Hard classic data

As a quick note, I’m going to be out of town for the next week. While I’ll have access to computers at the hotel and I have a keyboard and the WordPress app on the iPad, I’m not sure I’ll be able to post regularly, and certainly anything I do post won’t have images. But rest assured, I’ll be back. (I haven’t tried out the WordPress app yet. I hope it’s easy to use. For some reason, the workings of “productive” iPad apps still elude me.)

IMDB average ratings for classic episodes, with Doctors indicated

IMDB average ratings for classic episodes, with Doctors indicated

Yesterday, I wrote about the TV ratings graphs on GraphTV and discussed the ratings trends of the modern Doctor Who, and today, here’s the graph for the classic series. You can see the real graph here, but the image to the left has the Doctors indicated. I don’t have much time today to really look at this graph, but here are few interesting points.

First, there are few very important things to note about the data itself.

  • The dots indicate episode parts, not episodes themselves. For example, “The Caves of Androzani” is made up of four parts, and so there are four dots on the graph for it. Another important point is that the early episodes had different names for their parts, such as the first episode is in total made up of “An Unearthly Child,” “The Cave of Skulls,” “The Forest of Fear,” and “The Firemaker.”
  • The number of user ratings per dot are much lower for the classic series than for the modern series. These averages are calculated from 100-200 user ratings, while the modern series’ averages are calculated from 1000-2000 user ratings.

In general, it seems that the average rating for each season is about 7.5 across the whole classic series, with a couple of very notable exceptions: the Second Doctor’s second season, the Third Doctor’s first season, the Fourth Doctor’s first three seasons (Sarah Jane and Leela), and the Seventh Doctor’s first season. I don’t really know much about the history of the show itself, so I don’t know why his first season was so bad, but… wow. Not a single episode rated above 7.0. He definitely makes up for it in his last season though.

It looks like the show’s best and most consistent time was from the beginning of the Third Doctor through the third season of the Fourth Doctor: only rarely did the episodes dip below 7.0. I’d be interested in seeing what kinds of changes in the production staff happened at the beginning of season 15 that caused the quality to even back out to 7.5 again. The show’s most inconsistent season is season 6, the Second Doctor’s last season, which has some of the lowest- and the highest-rated episodes in the entire show.

One season that’s worth looking at is season 21, the Fifth Doctor’s last season. Mr. Davison has been quoted as saying that if he had known how good that last season was going to be, he wouldn’t have left the show at that point, and the ratings show this: it started with a low episode (“Warriors of the Deep”), but then shot up and ended the Fifth Doctor’s tenure on one of the best episodes in the entire series. Sadly, the average and slope of the ratings line are destroyed by the Sixth Doctor’s debut episode “The Twin Dilemma,” which unusually counts for season 21, instead of the Sixth Doctor’s first season, season 22.

One other thing that I noticed was that while “The Trial of a Time Lord” is usually mentioned as being one of the low points of the series, on this graph its episodes average around 7.5, the same as most of the other seasons’ averages, and its ratings are tightly clustered around that average, so there aren’t any truly poorly-rated episodes.

That’s that for now. Hopefully I’ll be able to write regularly, but if not, see you all next week! To days to come!

Hard data

Graph of IMDB ratings of Doctor Who episodes

Graph of IMDB ratings of Doctor Who episodes

I found this on my Facebook feed yesterday: Graph TV. It’s a website that reads the IMDB ratings of TV show episodes and graphs them, with the linear regression showing the ratings trend over each season. If you thought the last season of Dexter was disappointing, you should check out what it looks like on this site. Of course, the first thing I did was type in Doctor Who, and the graph is very interesting. I’ve included a screenshot of it here but I recommend going to the site and looking at the real display, because you can mouse over the dots to see which episodes they are and their individual ratings.

The biggest problem with graphs like this (and statistics) is that if you don’t really understand the mathematics behind them, it’s really easy to misinterpret data and use them to support whatever theory you already believe. Now, I’m not a statistics expert, so I can’t draw a lot of conclusions from the graph, but it’s fun to try.

First, it’s important to understand how this data was collected. Each dot represents an episode’s rating, which is an average of IMDB user ratings. You can view the list of episodes, number of votes, and ratings by clicking on the IMDB link below the graph (or just click here), and you can see that each episode has somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 ratings. The graph does not take into account any episodes that don’t have an episode number, so the David Tennant specials (“The Next Doctor,” “Planet of the Dead,” “The Waters of Mars,” and “The End of the Time) and the final Matt Smith episodes (“The Day of the Doctor” and “The Time of the Doctor”) are not included in the graph.

It’s also important to note the averages of the ratings, because they are hard to read off the graphs. I’ve calculated them, and here they are, with a few tweaks as noted:

  • All 7 series: 8.13
  • Series 1: 8.09
  • Series 2: 8.02
  • Series 3: 8.12
  • Series 4: 8.29
  • David Tennant specials: 8.14
  • Series 5: 8.18
  • Series 6: 8.21
  • Series 7: 7.97
  • Series 7.1: 8.05
  • Series 7.2: 7.92
  • Series 7 with “The Day of the Doctor” and “The Time of the Doctor”: 8.07

The first thing you probably notice when you see the graph is the marked difference between the Russell T. Davies (RTD) era (series 1-4) and the Steven Moffat era: except for series 2, the RTD series’ regression lines have a strong positive slope, while the Moffat series’ regression lines are much flatter, and series 7 has a negative slope. What does this mean? RTD’s episodes get a lot better at the end of the season, while Moffat’s episodes keep a consistent amount of quality. What happened to series 2? Well, the bottom three episodes, “The Idiot’s Lantern,” “Love and Monsters,” and “Fear Her” are clear outliers: only six episodes in the entire run of the show are rated 7.0 or below, and three of them are these three episodes. While you can’t really just drop them out of the graph, if you ignore them for a moment, you see that the rest of series 2 has the same trend as series 1, 3, and 4 and its ratings average pops up to 8.42, which is better than any other season.

What do these trends tell us about RTD’s episodes? RTD’s style was to present us with a number of adventure episodes with hints about the theme tying the season together (you know, “Bad Wolf,” Torchwood, Harold Saxon), then use the last few episodes to tell the overarching story. So, we see that the quality of the episodes improve as they start to tell this story. The actual non-conforming series in this run is series 3, Martha’s season. Its finale, “Utopia”/”The Sound of Drums”/”The Last of the Time Lords”, is rated much worse (though not badly) than the series 1, 2, and 4 finales, but its overall high positive slope is maintained by the fantastic ratings of “Human Nature”/”The Family of Blood” and “Blink.” Without those stories, unrelated to the overall arc, series 3’s regression line’s slope would be closer to series 5’s slope.

What about the Moffat’s episodes? For his first two seasons Moffat set up story arches that were introduced in the first episode of each season (the crack in the wall and the impossible astronaut), teased us with the story in a couple of episodes during the season but otherwise presented adventure episodes, then tied up the story in the last couple of episodes. Looking at the graphs, we can see that the story arc episodes in general rate very high, but the rest of the episodes have poor ratings. This results in a flat regression line, as both series start high, dip low, and end high. We can see this happen again in series 7, in a bit more complicated way: the impossible girl is introduced in “Asylum of the Daleks,” restarted again in “The Snowmen,” and wrapped up in “The Name of the Doctor,” and apart from those three episodes and “The Angels Take Manhattan” (the departure of Amy and Rory, another story arc episode), the adventure episodes in series 7 are seem to be below average for the entire 7-series run of the show.

Another interesting thing to look at are the best episodes. Take a look at all the episodes that are rated 8.8 or above. They all have at least one of these three qualities: they are part of the season arc, they are written by a very highly-regarded writer (Moffat or Neil Gaiman), or they have something important to say (“The Impossible Planet”/”Satan Pit”, “Human Nature”/”Family of Blood”, “Midnight”, “Turn Left”, “Vincent and the Doctor”). Doctor Who is at its best when it tackles interesting themes.

A few more points:

  •  It looks like RTD was just hitting his stride when he left. Series averages were going up, more high-rated episodes, less low-rated episodes. I wonder what his series 5 would have been like?
  • Series 7 was really kind of terrible. Out of fifteen episodes, only four of them rated higher than the average ratings of all of the other series.
  • I’ve been referring mostly to the showrunner of the series, but I wonder how much the different Doctor affects these ratings? How many people who, say, don’t like the Tenth Doctor will automatically rate a Tenth Doctor episode low? Will a Tenth Doctor fan rate the episode higher? Does this cancel out?

One last thing I noticed on this graph was that it supports something I like to tell my friends when they start watching Doctor Who: some episodes are good and some episodes are bad, like any TV show, but Donna had the best season and never had a stinker episode. Take a look at her graph, series 4: not a single episode under 7.6, and four episodes at 9 or above! Her average is 8.29! No other series comes close to that record. Maybe her first episodes weren’t earth-shattering, but they were fun and enjoyable. I’d love to say it’s because she’s the best companion ever (because she is!), but honestly, I just simply think that series was just well done.

 

Doctor Who posters

Yes, I’m being lazy. Life is still chaotic and currently my stomach is full of butterflies as I realize that I have three major things up in the air that I can’t do anything about and that I need to wait to have resolved, hopefully all by tonight. So, I’m reblogging this post because these posters are completely awesome. I love how they’re laid out and the choices the artist made for what enemies to include with each Doctor. If I had a room big enough and the money to spend, I’d frame all of these and put them up.

Real life intrudes

I actually don’t have a single thing to say about Doctor Who today. Well, not directly, anyway. Unlike every other post in this blog up until this point, today I’m just going to talk about a couple of real-life things.

First, things have been pretty chaotic in my life. I don’t want to go into any detail, so let’s just say that for the past three weeks, it’s been going “this is going to happen,” then a day later, “no, that is going to happen,” then a couple of days later, “oh, you thought you’d get a day to yourself, but no, you have to do this now.” While I’m normally pretty resistant to chaos (everyone else around me is having a lot of problems dealing with everything, but I’m doing pretty much fine), it’s starting to get a bit old and annoying.

"What you going to do, then? Arrest me? Lock me up? Throw me in a cage? Well, you're too late. Ha!"

“What you going to do, then? Arrest me? Lock me up? Throw me in a cage? Well, you’re too late. Ha!”

Part of the problem is that all this chaos is impinging on my free time. I’d love to get back to watching Doctor Who and doing all my usual fan activities, but I haven’t watched anything since “Planet of Fire,” simply due to lack of time. What little time I do have, I’ve spent working on my fanfics, but even that has been very painful and stunted: I’ve spent the last two days hacking at a section comprised of only three paragraphs, and it’s still not right. I feel very, well, trapped.

The main problem is that it’s a waiting game: things will resolve in their own time, and there’s nothing I can do to help them along. I would feel a lot better if there was anything I could do to address the situation. Well, it should all sort itself out within the next week, and everything will go back to normal. As the optimist that I am, I’m looking forward to that.

Playing favorites, redux

Someone else's favorites

Someone else’s favorites

So, I found the meme to the right, which I can’t give attributions for because I can’t read the type in the lower right, but I thought I would list my favorites in the same style, with a couple of extra categories, mostly because it’s a lazy way of getting a blog post written. I haven’t watched Torchwood or Sarah Jane Adventures yet (I know! Blasphemy!) so it’s all Doctor Who.

Favorite Doctor (oh, big surprise here)

Favorite Doctor (Oh, big surprise here. Both of them.)

Favorite Companion (again, big surprise)

Favorite Companion (Again, big surprise.)

Favorite Villain

Favorite Villain

Least Favorite Companion

Least Favorite Companion

Favorite Alien

Favorite Alien

Favorite Regular Episode

Favorite Regular Episode

Favorite Special Episode

Favorite Special Episode

Favorite Webisode

Favorite Webisode

Saddest Episode

Saddest Episode

Funniest Episode

Funniest Episode

Scariest Episode

Scariest Episode

series 1 soundtrack

Favorite Main Theme Version: Season 1-3 Theme

series 3 soundtrack

Favorite Theme (that’s not the main theme): The Doctor Forever

Most Annoying Character (the woman Leela is slapping)

Most Annoying Character (the woman Leela is slapping)

Favorite Male Actor (non-Doctor)

Favorite Actor (non-Doctor)

Favorite Actress

Favorite Actress

Favorite Writer

Favorite Writer

Favorite Couple

Favorite Couple

Favorite Friendship

Favorite Friendship

Favorite Gadget

Favorite Gadget

Favorite Guest Actor

Favorite Guest Actor

Favorite Guest Actress

Favorite Guest Actress

Favorite Group Shot

Favorite Group Shot

Favorite Master

Favorite Master

Coolest Thing

Coolest Thing

Playing favorites

doctor-who-companions-63-13My husband asked me today to list my three favorite companions. Now, number one should come as no surprise to anyone who’s read what I’ve written before: Donna Noble is definitely the best. No question. No hesitation. Just the best. But the top three? That took a bit more thought, and I realized that I could probably name my top five, but I had a lot of problems with top three. So, here are my top five companions, not listed in order, except of course with Donna at the top. (I’m counting only traveling companions, not one-shots and few-shots like Jackson Lake, Wilfred Mott, and Craig Owens. Also please note that I’m not very familiar with the companions of the first three Doctors and a few of the other classic companions.)

Five Favorite Companions

Donna Noble: Donna was the perfect support for the Tenth Doctor. She acted as his conscience, and was the friend that he needed. She was always willing to defend her beliefs and was strong enough to stand up for herself, even against the Doctor. Both she and the Doctor grew while they were together.

Sarah Jane Smith: A strong, confident, fearless  woman, she was always willing to get right into the heart of the problem. She also worked well with all of the Doctors she met. I think a lot of Sarah Jane’s appeal had to do with her actress, Elisabeth Sladen, a woman who just sparkled on screen.

Vislor Turlough: One of the things I really like about Turlough is that he had secrets. His introductory stories were about his deal with the Black Guardian, which bound him to trying to kill the Doctor. The only other episode of his I have seen so far is “Planet of Fire,” and again, in that, we find out about his history on Trion, which he has guarded up until this time. He’s a survivalist, which makes him look a bit cowardly, but this makes him more realistic, as well as rounds out his character.

Ace McShane: Ace was a rough-and-ready street urchin, a great complement for the educated, sophisticated, and cunning Seventh Doctor. She was straightforward and unapologetic, and sometimes her decisions would cause more trouble than they would solve, but that’s how she was.

Rory Williams: Rory was loyal to the Eleventh Doctor without being obsessed with him, an important contrast to Amy. Thus, his motivations were far more complex, and it also allowed him to be a less than perfect companion: he was fearful of danger, worried for Amy, and distrusting of the Doctor.

Honorable Mentions

Tegan Jovanka: I haven’t seen enough Tegan, I think. She’s brash, blunt, and obnoxious – in short, a lot of fun.

Barbara Wright: I’ve only seen two First Doctor episodes, but I really loved Barbara in both of them. She’s not a sympathetic character, but she’s confident and takes charge when she needs to.

Companions I Don’t Like

Rose Tyler: Not a popular opinion, I know. I liked her a lot more in series 1, but in series 2, during the show’s “let’s see how silly the Doctor can be when he’s in love” stage, she’s insufferable. She’s whiny and selfish, manipulates the Doctor when she can, and treats everyone else like crap (especially Mickey, but also Jackie). Her writing was also erratic, portrayed as a strong, take-charge person in one episode and a cringing coward in the next. During the Darlig Ulv Stranden scene, I cried for the Doctor, but was glad to see Rose go.

Melanie Bush: I’ve only seen her in “Time and the Rani,” which was a terrible episode, but Mel made it so much worse. I am hoping she turns out to be better when she’s in a non-terrible episode.

Clara Oswald: The “Impossible Girl” arc was interesting, but Clara herself has no character. She simply seems to exist as a deus ex machina for stories in which the Doctor doesn’t win. And then suddenly we find out that she fancies him, with no previous, in-character clues. I’m hoping she’s treated better in the new series.

 

“Planet of Fire”

It’s just been one of those weeks. Meetings to go to, errands to run, tasks to be done. So many demands on my time, I didn’t even visit WordPress at all yesterday. Hopefully it will all go back to normal on Monday. I’ve even not had the time to watch much Doctor Who, and so this discussion of “Planet of Fire” is from watching it three nights ago. I hope I remember everything I wanted to say.

As usual, spoilers ho!

There are some images you find that you just have to post.

There are some images you find that you just have to post.

“Planet of Fire” is the penultimate Fifth Doctor episode, in which Vislor Turlough and Kamelion depart and Peri Brown joins up. I’m going to start with the shallow statement that this episode has something for everyone, as Peri, who spends much of her time in the TARDIS wearing deep-plunging blouses, is introduced in her bikini, while the Doctor, on this desert planet, spends the entire episode in his dress shirt and suspenders. I never realized before how good those tailored high-waisted trousers can look on a man. Ok, back to the actual intelligent discussion of this episode.

The bulk of the episode is set on a planet called Sarn, inhabited by a tribe of people who worship the fire god Logar, but have odd bits of technology that they revere as gifts from the god. The Doctor, Turlough, and Peri (who Turlough had brought into the TARDIS after saving her from drowning; the Doctor didn’t know she was there)  arrive there when the TARDIS is sent there by Kamelion. The Doctor and Turlough get embroiled in the affairs of the tribe, who believe that the prophecies of the volcano erupting and the mysterious “Outsider” arriving as a gift from Logar are coming true, while Kamelion, controlled by and looking like the Master, forces Peri to work against the Doctor. Meanwhile, Turlough is getting far more involved in and concerned about the tribe’s welfare than he normally does, and it turns out that the god Logar and his gifts of technology are the tribe’s misinterpretation of the crash of a spaceship from Turlough’s home planet of Trion, and in fact, the “Chosen One” who directs the tribe is Turlough’s brother. Eventually, the Master’s plan is revealed: he’s been shrunk to about four inches tall due to an accident while working on his TCE (Tissue Compression Eliminator), and came to Sarn because the volcano emits numismaton gas, which will restore him, though it requires the volcano to erupt, which would destroy the tribe.

So, that summary isn’t the most coherent thing in the world, because the episode is far more complex. First, it portrays a religious society and the problems they have with heretics and loss of faith. While Timanov, the head priest, is completely faithful to his god and follows what he believes is the god’s words, the Chosen One, Malkon, questions the god’s apparent orders to execute the unbelievers, and refuses to sentence anyone to death. Meanwhile, there are unbelievers who seek out evidence that the god doesn’t exist and after finding such evidence, have to decide on whether or not to denounce the god, knowing they’d be put to death. Then later, when the “Outsider” appears at the foretold time, they begin to question their own conclusions about the existence of the god.

The arrival of the two Time Lords on the planet also tests their faith. The Master immediately and happily accepts the title of the “Outsider” to make the tribe do what he wants and turn on the Doctor. In contrast, the Doctor refuses to claim that he comes from the god, and in order to save the tribe, explains exactly what’s going on to them, so that they will make the decision to evacuate the planet. In all, it was a very interesting exploration of faith and how it can be twisted and exploited.

I think, though, the best part of the entire episode was Turlough. This was his swan song and his story. He was the one who figured out what was going on – that the spaceship that had crashed was his father’s and the Chosen One was his brother – since he recognized the symbols and the technology he was seeing, and then figured out how to use it to unify the tribe. Malkon, the Chosen One had been shot and was near death, so Turlough, who had the same symbol on his arm as Malkon, stepped up and claimed that he, too, was a Chosen One, then took command of the tribe. He also made the sacrifice to save them: he was a political exile on Trion, and the only way to save them was to call for a rescue ship from there. In doing so, he would be arrested for violating his exile. Luckily for him, general amnesty had been granted and he was free to finally return home.

One last interesting part of this episode was the final interaction between the Doctor and the Master. The four-inch Master finally got the numismaton gas to work and he grew to full size, but he didn’t know that the Doctor had changed the controls, and he became stuck in the flames when the numismaton gas stopped flowing. He begged the Doctor to turn off the flame, first threatening him, then offering him anything, then finally, begging for mercy, before he finally disintegrated. Throughout it all, the Doctor watched him with a stony expression – a very uncharacteristic decision, perhaps spurred by the fact that the Master tried to kill both the Doctor and the whole tribe in his quest for restoration. The other interesting thing about this exchange was the Master’s final words: “Won’t you show mercy to your own -”  The sentence is never completed, and I’m sure there have been multitudes of discussions about how it was going to end.

All in all, it was an enjoyable and thought-provoking episode, and though I haven’t seen all of the episodes in the Peter Davison’s final season, if this is any indication, I can see why he thought that if he had known how good this season was going to be, he would have stayed on for another year. The only thing I think they did poorly in this episode was the scenes of Peri wandering the desert – very obvious filler. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this season, as much as I am looking forward to seeing more Seventh Doctor.