'Doctor Who' Showrunner Steven Moffat Talks Ratings, Season 9

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"There is no drop-off in the ratings" in Britain when including delayed viewing, he says while highlighting growing U.S. ratings

Steven Moffat, the showrunner of BBC hit show Doctor Who, which starred Peter Capaldi in the just-ended eighth season, has started writing season nine, he said in London Tuesday evening. 

Speaking at a Royal Television Society event, he didn't provide any further details on the new season beyond saying he once again was among the writers. The BBC hasn't said anything official about the new season, but industry observers have been expecting the show to return in 2015 after Moffat earlier this year said in an interview that another season would likely be ready next year.

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He said that after some Doctor Who content for season eight leaked online, he was extra careful not to disclose too much information early in the process.

Executive producer Brian Minchin said at the Tuesday evening event that the production team finished filming the latest season on a Saturday and started planning the next season the following Monday, since putting together a season of the show takes about 18 months.

Asked about the slightly lower overnight viewing figures for this past season as a whole in Britain and whether he was disappointed by the drop, Moffat said the viewing figures "are the same" when including delayed viewing. "There is no drop-off in the ratings," he said, adding that even the overnight figures would still make the show a hit. Viewing on the BBC iPlayer VOD service has tripled over the years, he said.

He also pointed out that U.S. ratings have risen, with the audience up 30 percent since Capaldi took over the role of the doctor, according to Moffat. BBC America airs the show in the U.S.

The season finale of Doctor Who on BBC One on Saturday night drew an average audience of 5.45 million in the overnight ratings. That's compared with the 5.46 million overnight and nearly 7.5 million total viewership for the final regular episode of the previous season, which starred Matt Smith and ended in May 2013.

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The extended Saturday episode of the sci-fi hit show drew the second-highest overnight ratings of Capaldi's first season as the Time Lord. Overall, the latest season has averaged 7.35 million consolidated viewers, compared with 7.45 million for the previous season.

Moffat also said he couldn't really blame fans for looking up leaked material featuring the new Time Lord. "I don’t blame the guys who went and looked," he said. "I would have as a fan.”

One audience member asked Tuesday if Doctor Who could meet Sherlock Holmes from Moffat's other BBC show Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. "There are certain rules I cannot break," Moffat said, pointing out that Holmes was a fictional character. And, he added: "You don't need both of those guys in one show."

British director Ben Wheatley was one of the surprise participants in Tuesday's event. He said he was a big Doctor Who fan and was excited to finally be able to direct two episodes this season.

"I got to blow up a lot of stuff," he said when asked what he took away from doing the show for his film work. "I enjoyed that a lot." Wheatley added that this made Doctor Who a boot camp of sorts for his upcoming feature High-Rise as the show requires a director to make quick decisions in a short timeframe, while ensuring quality work. 

Email: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai