staff is that an AI of 85 or over is to be considered excellent,[8] over 90 is exceptional, 60 or less is poor, and less than 55 is very poor. Sometimes a programme will not garner an AI, as the response for that programme may have been too small.[9][page needed] Nor is the AI a conclusive measure; while it is valuable for comparisons within a particular programme category, comparisons between the AIs of different programme types (e.g. dramas with quiz shows) carry no weight.

Many fans have speculated that David Tennant and Matt Smith being popular was because they attracted the interest of teenage girls. I believe it goes a little deeper than that. The show seemed to attract more general people from a wider array of walks of life, and it wasn’t just because the Doctors were young and handsome, it was more likely that the show had a bit of a love interest between the Doctor and his companion that gave it a more emotional feel, drama if you prefer, that more people could draw themselves into entertaining the other things that came with that.

We can’t just compare the actors, because the number of episodes they were in varies. So we also take into account the titles, writers, and the individual AI per title. I then look at the praise and critique of the lowest and highest.


9th Doctor (Christopher Eccleston)

The End of the World scored the lowest on the AI – 79, it was the 2nd episode after Doctor Who was welcomed back to television. At the time it seemed like everyone loved it, but it was criticised for lack of plot, but praised for wonderful character introduction.

The best episode according to the AI of 89 was The Parting of the Ways. It was the only time the show scored higher than 85. Funnily enough it was criticised for the Bad Wolf wrap up, but that was handled a lot later at the 50th – so it turned out to be wonderful foreshadowing. The episode was highly praised for being exhilarating, inventive and the best regeneration some had ever seen. Considering it was the return of the series, and technology had come a long way in between, the regeneration should definitely have been better than Classic Era Who.


10th Doctor (David Tennant)

The worst episode with an AI of 79, was Love and Monsters, it was a Doctor Lite episode, using a monster created by a fan. It seemed a lovely gesture to the marketing and PR department no doubt, but the fans hated it. It was praised for having some hilarious dialogue, and criticised for being childish. A kid’s show being criticised for being childish. Yes.

Journey’s End and The Stolen Earth were the highest rated in terms of AI both reaching the lofty heights of 91, the highest AI since the show’s return and both written by Russell T Davies.

Journey’s End was praised for being absolutely brilliant, excellent characterisation, intriguing and complex, while also criticised in other quarters for being too confusing, chaotic and mumbo-jumboish.

The Stolen Earth

The episode was well received by viewers, in particular, the show’s teenage fanbase. In Doctor Who Magazines 2008 viewer poll, the episode won the awards for as “Best Story”, “Best Guest Actor” for Julian Bleach, “Best Monster” for the Daleks, “Best Music”, and “Best Villain” for Davros; the latter was won with a supermajority of the votes cast.

It was criticised for Daleks. Yes. Classic Era Monster. Criticism.


11th Doctor (Matt Smith)

Matt Smith’s”Worst” episodes were A Christmas Carol and The Time of the Doctor. Considering the lowest AI was 83, he never “plumbed the depths” of Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant’s pathetic 79’s (yes I jest, haha)

A Christmas Carol was nominated for the 2011 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), but lost to the preceding series finale – Pandorica Opens. It was criticised for being silly and incoherent.

The Time of the Doctor was praised for being a perfect send off for Matt Smith, and criticised for trying to do too much.

The episodes with the highest AI of 89 were Asylum of the Daleks and The Big Bang.

Asylum of the Daleks was praised for being reminiscent of Classic era, with zippy dialogue and plot leaps, while there were quibbles about the Pond’s marriage.

The Big Bang was praised for being a brilliant fairytale that unfolded before one’s eyes, and criticised for having an ending that was not quite as spectacular as one might hope for.


12th Doctor (Peter Capaldi)

And last, but certainly not least, Peter Capaldi. The doctor the fans wanted. Unfortunately Audience figures and AI did not do his tenure too many favours.

While his stats aren’t too dissimilar to Christopher Eccleston, the expectations he was expected to greet, without the additional audience David Tennant and Matt Smith attracted, couldn’t be met. The perception that the writing was bad, Moffat was bad, Capaldi was bad, Clara was bad have all been touted around, but I haven’t seen any concrete evidence to suggest this is because the stories were bad. Capaldi had a lot of seasoned and new writers writing for him. Taking in his overall AI, it wasn’t too bad anyway.

Sleep No More received an AI of 78, the lowest of all the AI including Love and Monsters. It was praised for being an innovative idea, being the first found footage episode in the Show’s history, and it was widely rebuked for being terrible.

There were four episodes that received an AI of 85, two of them were written by Jamie Mathieson and two written by Steven Moffat. They are FlatlineMummy on the Orient ExpressDark Water and World Enough and Time.

Flatline was praised for having unique monsters, a good performance by Jenna Coleman, for having an interesting plot, while some said the CGI was good, others criticised it for its poor CGI. Considering previous low performers were slated, I believe this metric backs up the hypothesis that the reduced fan base (perhaps likely to provide more favourable reviews) possibly equated to the overall drop in AI.

Mummy on the Orient Express was praised for being a triumph of production design and a really scary monster, while being criticised for being 5 minutes too short.

Dark Water was praised for being really scary and romantic, while criticised for not having enough action for a Cyberman episode. This was the Missy Episode.

World Enough and Time was praised for being absolutely brilliant, received 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and was hailed as the best episode of the season, it was criticised for a spoiler leak in the promotion which would have really been effective had it not been revealed, also it was too slow and full of exposition.


The accumulated AI for the show since the return with Christopher Eccleston was 84.96.


Having discussed this at length with other Whovians, I think my next step will be to collect data from a fan forum. I wonder if there will be much difference in the list using the same method, but with a different dataset.

What do you think? Anything else jump out here? Love to hear from you.

© Nicki Ki
All Rights Reserved

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