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Doctor Who is returning to the nation's TV screens in 2005, the BBC said today.

Laid to rest in 1989 - though re-animated in 1996 in a rather naff, 'we don't get it' US TV movie, not considered by many fans to be part of the Who canon - the series still has legions of fans around the world.

Lorraine Heggessey, Controller of the BBC's main channel, BBC One, said a few years back that she would like to bring the family-oriented series back. However, it is believed that contentions over broadcast and other rights were preventing the BBC from making such a move. The rights are thought to centre on the deal struck with Universal Studios to produce the 1996 TV movie, which starred the rather good Paul Withnail and I McGann.

Today, however, Heggessey said all such issues had been resolved and that a series of scripts written by Queer as Folk scriptwriter Russell T Davies had been given the green light.

It's not yet clear whether what format the series will take. Its classic format was four or six 25-minute episodes per story with five or six stories per season, but the show has a wide variety of story and season lengths during its original 26-year run on British TV.

At its peak, the show picked up over 13 million domestic viewers for its most popular visitors, but toward the end of its run, it was often attracting audiences of under five million. But that ignores the millions more who watched the show around the world under syndication. That fan-base have kept Doctor Who alive through videos, audio CDs of episodes junked by the BBC in the 1970s and, more recently, an ongoing series of restored stories on DVD.

The new show had been taken up by BBC Wales, whose head, Julie Gardner, will oversee production as executive producer. Joining her in that role are Davies and Mal Young. Other members of the production team have yet to be announced.

Davies is one of modern British TV's best writers - not to mention a long-time fan of the series, writing references to it into a number of his other shows, QaF in particular.

"The new series will be fun, exciting, contemporary and scary. Although I'm only in the early stages of development, I'm aiming to write a full-blooded drama which embraces the Doctor Who heritage, at the same time as introducing the character to a modern audience," he said.

Just as no crew have been named, neither have actors. The lead role has been played by eight actors on TV - William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann. McGann's erstwhile Withnail star, Richard E Grant, is playing the role in an online story to be presented on the BBC web site later this year. ®

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