The return of Doctor Who to Saturday night television has proved a ratings success for the BBC.

Some 8.4 million viewers tuned in to the BBC1 show at the weekend with the Time Lord's adventures in an earlier timeslot.

While previous series of the sci-fi hit had been screened at around 19:00 BST, the new run - the fourth since Queer as Folk's Russell T Davies revived the character in 2005 - was shown at 18:15.

But despite Davies' initial criticism of the new timeslot, the change proved a success with viewers with the episode grabbing a 39.4 per cent audience share and taking top spot in the Saturday night ratings battle.

A BBC spokesperson commented: "This is a great start for the new series of Doctor Who.

"The show kicked off a fantastic night of family entertainment on BBC1 which pulled in big audiences across the evening."

Comedienne Catherine Tate has joined the show as the Doctor's new companion, reprising her role as Donna Noble from the 2006 Christmas special The Runaway Bride.

The BBC was the overall victor in the weekend's ratings war, with Casualty pulling in 7.1 million viewers while 6.8 million tuned in for Andrew Lloyd Webber's new talent show I'd Do Anything.

ITV1's biggest ratings success was of a sporting vein, with a peak audience of 5.9 million watching boxer Amir Khan's defeat of Martin Kristjansen.

Duel grabbed 5.6 million viewers and 5.5 million switched on for Harry Hill's TV Burp.

07/04/2008 09:25:28