New Doctor Who Named: Matt Smith

Blog@: New Doctor Who Named

This Saturday, the BBC announced that Matt Smith will replace David Tennant as the latest actor to play the Doctor in its regenerated sci-fi series Doctor Who. At 26 years old, Smith will be the youngest actor to ever play the Time Lord, beating Peter Davison, who took the role in 1981 when he was 29 years old.

“I feel proud and honored to have been given this opportunity to join a team of people that has worked so tirelessly to make the show so thrilling,” Smith said in a BBC press statement. "David Tennant has made the role his own, brilliantly, with grace, talent and persistent dedication. I hope to learn from the standards set by him. 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."

Doctor Who originally debuted in November 1963, with William Hartnell in the role of the time travelling alien from the planet Gallifrey. It was originally designed to be an educational show for children, having the Doctor and his companions travel through various important points in history.

The show became a monstrous hit worldwide when his first major enemy, the Daleks, made their debut shortly thereafter. The notorious floating pepper pots changed the focus of the show from educational to more direct science fiction, insuring a continuous run up to 1989, when ratings and BBC internal politics put the series on almost complete hiatus for 16 years. An attempt was made to revive the show in 1995, when a one-off movie was produced starring Paul McGann. It was shelved due to lack of U.S. interest although the movie did air on Fox. McGann kept the role alive though through various live appearances and radio plays.

This was not the first time the show was in jeopardy. In 1966, the show faced an even more troubling issue. Hartnell developed health issues that would force him off the series. The problem was Doctor Who was a tremendous hit, and the BBC did not want to discontinue the franchise.

So, it was decided the Doctor was extraterrestrial. He could “regenerate” into another actor. So Patrick Troughton replaced Hartnell. When Troughton had enough in 1971, the Doctor regenerated into Jon Pertwee. Counting McGann, who is officially considered the eighth Doctor, Smith will be considered the 11th actor to have “officially” play the part.

For the record, there were two theatrical movies based on the series, both starring Peter Cushing. Neither film is considered canon in the Who universe.

Also for the record, this does not mean fans have quite seen the end of Tennant. According to the BBC, Tennant is contracted to do four specials before he leaves. One has already been shot and three more are in the works pending the actor’s recovery from a back injury.

Matt Smith was born in Northampton, UK, on October 28, 1982. He originally had dreams of being a soccer player until his sports career was terminated due to, ironically enough, a back injury.

Smith first made a name for himself on television, when he appeared in the 2006 adaptation of Philip Pullman's The Ruby in the Smoke, which starred former Who companion Billie Piper (Rose Tyler) as Sally Lockhart. The series was successful enough to spawn a sequel, The Shadow In The North. Interestingly enough, Smith has worked with Piper on three different occasions, the last being a guest shot in Piper’s latest series, Secret Diary of a Call Girl for ITV2. He also made some noise in the 2007 political series Party Animals where he played parliamentary researcher Danny Foster.

According to Piers Wenger, head of drama at BBC Wales, which is the studio responsible for the production of Who and its spin-offs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, as soon as he had seen Smith's audition he "knew he was the one".

"It was abundantly clear that he had that 'Doctor-ness' about him," he said. "You are either the Doctor or you are not. It's just the beginning of the journey for Matt. With Steven Moffat's scripts and the expertise of the production team in Cardiff behind him, there is no one more perfect to be taking the TARDIS to exciting new futures when the series returns in 2010."

Upon being informed of his replacement, David Tennant said Smith's "life is about to change in so many ways".

Just how much he will find out starting in 2010.

The 11 “Official” actors who played the Doctor:

1. William Hartnell (1963-1966)

2. Patrick Troughton (1966-1969)

3. Jon Pertwee (1970-1974)

4. Tom Baker (1974-1981)

5. Peter Davison (1982-1984)

6. Colin Baker (1984-1986)

7. Sylvester McCoy (1987-1996)

8. Paul McGann (1996-2005)

9. Christopher Eccleston (2005)

10. David Tennant (2005-2010)

11. Matt Smith (2010 - ?)

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