New Doctor Who series hopes to exterminate ratings falls

Peter Capaldi as Doctor Who with Pearl Mackie.
Peter Capaldi as Doctor Who with Pearl Mackie.
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Doctor Who returns to TV screens on Saturday night to do battle with one of its most persistent enemies: falling ratings.

The show’s audience has been declining gently in recent years, from an average of 7.5 million in 2011 to 6.0 million in 2016.

This year’s series is the final one to feature Peter Capaldi in the title role and also the last to be overseen by Steven Moffat, who has been in charge since 2010.

Both will be hoping their swansong does not see ratings slump to their lowest level since Doctor Who returned to BBC One in 2005.

The previous series-opener, in 2015, attracted overnight ratings of just 4.6 million.

But this rose to 6.5 million once catch-up audiences were included (people who recorded the episode and watched it up to seven days later).

This year’s premiere, called The Pilot, is the first time since 2011 that a new series of Doctor Who has begun in the spring rather than the autumn.

The change of season could help boost audiences, especially as the show has been off the air - excluding Christmas specials - since December 2015.

The popular sci-fi series will overlap with the first episode of the return of ITV dating show Take Me Out on Saturday night.

Show newcomer Pearl Mackie, who takes over from Jenna Coleman, will play new sidekick Bill Potts to Capaldi’s Doctor.

Her role has made headlines in recent weeks as it marks the first time the show has clearly defined a character’s same-sex sexuality.

LGBT characters have featured in the popular series before, including John Barrowman’s Captain Jack and River Song, but Bill will be the programme’s first openly gay permanent companion.

The 10th series will also see the return of John Simm as the Time Lord’s arch-nemesis The Master.

Life On Mars actor Simm was last seen in the role on New Year’s Day in 2010.

Also returning will be Michelle Gomez as Missy - a later regeneration of The Master.

* Doctor Who airs on BBC One at 7.20pm on April 15.

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