BBC boss insists future of 'Doctor Who' safe as ratings flag

Albertina Lloyd
Entertainment reporter, Yahoo UK
Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Wash, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole star in the 12th series of 'Doctor Who' (BBC Studios)

Doctor Who is “a very long way” from being axed despite flagging ratings, the BBC has insisted.

The latest episode of the cult sci-fi show  Ascension of the Cybermen was watched by 3.71 million viewers, down 150,000 viewers from the previous week and marking a loss of more than a million viewers since the first episode aired on New Year's Day.

BBC’s controller of drama commissioning Piers Wenger insisted at a BBC Drama launch: “I think we’re a very long way from wanting to rest it.”

Read more: 'Doctor Who' twist unveils show's first ever black Doctor

Wenger said: “I genuinely – I worked on Doctor Who myself, I produced it for many years, and I can honestly say that I don’t think it’s been in better health, editorially. I think it’s fantastic and… the production values obviously have never been better.

BBC controller of drama commissioning Piers Wenger says the future of 'Doctor Who' is safe (Getty)

“It’s an incredibly important show for younger audiences, still watched by families in a world where there are fewer and fewer shows that have the power to do that, so it will always be an important show for us.”

Jodie Whittaker currently stars as the Time Lord, the 12th actor to be cast in the lead role and the first woman to play the Doctor.

The 37-year-old actress made her debut in 2018 attracting an average audience of 8.4 million throughout the series. This was a rise from the previous incarnation of the Doctor, Peter Capaldi, who drew an average audience of 5.45 million in overnight ratings.

But the latest series has seen a steady decline in ratings week-on-week.

Jodie Whittaker's second series as 'Doctor Who' has seen a steady decline in ratings (BBC Studios)

Both showrunner Chris Chibnall and Whittaker, are confirmed for Doctor Who Season 13, which is scheduled to air in 2021.

Read more: Jodie Whittaker hopes a female Doctor will not be headline news again

Doctor Who began in 1963 with William Hartnell as the time travelling, shape-shifting hero. Over the years the Doctor has been played by numerous actors including Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann.

David Tennant attracted the highest ratings as 'Doctor Who' in 2008 (Getty)

The show mostly disappeared from screens during the 1990s but was revived in 2005 with superfan Russell T Davies as showrunner and Christopher Eccleston playing the Doctor, raking in average viewing figures of 7.9 million.

David Tennant took over from Eccleston as the Time Lord from 2005 to 2008 and saw a peak in audience figures in his final series of 8 million.

But the show has since seen a steady decline in ratings year on year, with Matt Smith, Capaldi and Whittaker as the Doctor.