Sci-fi hit returnst to big numbers, changes

Anyone expecting a straight answer to the question that’s bugging “Doctor Who” devotees had better think again.

Without giving too much of the plot away, the Tardis door remains open for David Tennant to regenerate when “Doctor Who” returns for its next run in 2010.

While the “Doctor Who” fourth-season finale doesn’t air Stateside until Aug. 1 on the Sci Fi Channel, almost 9.5 million Brits watched the extended 65-minute episode on July 5, which at its peak drew a 47% share. U.K. audience figures were comfortably up vs. last year, when 8 million and a 39% share watched the Doctor take on the Master.

But big changes are afoot as Russell T. Davies hands the reins to new showrunner Steven Moffat. BBC Wales drama topper, Julie Gardner, who steered the show to its successful revival back in 2004, also is moving on.

So will Tennant, the most popular Doctor in the show’s 40-year history, be hanging up his sonic screwdriver for good?

The British thesp, who is a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, has signed up for four “Doctor Who” specials to air over the next two years. After that, who knows?

Moffat has worked before with another British TV star James Nesbitt, who has been linked as a possible successor to the role. But “no contracts have been signed or scripts written for series five,” says the BBC.

Davies, meanwhile, is giving nothing away. “I love David and he is brilliant, but I was a child when Jon Pertwee handed over to Tom Baker,” Davies said recently. “I was 11 when Jon Pertwee left, and it broke my heart. But then along came Tom and he was just spectacular in it, so I suspect that will happen again.

“Me and David will probably sit there laughing saying: ‘You’re old news now, mate.’ “

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