Doctor Who & Its Growing Popularity In The United States

Doctor Who outsold both Modern Family and Glee on the US iTunes store during 2011.

Gwynn Compton


Many British things have successfully invaded the United States of America, the Beatles in the 1960s, the Spice Girls in the 1990s, British comedy (let’s face it, it’s always been invading the US successfully) and One Direction just this month. However there has been one invasion that has been going on for decades, and the US doesn’t even seem to be aware that they’re being invaded.

And that is Doctor Who.

When I say that the world’s sole superpower is unaware of this invasion, that’s not entirely true. Certainly they’ve seen Doctor Who try and invade before with movies, TV series and ex-pat Brits trying to trick their American friends into watching it. But each time they’ve largely seen off these limited incursions into the bastion of the free world.

That is until now.

You see, since coming back in 2005, Doctor Who has been making something of a conscious attempt to cement itself a solid and vocal fan-base in the rebel colonies. From casting John Barrowman as Jack Harkness to the last Dalek in existence being stored underground in Utah. From New New York to the Daleks invading Manhattan (maybe the Daleks are the ones invading…). From the Doctor dying at Lake Silencio to the teaser we’ve seen of the Doctor in a western frontier town. They all point to one thing to me.

It’s Doctor Who saying to their US audience “We’re not just a British show”.

It’s clearly paying dividends. The Doctor Who cast received a hero’s welcome when they were last in New York, and Karen Gillan in particular ensured they got further headlines through her drunken, naked hotel antics. Actually, it’s somewhat ironic that as I write this Karen Gillan has just been filming her final scenes as Amy Pond in New York.

Importantly, Doctor Who outsold both Modern Family and Glee on the US iTunes store during 2011. This is despite BBC America showing the episodes less than 24 hours after they screened in Old Blighty. That is something of an accomplishment given the runaway popularity of both those other shows with US TV viewers.

And given that the BBC can’t make money off advertising revenue in the UK, this push to convert the sizable science fiction audience of the US into Doctor Who fans who are willing to pay money for episodes, is pure business genius.

If anything, success in the US market should secure the long term future of the show. After all, the BBC is hardly going to turn its back on producing a franchise that is earning it significant overseas revenues. And for Doctor Who fans in the UK, US and everywhere else, this is great news for us all.