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Doctor Who Could Find Its Way Back to Saturday Nights

Saturdays missed you, Doctor.
Saturdays missed you, Doctor.
Photo: BBC

Time isn’t a straight line. It’s all…bumpy-wumpy. There’s loads of boring stuff. Like Sundays, and Tuesdays, and Thursday afternoons. But now and then there are Saturdays: Big temporal tipping points when anything’s possible.


Doctor Who’s latest season brought about a bunch of changes—a new Doctor, a new showrunner, a new Console room, new stories to tell, and new ways to tell them. But part of all that change was also a pretty wild one for fans who’ve been watching Who for years, whether they started in the classic era or jumped on board in 2005: a new night to watch the 13th Doctor and her friends on.

For the first time in decades, Who premiered on Sunday nights, but now as the show prepares to return for season 12 next year, it could shift back to its traditional Saturday evening slot.


A report from British tabloid The Mirror—so Dalek-shaped salt shakers at the ready, although it’s admittedly had a decent enough track record on rumors for the Chibnall era of the show so far, reporting in advance both the initial move to Sundays and the move away from a Christmas special for New Year’s—alleges that the BBC is considering pulling Doctor Who back to its usual home on Saturday’s next season. The paper cites both the traditional nature of the Saturday slot (and that it means families are less likely going to be avoiding TV while kids do homework and prepare for a new school week on Sunday nights) and the fact that, although season 11's ratings started out extremely strong, there was a steady decline by the back half of the season, as potential reasons for the move.

It makes sense—although in general, audience and critical reaction to the new season were decently positive, people are creatures of habit. Doctor Who became a staple of Saturday nights over the last 13 years, so much so that its return in that timeslot pretty much revitalized an age of family-oriented drama airing on Saturday evenings again. Suddenly moving it a day later meddles with that habit and means that people either drop off, or wait to catch up through other means.

That said, if there’s one thing that Doctor Who should keep about its timeslot in the UK if it moves back to Saturdays is some consistency. Season 11 aired pretty much at a similar regular time throughout its run, something that Doctor Who hadn’t really done for a while, much to the chagrin of its former star. Hopefully, if the TARDIS does take us back to Saturday nights next year, at least that change will remain.

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James is a News Editor at io9. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!

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It was a pretty bad decline indeed. The worst ratings of any holiday special of any modern iteration of Doctor Who. 7.13 million for Jodie Whitaker compared to what came before. Tennant’s got up to 13.31 million. Smith’s up to 12. Even CAPALDI had better, even his worst special got 7.83 million. To not even get up to his numbers is a pretty bad sign. Maybe Chibnall needs to stop using new monsters and go back to baddies the average fan remembers and likes. If you’re going to radically change so much of what a show is about, you have to keep SOME things consistent, SOME things that the old audience will recognize and love. Otherwise you’re just abandoning old, reliable audience members for POTENTIAL new ones that might not even stick around.

Also, Chibnall is really not a very good writer. He wrote some of the weakest Doctor Who episodes in the previous iterations. So I don’t blame Jodie, I blame the showrunner.