Nearly every series of new (post-2005) Doctor Who, excluding specials, has comprised a sequence of weekly episodes:

  • Series 1: weekly from 26 March 2005 to 18 June 2005
  • Series 2: weekly from 15 April 2006 to 8 July 2006
  • Series 3: weekly from 31 March 2007 to 30 June 2007, with one two-week gap
  • Series 4: weekly from 5 April 2008 to 5 July 2008, with one two-week gap
  • Series 5: weekly from 3 April 2010 to 26 June 2010
  • Series 8: weekly from 23 August 2014 to 8 November 2014
  • Series 9: weekly from 19 September 2015 to 5 December 2015

With the exceptions of Series 6 and 7, which were each split into two halves with a period of months in between:

  • Series 6: weekly from 23 April 2011 to 4 June 2011, then weekly from 27 August 2011 to 1 October 2011
  • Series 7: weekly from 1 September 2012 to 29 September 2012, then weekly from 30 March 2013 to 18 May 2013

Plot-wise, each of these splits sort of makes sense: the first half of Series 6 ends with

the revelation that River Song is Melody Pond, Amy and Rory's daughter,

while the first half of Series 7 ends with

Amy and Rory being lost to the Doctor forever,

with a Christmas special in the middle of Series 7 to introduce the new character of Clara.

But what was the out-of-universe reason for these splits? Why did Moffat or whoever make the decision to split the transmission of each of Series 6 and 7 into two separate chunks?

  • 1
    "This [split] reportedly came about as a result of writer Steven Moffat's desire to write an entire new story arc for the Doctor, which will conclude with a potentially huge cliffhanging plot development at the end of the spring. We can, therefore, expect seven episodes in the first half of 2011, and a further six towards the end of the year" - denofgeek.com/tv/doctor-who/20589/…. – Valorum Jul 8 '16 at 14:04

Series 6

The BBC released a press-release to explain the decision, citing that by making fans wait, it would increase their overall enjoyment.

The BBC and Steven Moffat have announced today that the transmission of the next series of Doctor Who, in 2011, will be split into two blocks, transmitting in spring and autumn.

The split transmission is the result of a request from Steven Moffat to write a new Doctor Who story arc which involves a big plot twist in the middle of the series. By splitting the series Moffat plans to give viewers one of the most exciting Doctor Who cliffhangers and plot twists ever, leaving them waiting, on the edge of their seats, until the autumn to find out what happens.

Steven Moffat said: “The split series is hugely exciting because viewers will be treated to two premieres, two finales and more event episodes. For the kids it will never be more than a few months to the next Doctor Who! Easter, Autumn, Christmas!!”


Series 7

In this letter to angry fans, Patrick McManus from the BBC complaints dept again justified the split in Season 7 on "creative grounds"

Additionally, please note that the decision to schedule series 7 in two parts was a creative one and we’re sorry you are unhappy about this.

BBC forced to react to fan fury over split Who S7 + 50th special

According to showrunner Steven Moffat, the plan for Season 7 was to leave as short a gap as possible between the end of the series and the (very expensive) 50th year celebration episode.

"I don't know, on this occasion, that the thinking particularly came from me, actually. I've always been open to anything that shakes [the series] up. I think that decision actually came from the BBC.

"But I've been well up for anything that we can do to shake up the transmission pattern, the way we deliver it to the audience and how long we make the audience wait, simply because that makes Doctor Who an event piece.

Steven Moffat shares the reason he's messing with Who's schedule

He also argued that moving the transmission dates around randomly makes audiences feel better about Dr Who in general.

"So keeping Doctor Who as an event, and never making people feel, 'Oh, it's lovely, reliable old Doctor Who — it'll be on about this time, at that time of year'. Once you start to do that, just slowly, it becomes like any much-loved ornament in your house — ultimately invisible. And I don't want that to ever be the case."

Steven Moffat shares the reason he's messing with Who's schedule

Real reasons

The cynic in me suspects that the decision was actually taken in order to double the number of season-openings and season-finales (potentially increasing the viewing figures which had taken a slide) and hence sell more overseas advertising and box-sets. You can see the mid-season bumps here.

It may also be pertinent to point out that the next season wasn't slated for production until February the following year, with transmission of Season 7 nearly 18 months after the point that the previous season should normally have ended. A gap that big would have angered fans greatly.

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  • Muchas gracias. Good find. I bet the internet absolutely exploded in mid-2011 with speculation about the revelation at the end of Series 6a. – Rand al'Thor Jul 8 '16 at 14:13
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    "A gap that big would have angered fans greatly" - you mean like this effing big gap we're in the middle of now? :-) – Rand al'Thor Jul 8 '16 at 14:14
  • @Randal'Thor - See. Now imagine how you'd feel if they announced that the next episode wasn't until August 2017. – Valorum Jul 8 '16 at 14:15
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    "leaving them waiting, on the edge of their seats, until the autumn" Surely this breaks some human rights laws – Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 8 '16 at 14:19

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