Doctor Who fans are trembling with anticipation today – and it’s not from behind their sofas through fear of the dreaded Daleks.
They will be glued to their televisions tonight, having had to wait 16 years for the Time Lord to return to BBC1, played by Salford-born Christopher Eccleston.
However, Doctor Who’s greatest challenge could come from an unlikely duo - Geordie presenters Ant and Dec on ITV1 – who are the bookies favourites to win the ratings battle.
Bosses at BBC1 will be hoping for a bumper audience for the Doctor’s return, aided by his 19-year-old sidekick Rose Tyler, played by former pop princess Billie Piper.
The sci-fi classic, created in 1963, is back for a 13-part series packed with more evil creatures – including the Daleks – for The Doctor to save the world from in his Tardis adventures.
Eccleston, 41, is the ninth incarnation of The Doctor. The others were William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Sylvester McCoy, Jon Pertwee, Peter Davison, Tom Baker and Colin Baker. Paul McGann played the Doctor in a one-off TV movie.
According to a recent poll, Baker was the viewers’ favourite.
Bookies Ladbrokes have cut the odds on Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway winning the ratings battle with BBC1’s Dr Who from 8/11 to 1/2, while the sci-fi classic has drifted from evens to 6/4.
Ladbrokes spokesman Warren Lush said: “Money suggests Ant and Dec will take away the highest ratings but we haven’t seen such an intense battle for viewers on Saturday night since the finals of Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor went head-to-head at the end of last year.”
“The fact that David Beckham is a guest of the Geordie duo looks set to give ITV1 victory this weekend, but who knows what will happen if the cult of Dr Who grips the nation?”
“Saturday ight Takeaway is dominated by Ant versus Dec but its not about the rivalry between them now, its about seeing off a threat from a different galaxy.
“They’ve got to hope the Tardis crash lands and fails in its mission to deliver prime time success for BBC1.”
The first episode of Doctor Who airs at 7pm on BBC1.