“Not for publication” is printed at the top of the 1988 audience reaction report for Doctor Who’s 24th season. It’s there for the purposes of BBC confidentiality, but could equally be a pain-saving instruction to save Sylvester McCoy fans the distress of reading the show’s three-page death sentence.
Because this report is painful stuff. Compiled in February 1988 after the broadcast of McCoy’s first four serials as the Doctor (from Time And The Rani to Dragonfire), it doesn’t mince its words in describing audience apathy and antipathy towards late-eighties Doctor Who. Looking back with the knowledge that the wilderness years were around the corner, each unimpressed audience response and scathing comment feels like another nail being hammered into classic Who’s coffin.
To begin with, the numbers weren’t good.