Jodie Whittaker's debut as Doctor Who attracts nine million viewers — which is the highest since David Tennant's outing

Jodie, 36, beat the first appearances of Matt Smith in 2010, and Peter Capaldi in 2013, who got 7.7million and 6.8 million respectively, helping the ailing franchise.

And she came close to equalling Tennant’s first outing as the doctor in 2005, which had a peak of 9.8million watching his Christmas special opener.

A TV insider said: “The BBC are delighted with the figures as they knew that having a woman play the doctor was a gamble after the Time Lord was played for a man for 55 years.

“It’s a gamble which they feel has paid off and boosted hopes that Jodie could revive a show which was seriously flagging in the ratings.

“But Beeb bosses will be watching closely to see if the new Doctor Who can maintain these amazing viewing figures, which must have been bolstered by many people tuning in out of curiosity.

“Also, it helped that it was sandwiched between Countryfile and Strictly which are both rating hits.”

Viewing figures started to slump under Capaldi, now 60, with an average of just 5.5million watching in 2017. But the last series starring Tennant, now 47, got an average of eight million an episode in 2008.

Sunday night’s episode, The Woman Who Fell to Earth, gave viewers a taste of the reinvigorated show under new boss, Broadchurch writer Chris Chibnall.

As well as having the lead role played by Jodie, using her native Yorkshire accent, Bradley Walsh plays her aged companion, Graham O’Brien, alongside a diverse cast of black and Asian actors.

The number of viewers also increased throughout Sunday’s show, with 7.8 million tuning in at the start, and an extra 1.2 million glued to their screens by the closing credits.

But Jodie’s debut is still way behind that of the first doctor in the rebooted series.

Christopher Eccleston’s first episode in 2004 got 10.5 million viewers.

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