Reader Poll Roundup

You may have noticed that every week there was brand new Who, I posted a reader poll inviting visitors to the blog to rate the latest episode. It's been fascinating to see the results, watching the overall trend toward high or low score - often away from my personal rating - and the distribution of votes. I had so much fun playing with the data, as a matter of fact, that I decided to share some of my findings publicly. (You can always go back to the poll archives to check my work yourself, if you feel so inclined.)

To start, I'm going to present the chronological list of ratings for all the Series 7 stories (7A, 7B, and the Christmas Special). These are the average (mean) ratings over all votes received. In other words, I took each star rating and multiplied by the number of votes the rating got, then added all those results and divided by total number of votes. This is how it panned out:

As you can see, the season overall was very uneven. I find it interesting that Series 7A yielded an inverse bell curve, with A Town Called Mercy being the nadir according to the sampled voters. In 7B, there were several dips, but the low point of the entire series - again, according to the votes received - was The Rings of Akhaten.

For those of you already trying to figure out how they all stack up against each other, try this on for size:

This one shows the highest to lowest ranked episodes (sorry about the change in episode color between graphs; this is the only one that's different from the others). There's about a third of the series that hovers very close to four stars, a couple outliers at the top end around four-and-a-quarter, and a slow slide from about three-and-a-half "on down." The average never got even as low as three stars, though, so somebody's doing something right. If the worst we got was a collective "meh," that speaks pretty well.

On the other hand, there was very rarely strong overall agreement on whether any given episode was a gem or a stinker. Check out the distribution of votes (by percent of overall respondents):

A few episodes stand out. The Bells of Saint John, for example, was overwhelmingly rated four stars more than any other rating. Similarly, The Name of the Doctor got proportionally more five-star nods than any other rating, and by a large margin.

The one that has really fascinated me, though, is the overall bottom-ranked Rings. Look at how flat its curve is compared to all the others. Within a couple percent, it got the same amount of votes all the way from five down to one star (note its overall score is very close to 3, as a result) - talk about splitting the fandom.

Now obviously none of this is statistically significant; we're talking about a very small sample (usually in the 25-35 voter range). I have to wonder if the response rate reflects on how passionate readers were about a given episode. Those that elicited strong emotions - positive or negative - from viewers tended to be the ones that got more votes. (However, the spike for the finale can probably be attributed at least in part to a wider reach, as more folks found the blog, and specifically this poll.)

I've been enjoying hypothesizing about what my tiny little poll says about "fan wisdom" for the series. I'd love to hear your thoughts, too. Heck, if you want me to show you something else about the data - a new graph or something - just let me know; I'm happy to oblige.

Too bad I didn't do these polls for the previous two series.



This is all very interesting. I thought the results overall would be lower, around a 3 for the series.

It's funny, because I did an one of my own, ranking my favorites, in order, for the series, but I split it into 2, based on the series split. I won't bother readers with that, but I will say my favorites were:

1. The Angels Take Manhattan
2. Nightmare in Silver
3. Hide
4. Asylum of the Daleks

I found that even if a Rory/Amy episode wasn't as good, I liked 7A, as they are calling it, or 701, much better. I guess I didn't acclimate to Clara, because I thought that for the most part, 7B was rubbish. It wasn't just her, obviously, but the writing and the attempt to be epic - to make her epic. I sort of long for the days of Martha roaming the Earth, helping the Doctor based on her wits and intelligence. Or Donna, an office temp who is smart in her own way - I can't use the word clever anymore. My husband taunts me with it now. :-) It's been so over-used.

But I guess Donna became epic. Sarah Jane, then, is a good example, or all the other past companions. I just don't have the time or effort to write about them here. But even Amy or Rory....

I see Moffat has a new quote out now, to paraphrase: "I didn't reveal the actors that were the inside ones on the anniversary special, just the outside ones." I can't even begin to dissect that one.

On another completely incidental note, I received my "Broadchurch" DVD. Chris Chibnall wrote such a wonderful story. David Tennant, Olivia Colman, and Arthur Darvill were excellent, as was the rest of the cast. You can imagine my reaction, as a fan girl, when Rory and the Doctor were the only two in a scene - happened a few times! It was like I was living an episode from the show that had never materialized - The Tenth Doctor meets Rory! I had to yell for my husband to come into the room and see. He had a chuckle but didn't seem as excited - wonder why?!

Loved the data you compiled, though. I do know I was one of the "lower" raters. I think I was a consistent "3" throughout the second part of the seriesd, maybe a 4 a couple times, and a 2 a couple of times. Here's hoping Series 8 will be better.

By Tree (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

"Fan reaction" has been all over the board this series, from what I've been seeing. Some loved it, some hated it; some thought 7A was rubbish and 7B was the best thing since sliced bread, some (like you) felt the opposite.

I agree, though, that pre-Hiatus Companions were all more "normal" people, rather than plot devices (like all Moffat's have been: Amy, Rory, River, Clara...). I prefer that.

I'm really wishing I'd done star ratings instead of witty little opinion options for previous series' episodes. A direct comparison would've been even more fascinating!

By mrfranklin

I know what you mean, in hindsight, for consideration... well, now in the future you can do that. Here's hoping we have many more series, and you can compare those.

In any type of writing, we always seek to improve or do things differently - same for how we structure websites. It's too late for initial feelings about certain past episodes, but you could always have people post how they feel about a retro-view; some may have seen it already, some may have not. It's a different type of experiment. I've started post-hiatus viewings, in order, again. Just finished "The Parting of the Ways." So good. Would give it a 5 for the way the Daleks are treated, how the Doctor struggles with his feelings about them, Captain Jack, the people on Satellite 5, so many things.. David Tennant's first appearance.

Anyway, I've gone off on a tangent. You're doing a splendid job here!

By Tree (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

I'm glad you enjoy the blog. :) It is, as they all are, I suppose, a "work in progress," so I can't really berate myself too thoroughly for not knowing 2+ years ago what I'd want from it today. :)

You can be sure I'll be continuing the N-star rating polls in the future, though!

By mrfranklin

To be honest, there is an information overload of Dr Who on the Internet because of the 50th. It is getting so bad that I just don't get on Twitter anymore. I despise Facebook and haven't been on that for years - think I lasted a month when I first signed up.

My point is that I am really truly glad I found your blog when I did, because it is my favorite, and if I had just started reading about Dr Who recently, I'm not sure I would have found it. There's just too much out there, and you could spend 24/7 on the computer. So I really keep to yours alone and sometimes read other things, but not much. I think you do this very well: there's not too much, nor too little, your reviews are balanced, as are other opinions, and people are pretty nice and open-minded. I know how vicious DW fandom can get. I welcome difference of opinion, because it spurs debate, but respectful debate. That was one problem I saw a great deal on college campuses in the 90s with political correctness run amuck. No one wanted to disagree about anything!

I am a traditionalist, which is simply why I don't want to be on the Internet too much. I like reading books about Dr Who, as it's quite hard to read the computer for a long time. That's why I spend my time wisely on the Internet. Your blog comes first with anything to do about Dr Who! I don't know how you stay so disciplined. It would be really hard for me!

Plus, there's so much else to talk about now that there is a respite between the series. That's what is so great about this show. I just bought a ton, really a ton, of old Doctor Who Magazines. Very exciting.

My husband and I watched "The Christmas Invasion," where David Tennant makes his true debut as the Doctor. After it was over and there was a preview of Series 2, my husband (and remember his observations are as close as you can get to a lay person who watches the show objectively) turned to me and said, "It seems like the show used to be more colorful." When I prompted him to explain, he said, "It just seems darker now, more dreary. These older ones seemed to be more fun, not so heavy all the time." He even used the adjective "dull" to describe the current ones.

His two favorite characters are the Face of Boe and (a species, truthfully) the cat nuns. That should tell you a bit about what he's like. He doesn't go with the popular choices like the Daleks or the Cybermen!

By Tree (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

I'm so very glad you enjoy the blog so much! :) Makes me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile.

Keep the comments coming; I love to read about other people's reactions, whether they consider themselves fans or not!

By mrfranklin

Yes, you are doing a huge thing! I always wait for your posts. :-)

My husband Ben is not a fan in the way we are, but he likes the show well enough. He just doesn't care about watching them all. I am very glad that he is a laid back person who supports what I do, from the tv I watch, to the big choices I make! Not like going to my brother's house, where they mock the show and me!!

My brothers are twins. The one mocks it, the other one is hooked like me - my influence. We haven't talked about the finale yet, but as I was talking to my mom, she was visiting him, and we both shared our distress through her. He hasn't been happy with this series, either!

By Tree (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

My hubby also enjoys the show when I can get him to watch, but is overall rather "meh" about television in general. The rest of my family doesn't "get it," either, but they're all willing to nod and smile and let me do my thing. ;)

By mrfranklin

I really find this whole poll to be funny because I loathed "The Crimson Horror" - I felt it was the single worst episode of New Who EVER and yet "A Town Called Mercy" which I felt was interesting ranker lower. Guess I'm just stragge.

By Travis (not verified)

*strange and *ranked. Apparently I also can't type at 4am.

By Anonymous (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

I found that interesting, too. There are a lot of these results that don't mesh with my own opinions. Maybe I should do a graphic of my own personal rankings... Nah - don't want to bore folks. ;)

Your example of A Town Called Mercy resonates with me, though. I thought that was wasn't so bad, but I absolutely loathed Dinos (in my opinion, it was the worst of the whole series). Yet Dinos rated ⅓ star higher than Mercy overall. I don't get it. Oh, well. To each their own - that's what keeps it interesting! :)

By mrfranklin
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