BBC's 'Doctor Who' Season Debut Overnight Ratings Drop

Peter Capaldi returned Saturday night as the Time Lord in the British sci-fi hit to what is believed to be the lowest fall season-launch audience of the show in its modern form.

The first episode of the ninth season of BBC hit show Doctor Who‎ drew significantly lower overnight ratings in Britain than last year's season opener, according to overnight ratings data.

The season debut on Saturday night drew an average audience of 4.6 million, according to, compared with 6.8 million in last year's overnights, which made last season's launch the show's most-watched season opener in the U.K. since 2010. Last season saw Peter Capaldi take over the role of the Doctor.

Saturday's average audience for Doctor Who on the public broadcaster's flagship network BBC One amounted to a 21.2 percent share of the total U.K. TV audience at the time, compared with 32.5 percent for last season's first episode.

Looking at reported past ratings, the data looks like it made for the lowest fall-season launch audience of the show in its modern form. The show had an original version, which was canceled, before it relaunched in its current form in 2005. The BBC on Sunday couldn't immediately confirm that it was the show's season opener with the lowest-ever ratings.

The overnight figures do not include viewing via iPlayer, the BBC's digital VOD service, which has in some cases added well more than 2 million viewers to the reported overnight figure. BBC executives and creatives behind the show have often pointed out that the show has seen more and more of its audience move to on-demand viewing.

The ratings data came out Sunday morning London time. Capaldi succeeded Matt Smith as the Time Lord in the popular sci-fi show, which in the U.S. airs on BBC America.

The overnight ratings for Saturday's episode compared with the 6.4 million overnight average audience that had tuned into the first Doctor Who episode of season seven in September 2012.