Reader Poll Roundup: Series Eight Edition

I have been fascinated with the results of this year's reader polls, especially as I compare them to last year's. My data sets aren't completely parallel, since Series Seven had thirteen episodes with a Christmas Special in the middle (for a total of fourteen) while Series Eight only had twelve, but I think the comparisons are interesting nevertheless.

As last year, I'm going to start with the average (mean) ratings of episodes in chronological order. For any given episode, each star rating (e.g., 5 stars) was multiplied by the number of votes it got, the results added, and the sum divided by the total number of votes. Here's how the ratings looked for Series Eight:

Honestly, I was surprised by how low some of these scores were, as the series was my favorite of Moffat's tenure. Clearly, YMMV. What I find stands out though, is the sharp difference from episode to episode, especially the ratings plummet between episodes nine and ten.

For a different visualization of the same data, here's how they ranked from highest to lowest scores (and I apologize that the episodes are different colors between these two charts):

That's quite a spread between the highest-rated Flatline (4.12 stars) and lowest-rated In the Forest of the Night (2.76 stars). If I average these average ratings across the entire series, I find a series-average rating of 3.53 stars, with a standard deviation of 0.46. Compare that to the same calculation for the Series Seven polls: series-average 3.76 stars, with a standard deviation of 0.34.

Three episodes this year (25%) rated lower than the lowest-rated episode of S7 (The Rings of Akhaten, which came in at 3.15 stars). Conversely, although none of them scored as high as S7's top two performers (Hide at 4.23 stars and The Name of the Doctor at 4.21 stars), another three S8 episodes (25%) rated 4.00 stars or above (Listen, Mummy on the Orient Express, and Flatline). S7 clocked four such episodes (29%).

As I mentioned last week, there were several episodes that really split the fandom. You can see that demonstrated here in the distribution of votes (by percent of overall respondents):

Look at how many 0-star votes there were! A full 20% of votes for Dark Water thought it was so awful it wasn't even worth a single star. No Series Seven episode ever garnered more than a single 0-star vote—at most 3% of respondents. It makes me wish I could send out a survey and ask those voters about their reasons, and whether they'd ever voted 0 stars before.

I had to wonder how the high number of 0-star votes affected the overall scores. So, being just that kind of nerd, I crunched a few more numbers. I pretended that the 0-star option didn't exist, and excised them from my calculations (meaning I had fewer overall votes, for some episodes). The results were pretty interesting.

For Series Seven, there was barely any difference. With only four 0-star votes (out of a total 439, or 0.9%) over the whole thirteen-episode series, that's hardly surprising. The overall no-zeroes series average for S7 came out at 3.79, an increase of only 0.03.

By contrast, Series Eight collected 16 zero votes out of 289 (5.5%, over six times that for S7). Eliminating them yielded an adjusted series average of 3.70 (an increase of 0.17), putting it much more on par with the previous series.

Most impressive was the change in ratings for the last two episodes, which both increased by more than one standard deviation. Death in Heaven went from 2.97 to 3.56 (Δ = 0.59), while Dark Water jumped from 3.33 to 4.17 (Δ = 0.83). With the new standard deviation of 0.40, Dark Water's improvement was actually a 2-sigma change.

You may notice that this all depends on statistics of small numbers. Reader poll voter turnout this year was much less than last.

By the end of the voting period (each episode was given a limited two-week voting window), only a third of Series Eight episodes pulled in thirty or more votes. Last year, if we exclude The Name of the Doctor, which was anomalously high at nearly fifty votes, nearly half of the episodes got 30 or better votes, five of those clocking in at 34-35.

Another third of S8 episodes got less than 20 votes. (I also find it interesting that in middle of the mid-season slump, there was a spike for Kill the Moon, one of the bottom three scorers.) The least rated S7 episode still got 24 votes. There's clearly a pattern here.

I suppose it's possible (likely, even) that my decision to limit the time frame in which readers could vote affected turnout. I may change that for Series Nine, but will have to ponder how to do so while keeping voting opportunities for each episode fair and even.

Regardless, I've had great fun again this year looking at the voting trends and sharing my findings, and I hope you find them cool, too. What do you think of the results? Are there any other charts or calculations you'd like to see? Let me know it the comments, and I'll be happy to share.



My feeling about the season as a whole was that it was very uneven. I thought Flatline and Dark Water were terrific and Mummy on the Orient Express was quite good. Death in Heaven, Kill the Moon and In the Forrest of the Night were dreadful. The other episodes had high points but also had qualities that dragged them WAY down.

For instance, I really liked the concept of Time Heist and the acting was good but the story needed more time than it was given. It felt like they cut out too much of the story so that what was left didn't make a lot of sense.

I liked the emotional qualities of The Caretaker and the interaction between the characters but the alien got so little time that it didn't make enough of an impression. There was an angry robot that, for no reason I could see, wanted to blow up the Earth. It seemed like more of an excuse to make the characters run around than an actual character.

All in all I found the season disappointing and it's all down to the scripts. The characters and actors were good. But many of the stories were downright silly. The moon is an egg? Forests that appear and disappear randomly. Daleks and Cybermen who seem to be included because Doctor Who has Cybermen and Daleks in it, not because there were interesting stories about these villians that needed to be told.

And much of the science was stupid. I don't insist on accurate hard science but I would like to think the stories weren't actively insulting my intelligence.

By Kara S (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

Looks like you weren't alone in feeling the series was uneven, given that the standard deviation on the series-average average was nearly half a star. A lot of the specific details you point out here are ones that have bothered me, too. I'll be interested to see where they take Series Nine.

By mrfranklin

Those votes really show how I felt. I enjoyed the first two, then the middle part was just boring and dreadful for me(even Listen...I voted right after the episode but those final 5-10 minutes just ruined everything for me) then loved Mummy and Flatline before being disappointed with the final three. I kinda want Doctor Who to return to the more adventure style as opposed to the big drama and plot stuff.

By Ryo (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

Yeah, I'd really like to see a move away from a series-arc, but I suspect we're stuck with it. It's simply "how it's done" these days. :\

And I totally agree with you on Listen—quite enjoyed it right up to those last few minutes. ~sigh~

By mrfranklin
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