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UK sci-fi series gets its youngest 'Doctor Who'

LONDON -- Matt Smith will be the 11th “Doctor Who” and the youngest actor ever to play the cult television time traveler, the BBC said on Saturday.

Revealing a closely-guarded secret, the network said that the 26-year-old Smith would take over from the popular David Tennant as the star of the science fiction show that first appeared on British television screens in 1963.

Tennant announced last October he planned to step down but will stay in the role for four specials this year before Smith takes over in a new series to be broadcast in 2010.

“I'm flabbergasted. I haven't slept really because it's an iconic part of our culture. It has the iconic status that Robin Hood or Sherlock Holmes (have) and I'm taking that on as my responsibility. It's nerve-racking, exciting,” Smith said on a television show announcing the identity of the new doctor.

Other actors who have played the role over the years include the original doctor, William Hartnell, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker and Peter Davison.

The identity of the next Doctor Who has led to intense speculation, with names in the frame including David Morrissey, who took part in a Christmas edition of the show.

“I'm just so excited about the journey that is in front of me. It's a wonderful privilege and challenge that I hope I will thrive on,” Smith said.

“The challenge for me is to do justice to the show's illustrious past, my predecessors, and most importantly, to those who watch it. I really cannot wait,” he said.

Over the years, the Doctor, travelling through time in the “Tardis”, resembling a 1950s police telephone box, has had to outwit a wide range of adversaries, including the Daleks and the Cybermen.

Executive Producer Steven Moffat said: “The Doctor is a very special part, and it takes a very special actor to play him. You need to be old and young at the same time, a boffin and an action hero, a cheeky schoolboy and the wise old man of the universe.”

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