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Doctor Who’s First Female Doctor Delivers the Show’s Biggest Audience in a Decade

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The season opener of British sci-fi series Doctor Who, which marked the first time a woman was featured in the titular role, became the show’s best-watched episode in a decade when it aired in the U.K. Sunday night.

More than 9 million people tuned into the BBC to watch actress Jodie Whittaker take up the role of The Doctor, more than for any series launch since the 2008 opener’s 8.4 million viewers, according to The Guardian.

Whittaker’s debut drew more viewers than any of her three most recent predecessors in the role, including Peter Capaldi, Matt Smith and David Tennant. They peaked at 6.8 million, 7.7 million and 8 million respectively in their first outings.

The only Doctor who got higher ratings was Christopher Eccleston, who was watched by 9.9 million when the rebooted Doctor Who series premiered in 2005.

Fans and critics have been waiting to see the first female doctor since the BBC announced Whittaker’s casting in July 2017. She is the 13th person to have “officially” played the role, including the eight actors who did so in the 1963-1996 incarnation of the series. (The number varies depending on how one counts.)

The show’s audience has dwindled in recent years. Sunday’s audience, which achieved an average of almost 8.2 million viewers, was almost twice as big as the 2017 opener’s 4.6 million-person audience.

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Write to Ciara Nugent at ciara.nugent@time.com