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Doctor Who helps BBC thrash ITV in ratings

LONDON - Doctor Who returned to BBC One on Saturday night and helped the corporation thrash ITV in the ratings, as the beginning of the fourth season pulled in 8.4m viewers.

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The opening episode attracted an audience share of 39.4%, however the move to an earlier more child-friendly timeslot of 6.15pm did appear to hit ratings.

Viewing figures were down on the series three opener, which pulled in 8.71m. However, that figure included people who had recorded the programme, which was not included in Saturday's figure.

The decision to move the show from 7pm to an earlier timeslot had been criticised by writer Russell T Davies, who has overseen the revamping of 'Doctor Who'.

He said: "It's not a timeslot I agree with. I'd rather it went out later. But we've been told that it's a gateway to the whole Saturday night. We'll see on Monday morning what it's like."

The fourth series of 'Doctor Who' saw comedienne Catherine Tate rejoin the Doctor, and despite criticism of her casting critics generally gave her the thumbs up.

Tate had first appeared in the 2006 Christmas special 'Doctor Who - The Runaway Bride'. Former companion Billie Piper also made a surprise appearance as Rose, setting up a return later in the series.

A BBC spokesperson said: "This is a great start for the new series of Doctor Who. The show kicked off a fantastic night of family entertainment on BBC One which pulled in big audiences across the evening."

The return of David Tennant as the Doctor capped a strong Saturday for the BBC. Its coverage of the Grand National peaked at 10.1m as joint favourite Comply or Die won at Aintree.

ITV1's long running clip show 'You've Been Framed' recorded 4.7m while 'Harry Hill's TV Burp' was moved to a later slot to avoid clashing with 'Doctor Who', proving to be the channel's highlight with 5.5m viewer.

BBC One Talent contest 'I'd Do Anything' did well, pulling in 6.8m and medical soap 'Casualty' attracted 7.1m.

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