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Have you seen the 80s episodes? The show was really going down hill.
It was cancelled due to low ratings. When Michael Grade rested the series in 1985, it never recovered. It was renewed each year until 1989. After the first episode of "Battlefield" produced the lowest ratings ever for the series, it was decided not to renew it for the 1990 season.
Which is ironic seeing as how popular it is now.
That isn't what the word "ironic" means. What however is interesting is that what would have been considered low ratings in the 80s would be cause for celebration now. Colin Baker and Sylvester Mccoy are/were far more popular than Eccleston, Tennant and Smith. I suppose it's because there are far more channels today. The same is true of Battlestar Galactica. The original was considered a flop and the new series a success. Even though something like fifty times as many people watched the original than the new, and the original made far far more money.
- Your facts are faulty. "Battlefield" barely made 3 million in the ratings. Colin Baker rarely rose above 5 million. Average ratings for Doctor Who since it returned in 2005 has been in the 7 to 8 million range, with 13.3 million watching "Voyage of the Damned". And that just takes into account the UK. Eccleston, Tennant and Smith dwarf Colin Baker and McCoy in terms of contemporary popularity and viewer ship, and Doctor Who as a franchise makes considerably more money now than it did in the 1985-89 period (verifiable by the BBC announcing Doctor Who as its No. 1 moneymaker in its annual report).
Also, a point of order: Doctor Who was never actually cancelled. Although the term has been used to describe the end of production in 1989 (with Sophie Aldred saying so in More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS), technically the BBC never cancelled the show; it simply didn't immediately commission any more new episodes. It's probably one of the reasons why you never saw other companies successfully mount remakes/revivals of the series - the Fox TV movie was co-produced by the BBC. At present the only scripted Doctor Who series to actually be cancelled are K-9 and Company, which the BBC cancelled before production of its pilot was completed, and The Sarah Jane Adventures due to the death of Lis Sladen. Torchwood hasn't been cancelled - Starz and the BBC simply haven't commissioned a 5th season yet.
Just a word here. The show was doing very well in the 80's. In fact, some major differences between then and now are a)people tended to watch tv in groups, unlike today where two people or even one person watch tv b)ratings in the 80's were taken from a focus group then "scaled up", today even if someone flips over to a show for a few seconds it counts as a "viewer" c) If in 1986 you showd someone a picture of Colin Baker and said "Who's that?" they'd know it was the Doctor. Today most people wouldn't recognise Matt Smith In the 80's Doctor Who was by far the BBC's biggest moneyearner. It may be today, but then that would include the sales of DVDs and books, if you know what I mean....
Basically the major difference is that Baker and Mccoy were viewed against Tom Baker. Doctor Who was mainstream popular television. Today the show is viewed as a "niche" programme, whose rivals would be Sci-Fi channel shows. In this role it's a hit. And if we're going solely by ratings, then Mcgann's TV Movie blew Eccleston, Tennant and Smith out of the water. Which all comes down to the main fact...it's how people want to promote it. The TV Movie did huge ratings yet was never picked up. After 'Rose' did strong, but far from TV Movie ratings, the numbers continued to plummet. In other words, a flop under normal ideas. However, the BBC raved and gave awards out. And renewed the show. The person earlier was also correct. The show wasn't cancelled in 1985. It was postponed so the BBC could fund their new proiect, Eastenders. In fact Doctor Who was only one of more than 20 shows that was postponed or (in some cases, but not Doctor Who)cancelled. Yet, the press all focused on Doctor Who. Guess why? And again, the show was supposed to be rested for another 18 months until 1991. However during this rest period the Americans stepped in and acquired the rights, which eventually led to the TV Movie. The BBC wanted to continue the Mcgann series, but were unable to due to the US politicking. And the Americans had rights untilt he 21st century. So, yes, Doctor Who was never cancelled. It was rested.