Doctor Who returns as UK Saturday night timeslot lord

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Sunday, March 27, 2005

After almost a decade off the air, the science fiction television series Doctor Who returned with new episodes to BBC airwaves on Saturday night, drawing a large audience.

Starring movie actor Christopher Eccleston, the ninth actor cast to play the Doctor, as the newly reincarnated Time Lord, the new series showed off a bigger budget with expensive special effects and a much darker — and sexier — tone. The new star and series got a blessing from actor Sylvester McCoy, who played the Doctor in the 1980s.

"I am very envious about not being in it. The writing is terrific and the toys they play with are much more sophisticated than they were in my day," McCoy wrote in a column for BBC News. "My only criticism was about the TARDIS. It was far too clean. It needs to look a bit more battered and bruised as if it's been through the odd asteroid or two," he said.

The Doctor's new sidekick is played by Billie Piper, whose marriage to Chris Evans ended during filming.

"We're pleased so many people sat down as a family to watch the return of the Doctor," a spokesperson said. Families apparently sat down in droves. Preliminary ratings figures show Who wooing 10.5 million viewers at its peak, or more than 44 percent of all television households in the United Kingdom, for the debut episode.

This made it the most-watched show of the evening, easily outpacing second-place Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway on ITV, which attracted an average of 7.2 million households.

The series will run for another twelve episodes.

One of the longest-running dramas in British history, Doctor Who has been airing sporadically since its debut in 1963. Ironically, the series cancellation in 1989 was due to low ratings.