LONDON – The long-awaited return of 'Doctor Who' on BBC One pulled in 10.5m viewers, representing a 44.3% share on Saturday night, leaving ITV1's 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway' with 8.5m viewers, or a 35% share.
The new 'Doctor Who', starring Christopher Eccleston as the Time Lord and Billie Piper as his assistant Rose, averaged 9.9m viewers while Ant and Dec, featuring England captain David Beckham as a special guest, attracted only an average of 7.2m in comparison.
It remains to be seen whether the series, scripted by Russell T Davies, will pull in similar audiences over its 13-week run because some commentators have been sceptical about the initial 10m overnight figure, saying that many might have just wanted to see what all the hype surrounding the series was about.
However, if the critics are anything to go by, it could remain a winner. The Scotsman described Eccleston as "the most engaging Doctor Who there has been to date" and Tim Davies, writing in The Guardian, said he was "hooked from the outset", despite never having been a fan.
Former 'Doctor Who' actor Sylvester McCoy was impressed with the corporation's latest incarnation and told BBC News website he was "captivated by the partnership" between Eccleston and Piper.
Bookmakers Ladbrokes had expected 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway' to beat 'Doctor Who' in the ratings with odds of 1/2 and 6/4 respectively.
On Thursday, the corporation announced that the leak of episode one of the new 'Doctor Who' series on to the internet had been traced to a staff member of a third-party company in Canada and the person responsible had been sacked.
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