Period drama pipped sci-fi at the South Bank Show Awards as Channel 4's Elizabeth I was named top TV drama ahead of the BBC's Doctor Who.
Dame Helen Mirren played Elizabeth in the Channel 4 drama
But Billie Piper, sidekick of the Timelord, did pick up the breakthrough award for rising British talent.
Piper, 23, said she was having the time of her life and felt "overwhelmed".
Sir Richard Attenborough was given a lifetime achievement award, while Channel 4's Peep Show won best TV comedy, beating BBC Two's Extras.
Peep Show, which stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb as flatmates, has received critical acclaim and a devoted cult following.
Dame Helen Mirren collected the award for Elizabeth I, in which she starred in the title role.
Mirren thanked the scriptwriter, saying the script "sat in the mouth so beautifully", before adding: "Whoops, that sounds so rude. Oh dear, I'm supposed to be serious."
Piper beat off competition from rapper MIA to win the award
Piper received her breakthrough award, voted for by South Bank Show viewers and readers of the Times newspaper, from Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe.
She beat off competition from Pride and Prejudice director Joe Wright and rapper MIA.
She said: "I find these awards so overwhelming. It's an extraordinary situation to be in. I feel quite awkward, terrified at these things."
She said she was so "desperate to win" the award that she had become "really emotional".
Sir Richard Attenborough was rewarded for a 60-year career
Kate Bush, who was nominated for her comeback album Aerial, her first release in 12 years, lost out to Coles Corner by Richard Hawley for the best pop award.
Graffiti artist Banksy was beaten in the visual arts category by landscape painter John Virtue, who was nominated for his series of London paintings at the National Gallery.
Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit won the award for film over The Constant Gardener and Bullet Boy.
Melvyn Bragg hosted the awards, now in their tenth year, at London's Savoy Hotel.