Doctor Who fans have shared their delight after the Time Lord regenerated into a woman for the first time ever - with actress Jodie Whittaker keeping her Yorkshire accent for the role.

Tonight's Christmas special Twice Upon A Time marked the exit of both leading star Peter Capaldi and showrunner Steven Moffat.

But the hour-long episode also heralded a new beginning for the long-running BBC sci-fi series as it welcomed the first female Doctor ever, the Daily Mail reports.

Whittaker regenerated as the first female Time Lord in the final moments of the episode, uttering only the words "oh brilliant" in her native Yorkshire accent.

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The brief glimpse was enough to send viewers wild - with fans praising her performance on Twitter.

Actors David Bradley (left) and Peter Capaldi, who is exiting the show along with showrunner Steven Moffat. Photo / AP
Actors David Bradley (left) and Peter Capaldi, who is exiting the show along with showrunner Steven Moffat. Photo / AP

Fans had feared that she might adopt a more generic English dialect - like Scottish former Doctor David Tennant - and had called for her to keep her northern tones.

George Aylett wrote: "We'll miss you, Peter Capaldi. But looking really forward to seeing Jodie Whittaker take on the role - what an entrance!"

Capaldi's last words as the Time Lord included the line: "Never be cruel, never be cowardly ... Remember hate is always foolish, and love is always wise."

In another surprise for fans, Jenna Coleman made a surprise cameo as Clara, appearing as part of a vision in what Moffat revealed was the final shot he directed in his Doctor Who career.

The emotional instalment also featured David Bradley as the first ever Doctor, the Christmas truce of the First World War, and even saw the Time Lord meet the grandfather of one of his greatest friends, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.

Mark Gatiss said taking on the role of the character's ancestor was 'incredible', adding: 'Of the many gifts Doctor Who has given me, to actually end up being the brigadier's grandfather, I couldn't imagine anything more brilliant.'

Moffat and Capaldi's exit marks a significant change for the BBC show, with Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall taking on the role of showrunner.

Earlier this year, BBC director-general Lord Tony Hall hailed Moffat's reign.

He said of the Sherlock writer: "He's continued to surprise and delight us. He's a master craftsman, ingenious, adventurous and great fun and I can't wait to see what he does next."