BARB today released the final ratings for week ending 21 May, which see the BBC One transmission of The Age of Steel rising from its overnight figure of 6.93 million to a consolidated final ratings figure of 7.63 million viewers. The episode's timeshift figure of 0.7m is the highest of the week, with various episodes of Coronation Street, EastEnders, New Tricks and The Bill all getting a timeshift of 0.4m. The episode remains second in the chart for Saturday 20 May, behind the annual Eurovision Song Contest, seventh for the week on BBC One, fifteenth for the week across UK television, and the eighth most watched show of the week; the programme's earlier timeslot for that week left it trailing several episodes of ITV1's Emmerdale for the first time this year. On BBC Three, Doctor Who Confidential on 21 May heads the BARB chart with 0.63m viewers, with the Sunday repeat of The Age of Steel in second place with 0.62m viewers.
The final figure for The Age of Steel represents a year-on-year increase of 0.52m on the 7.11m achieved by The Empty Child on the same weekend in 2005. This continues Series Two's almost unbroken track record of increased viewing figures against last year's episodes, with only Dalek performing significantly better for Series One. Yesterday's article in Media Guardian suggesting that viewers are disappearing from Doctor Who has been picked up by several other UK news media, most of which repeat various errors in that original article. In fact, this year's episodes have seen audiences increase against last year, from an average across the six weeks of 7.90m to a 2006 average of 8.49m. This year's episodes have also - so far - performed as well as or better than last year's in terms of chart positions.
Aliens of London (16 April 2005) 7.63m, 2nd (day)/18th (week)
New Earth (15 April 2006) 8.62m [+ 0.99m] 1st (day)/9th (week)
World War Three (23 April 2005) 7.98m, 2nd (day)/20th (week)
Tooth and Claw (22 April 2006) 9.24m [+1.26m] 1st (day)/10th (week)
Dalek (30 April 2005) 8.63m, 1st (day)/14th (week)
School Reunion (29 April 2006) 8.31m [-0.32m] 1st (day)/12th (week)
The Long Game (7 May 2005) 8.01m, 2nd (day)/17th (week)
The Girl in the Fireplace (6 May 2006) 7.90m [-0.11m] 1st (day)/13th (week)
Father's Day (14 May 2005) 8.06m, 1st (day)/17th (week)
Rise of the Cybermen (13 May 2006) 9.22m [+1.16m] 1st (day)/6th (week)
The Empty Child (21 May 2005) 7.11m, 3rd (day)/21st (week)
The Age of Steel (20 May 2006) 7.63m [+0.52m] 2nd (day)/15th (week)
Final figures are not yet available for the episode that provoked Media Guardian's article, The Idiot's Lantern, although its bank holiday weekend overnights (6.32m, 1st/19th) were also higher than last year's overnights (also on a bank holiday weekend) for "The Doctor Dances" (6.17m, 1st/18th). The pattern established by Series One is continuing, with the ratings dips following the same trends as last year but with smaller actual dips. BBC Three's repeat ratings continue to show an upwards trend whenever the BBC One debut has a lower audience, suggesting that the story Media Guardian may have missed is that a similar-sized total audience is making use of digital reruns and home recording each week to maintain an average total weekly audience of, currently, c.9.47m. (The same - widely ignored - pattern can generally be observed whenever one of the main soaps performs disappointingly in its main showing.) All of which is a roundabout way of saying that Doctor Who's UK success actually seems to be continuing, and suggestions that viewers are tiring of it are somewhat exaggerated...
Meanwhile, The Idiot's Lantern has also continued the series' consistent run of very strong AI figures, with the episode scoring an excellent 84 on Saturday, still among the higher AIs since the series' return, beaten by only three of 2005's episodes, though not as high as the 86 scored by both episodes of the preceding Cybermen story.