The BBC has published a number of documents from its extensive written archive, detailing audience reaction to the arrival of a new Doctor, as it occurred over the years.
Viewer comments are contained in various letters and reports contained in the archive, showing viewers' reaction to each new face of the Time Lord. The papers, which span 40-plus years and are published online for the first time, reveal the difficulties of bedding in the new Doctor. Internal memos show that his first transformation was originally envisaged as a drug trip. "It is as if he has had the L.S.D. drug and instead of experiencing the kicks, he has the hell and dank horror which can be its effect", said one memo.
The change from William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton didn't please some viewers. "Once a brilliant but eccentric scientist, he now comes over as a half-witted clown," said one viewer of Troughton's new role, although another praised Troughton for rescuing the show from the "mess it had degenerated into". Some viewers were fed up with the Daleks and felt they were no longer a novelty.
When Jon Pertwee came along in 1970 some viewers complained it didn't measure up to another Science Fiction programme. 'Hardly an adequate substitute for Star Trek, and by comparison rather childish' was one comment, although most thought Pertwee had made a most acceptable and satisfactory 'new' Doctor. The debut of Tom Baker, who went to to be one of the most highly regarded Doctors, also drew much criticism. "General opinion was that the new Dr Who is a looney," said one viewer. Others however said the new Doctor had "more life and humour" than the last and seemed likely to "buck the series up".
Peter Davison's arrival in 1982 was met with general approval although there were a couple of suggestions that he should stick to being a vet. Colin Baker was met with mixed reaction with some viewers feeling the new Doctor was so totally different in character from others who had gone before him that he seemed 'unreal'. Sylvester McCoy had one of the most difficult starts with poor appreciation figures. The report noted that there are "a core of loyal and enthusiastic fans of Doctor Who remaining", although it said, "their number seems to be decreasing with each successive series".
The site also has a gallery of actors who nearly became the Doctor.
The new items available join those already online looking at the Genesis of Doctor Who.
Roly Keating, the BBC's director for archive content, said: "As we welcome Matt Smith and Karen Gillan into the Tardis, it's the perfect moment to remember his predecessors and also to celebrate the work of the BBC Archive in preserving these documents and photographs for future generations."
The material can be found at bbc.co.uk/archive.