Can Doctor Who Succeed in America?

Matt Smith, who is already known for speaking favorably about America, mentioned recently about how thrilled he’d be if Doctor Who acquired a massive level of success in the US akin to what the show has achieved in the UK.

According to Digital Spy, Matt recently stated in the New York Post that…

“We want to get it to as many Americans as possible, because we’re so proud of it.”

It’s easy to conclude, even without Matt saying so, that the Doctor Who cast/crew and the BBC indeed wish for a stronger foothold for the Whoniverse in the US of A. Torchwood‘s immigration to Starz is a great example.

Here’s another one, on a personal level: I can remember just last year, when I lived in Maine (for those of you not familiar with US geography, that’s the easternmost state on the continent; the one that looks like the head of the Great American Beast), Smith and Karen Gillan were in New York promoting Series 5, doing satellite interviews with what seemed like nearly every local television station in the nation, including the NBC affiliate in Maine.

Anyone who lives there and knows about Doctor Who, which is a small number indeed, knows that under normal circumstances, the lead actors in the show being interviewed by WCSH 6 TV, of all places, is about as likely as the Pope showing up for the annual Who series premiere screening at the Lass O’Gowrie.  The fact that during this American outing, the Doctor Who promotional crew reached out to a huge percentage of broadcasters, even the little guys at Channel 6 in northern New England, is solid proof that not only does the show aspire to broaden its audience, it is actively seeking to.

But are these endeavours to increase Doctor Who awareness working?  Torchwood: Miracle Day is scheduled to premiere on a Friday, which as anyone who has suffered the loss of Firefly knows is a bad night even for the major networks, and Starz is a premium network that requires an additional $10 a month to access.  Of course, this doesn’t account for the fact that we’re living in the DVR age, but DVRs can only increase a show’s ratings by so much.

And then there’s Doctor Who itself, whose record night for anything on BBC America pulled in a a million-and-a-bit viewers, which sounds really good until you consider that there are 300 million-and-a-bit people who live in the country.  That’s a mere 1 in 300 Americans who watched The Eleventh Hour on its opening night, and normally the show pulls in less than that.

If Doctor Who is to become a true hit in the US, it’ll have to achieve the same level of recognition as, say, Star Wars or Pirates of the Caribbean.  As a die-hard fan of the show as much as anyone reading this article must also be, I’m aware that its uniqueness and creativity are top-notch, and I believe it has the potential to arrive at that point.  But it won’t be happening this year.  There’s a long way to go yet.

All right, I’ll stop the glass-half-empty attitude for now; after all, a new episode of Doctor Who premieres this weekend!  Catch The Impossible Astronaut this Saturday on BBC One or BBC One HD at 6 pm in the UK, BBC America at 9/8 central in the US, or SPACE at 8/7 central in Canada!

Patrick Riley


Patrick has just been murdered and is currently seated on the edge of a lawn chair wondering when this Missy person will stop demanding his autograph. He probably can't tweet from the grave, but you should follow him anyway @10PatrickRiley.

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