Doctor Who Premiere Sparks Frustration Among UK Fans

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Doctor Who, the quintessentially British sci-fi series, is set to make a grand return with a new season in May – but not without stirring a pot of controversy among its loyal UK fanbase.

The BBC has announced that the season will kick off with a double bill on BBC iPlayer at midnight on May 11, before its terrestrial airing on BBC One.

This season marks the return of Ncuti Gatwa as the Fifteenth Doctor and Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday, following their acclaimed debut in The Church on Ruby Road.

However, the decision to synchronize the global release, including a 7pm ET slot on Disney+ for American audiences, has sparked frustration among British viewers.

Accustomed to primetime viewings, UK fans have voiced their concerns on social media, criticizing the BBC for seemingly prioritising international viewers and raising alarms over potential spoilers.

Doctor Who Season 1 Ncuti Gatwa Millie Gibson in Tardis
Photo: The BBC

The Timing Controversy: UK Fans React 

Doctor Who’s premiere’s timing has sparked a wave of discontent among British fans.

Due to a new partnership with Disney+, the show will premiere simultaneously around the globe, including a 7pm ET release in the US on Disney+.

This means that while American audiences can enjoy the premiere in the early evening, British fans face the prospect of staying up until midnight to catch the episodes on iPlayer or waiting until the following evening for the BBC One broadcast.

This scheduling has led to concerns about spoilers flooding social media and forcing UK fans to either adjust their schedules or dodge online discussions to avoid early reveals.

This scheduling choice has been perceived as a shift in priority, with the BBC seemingly favouring international (particularly American) audiences over its homegrown viewers.

The essence of the discontent lies not just in the inconvenience of the late-night premiere but also in the perceived sidelining of the UK audience for a show that is a staple of British culture.

Typically, when popular US shows, such as Game of Thrones, have aired simultaneously in the UK, it’s generally seen as a positive development. This arrangement allows eager fans to view episodes concurrently with the global audience, avoiding spoilers and joining in the worldwide conversation.

However, with a quintessentially British series like Doctor Who, the expectation shifts.

Doctor Who classic collection
Doctor Who (Photo: The BBC)

Given its status as a national treasure, there’s a strong argument that international broadcast times should align with the UK’s schedule, allowing the rest of the world to tune in according to British time.

One disgruntled fan expressed their frustration on Twitter, saying, “Yeah this scheduling sucks. Why are you prioritizing international (American) viewers?”

Another fan highlighted the issue of global accessibility versus local tradition, stating, “I like global accessibility, but the show should’ve aired at 7pm for UK and the rest of the countries follow that time instead.

“Feels like prioritising the show for America and not Europe and I’m not a fan of that.”

Of course, Time Travel remarks were not missed either. 

Many on social media seem to feel that Doctor Who should first and foremost cater to its UK viewers, with international broadcasting strategies built around this primary audience.

Then again, it’s worth remembering that Disney+ has infused the show with a lot of American dollars this time around…

A New Era for Doctor Who

Despite the timing controversy, the upcoming season of Doctor Who (known as either Season 1 or Series 14) promises to be as thrilling as ever.

Under Russell T Davies’s renewed stewardship, the show is set to explore new mysteries, face off against villains, and unveil a “terrifying secret that’s been spanning time and space for decades.”

The season will also welcome back familiar faces and introduce new characters, played by a roster of guest stars including Jinkx Monsoon, Aneurin Barnard, and Jonathan Groff, among others.

Understanding The Doctor Who Premiere Timings

Navigating the timings for the new season of Doctor Who can be a bit confusing, so here’s a breakdown to clarify when and where you can catch the episodes, both in the UK and around the world:

For UK Viewers:

BBC iPlayer: The season kicks off with a double bill available from midnight on Saturday, 11 May. This means UK fans willing to stay up late can be among the first to watch the new episodes.

BBC One: For those who prefer traditional TV viewing or don’t fancy a late night, the two first episodes will air on Saturday evening, just before the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final. This provides a prime-time viewing option, albeit a day after the iPlayer release.

An episode will then continue to drop on BBC iPlayer at 00:00 on Saturdays, followed by a primetime slot on BBC One each week following that.

International Viewers:

Disney+ (where available): The global premiere is set for 7pm Eastern Time (ET) on Friday, 10 May. This translates to various times across the globe, allowing fans worldwide to tune in almost simultaneously. Here are a few key time zones:

    • Pacific Time (PT): 4pm on Friday, 10 May
    • Central European Time (CET): 1am on Saturday, 11 May
    • Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST): 9am on Saturday, 11 May
    • India Standard Time (IST): 4:30am on Saturday, 11 May

Disney Plus app on smartphone 1200

This scheduling means that while American viewers can enjoy the show in the early evening, European audiences, including the UK, have a midnight or later premiere time. 

Whether this strategy will pay off in terms of global engagement without alienating local viewers remains to be seen.

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9 thoughts on “Doctor Who Premiere Sparks Frustration Among UK Fans”

  1. A bunch of Boomers are upset at a midnight upload to BBC iPlayer, they should be grateful that the BBC are uploading the episodes to iPlayer, some people are so ungrateful, it’s good for the series, it’s good for the long term future of the show and great that it’s getting the exposure. It’s a new world, things needs to change in an ever changing environment. The spoiler argument is complete rubbish!

  2. If the BBC want to go the streaming route, and prioritise American viewers over the home country fans – then expect backlash. Also, don’t expect the British fans to pay for a TV license. What’s the point if iPlayer are getting things first?

    • You can’t legally watch the BBC’s iplayer unless you have a TV License, nothing changes there if you watch it on broadcast or on streaming in the UK.

  3. Not sure how this is going to work on BBC1 for the premiere. If they are releasing two episodes on the iPlayer, and the show starts at 7:00 PM on Saturday (11th), there won’t be time to show both episodes before Eurovision starts at 8.00 PM.

    • They haven’t announced the exact time for BBC One yet – but I assume it’ll be 6:00pm or 6:30pm, depending on the length of the episodes.

    • You will see one episode on BBC One. Those that watch via iplayer will see that first episode from Midnight and get the option of watching the second episode early. There is no extra episode. If you watch that second episode early you will get nothing the week after because you will have seen it.


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