As one of the highest rated shows on television today, and with four (or five!) new Doctors under its belt, it's perhaps hard to imagine a time when Doctor Who
was simply one of the thousands of series that had once flourished but ultimately been consigned to the great script book in the sky. But in the mid 2000s this was how the series was regarded by many, and the brave effort by the BBC to bring it back exactly nine years ago was very much a gamble - how would the 'old-school' fans receive it, and what would a 'modern' audience make of a time-traveller in a police box?
Of course, Doctor Who
did have an advantage in that it was a show that was still remembered outside of its core fan base, the general public at large were aware of "Dr Who", his iconic TARDIS, and the Daleks. This helped to lend a sense of curiosity at what the new face behind the show, celebrated writer Russell T Davies
, would do with the Doctor, who would be played by an established television and film actor in the form of Christopher Eccleston
, not to mention the inclusion of the press-attraction of former teenage pop-star turned actress Billie Piper
A teaser trailer on New Year's Day 2005 formally introduced the return to the general public, but it wasn't until March when the promotional gears were turned up to maximum with a host of trailers ("Do you want to come with me?"
) and programmes to build up interest in a way not witnessed again until the 50th Anniversary last year.
The three principal names appeared on a variety of news and magazine programmes in the lead-up to the premiere
: Christopher Eccleston was a guest on the ever Who
-friendly Blue Peter
on the 21st March, and then came face-to-face with 'himself' on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross
on the 25th; Billie Piper appeared on Parkinson
on the 19th; and Russell "TV" Davies appeared on the Breakfast
couch on the 11th, on BBC2 Wales's On Show
on the 17th, and with Phil and Fern on This Morning
on the 23rd. The press preview on the 8th March was covered widely in the media, and led to recorded interviews with the stars popping up on Breakfast
during that week. Special programmes during the period included: Matthew Sweet
looking forward with a little trepidation on how the show's return would fit in culturally on The Culture Show
on the 17th; Ian Rankin, Bonnie Greer and Professor John Carey discussing the series' merits on Newsnight Review
on the 18th; and BBC Radio 2 presenting Project: Who?
on the 22nd. Doctor Who
wasn't the only programme on the way - Doctor Who Confidential
was also to premiere at the weekend on BBC Three, and executive producer Mark Cossey
chatted to Rufus Hound on the channel's Destination Three
about what to expect from the behind-the-scenes series.
Then, suddenly, it's the 26th March. As the early evening inexorably approaches, appetites are whetted with a special preview (and countdown) in A New Dimension
, an excruciating wait through Graham Norton's Strictly Dance Fever
... and then, at 7:00pm, the BBC One "Tap Dogs"
ident commences, with the announcement fans have been waiting over fifteen years for:
Well now, BBC One hurtles through space and time.
Come with us for the trip of a lifetime!
Aliens, you have been warned ...
Christopher Eccleston is the new ... Doctor Who!
45 minutes later and an unprecedented ten million viewers - and 43.2% of the audience - have watched Rose run to the TARDIS and off into adventures with the Doctor; the final figure rose to 10.81m (44.8%) and achieved seventh place in the TV charts, only beaten by the soap juggernauts Coronation Street
. A week later, a further series has been commissioned
(not to mention a new Doctor
on the cards!), and the longevity of a modern Doctor Who
is assured ...