WEIRD and intimidating monsters will invade the nation's living rooms once again when Doctor Who returns to BBC1.

This time new sidekick Donna Noble, played by comedienne Catherine Tate, joins the time-travelling hero in the Tardis.

The Doctor and Tate, whose character made her debut in the 2006 Christmas special, are set to face an array of villains including the Sontarans and Daleks.

The series' return coincides with the recent launch of the Doctor Who Exhibition by former Doctor Tom Baker at the Museum Hall in Earls Court, London.

This exhibition, the largest of its kind in the country, opened in style with a seven-foot Cyberman crashing through a screen to the sounds of an ear-splitting explosion and terrified yelps from the guests.

The exhibition incorporates an array of monsters, TV clips featuring Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant, and interactive displays.

Levers can be pulled to make a synthetic alien face frown and blink and there's the chance to climb inside a working Dalek.

Fans of the psychotic pepper-pots will also enjoy the centrepiece of the exhibition - a room full of Daleks which move and speak.

On entering the special room, a Dalek rises up from the floor, declaring: "Humans detected! Seal all the doors! Exter-minate! Exterminate!"

Some fans may be disappointed that the exhibition does not feature much from the old series but concentrates in the main on the new show.

The series, listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-running science fiction show in the world, was successfully relaunched in 2005 by the BBC following a 16-year absence.

Both David Tennant and writer Russell T Davies, who are credited in the main with the show's success, have become increasingly tight-lipped, however, about their future with the show.

Tom Spilsbury, editor of Doctor Who Magazine, told the Echo: "The magazine has got a really good relationship with Russell T Davies and he writes a regular column for us and David Tennant has been a reader of our magazine for many years.

"Doctor Who is part of my life 24 hours a day. The exhibition is just amazing and will go down really well with kids.

"Doctor Who is the most-watched programme on British TV by kids, even more than EastEnders."

As a life-long fan, Tom is looking forward to seeing the return of everyone's favourite villains, the Daleks.

"I have to say I like the Daleks and I liked the Weeping Angels and there are some old monsters called the Sontarans coming back," he said.

Was he surprised that the show was so successful when relaunched?

"Yes and no.

"Anything that has that potential to run must have something going for it. If you bring back something the right way then of course it's going to work," he said.

And what does the future hold for the show if David Tennant leaves?

"I think it will go on and on. I am sure there will be more brilliant doctors in the future. Like many TV programmes, you want it to stay fresh.

"I love that Catherine Tate has come back. She is a brilliant actress.

"Previous companions were teenagers or in their twenties so I think this will be a lot different.

"I think it has become a stronger programme and appeals to both men and women. It just works on all those different levels."