Well, it’s about time – and now it’s official. After being a staple of Saturday night television in the UK for much of its fifty-plus years of broadcast (let’s ignore the short-lived, ill-conceived weekday move back in the 1980s), Doctor Who is vacating its traditional Saturday night spot for its late-2018 run.
The new season, the eleventh since its reboot in 2005, will now be aired on Sunday evenings from 7th October. The BBC confirmed the news today after much speculation over the preceding months and a confusing state of affairs over the last twenty-four hours (when certain sites got cease-and-desist letters from BBC Studios threatening legal action for revealing the date that had already been announced through massive platform Apple/iTunes, but apparently prematurely). At this point, there are no specifics on the exact time of the broadcast, though the intention to make this a family-friendly show (albeit one with an edge) makes it likely that it will air earlier rather than later on what is, technically, a school-night. The first episode will be simulcast by BBC America for American audiences, so that’ll be an afternoon slot for them.
Some are seeing this as a major paradigm shift, but it makes a lot of pragmatic sense. Saturday nights have become more quiz-show and light-entertainment led with contests like Strictly Come Dancing carving out their niche and a major part of the ratings, making the schedules work around them. This led to a later and sometimes changing time-slot for Doctor Who in recent seasons. Sundays will give a firmer, more set allocation and also encourage that ‘water-cooler’ discussion at school/work the next day.
The first episode of the new run, penned by new showrunner Chris Chibnall and entitled ‘The Woman who Fell to Earth‘ (partially-echoing a certain famous Bowie song) featuring Jodie Whitaker in her first full outing in the title role, looks set to be an hour long, with the ten-episode run usually coming in at approximately fifty-minutes. There will also be the traditional Christmas special a couple of weeks after the season ends.
“New Doctor, new home. Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor is about to burst into Sunday nights – and make the end of the weekend so much more exciting,” Chibnall said in a statement. “Get everybody’s homework done, sort out your Monday clothes, then grab some special Sunday night popcorn, and settle down with all of the family for Sunday night adventures across space and time. (Also, move the sofa away from the wall so parents can hide behind it during the scary bits). The Thirteenth Doctor is falling from the sky and it’s going to be a blast.”