Long gone are the days when Doctor Who was seen as a low budget, kooky British sci-fi show. As well as drawing big stars like Kylie Minogue for cameo roles, the programme is now reaching new levels in terms of its storylines and production. And the new series looks set to be the best yet. The cast have been in Italy, filming its most ambitious episode to date, which sees the dishy time lord - played by David Tennant - travel back to the days of the Roman Empire.
The extraordinary scenes - for which a Rome film studio was transformed into ancient Pompeii, complete with armies of Roman soldiers, villagers, and servants - follow The Doctor and his new companion Donna - aka Catherine Tate - as they arrive in the city in AD79, on the eve of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. They are immediately faced with a dilemma - should they warn the residents to flee, or leave them to fend for themselves?
Replacing Freema Agyeman's Martha to become the tenth Time Lord's sidekick for the new series – which hits screens next spring - marks a change in direction for British comedienne Catherine. The 39-year-old, who guest appeared in last's year's Christmas special as Donna, says she was shocked when she was asked back to do the role full time.
"When I was asked to do it, I genuinely couldn't believe they'd asked me," she reveals in the latest edition of Dr Who Magazine. "I was having lunch with executive producer Julie Gardner and it was the last thing I thought we were going to have a conversation about... Even now, I just can't believe it. I'm speechless."