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You are in: Norfolk > People > Your Stories > UEA graduate takes control of the TARDIS

Matt Smith as Doctor Who

Matt Smith was taught at the UEA

UEA graduate takes control of the TARDIS

Matt Smith, a drama graduate of the University Of East Anglia, is cast in the role of the 11th Doctor much to the delight of Jon Hyde, his former tutor at the university.

Matt Smith is set to embark on a journey of intergalactic proportions as his takes his place in sci-fi history as the latest actor to be cast in the lead of Doctor Who.

The 26-year-old actor will take over from David Tennant who leaves the show at the end of 2009. He will be seen in the forthcoming fifth series that is scheduled for broadcast in 2010.

Matt studied drama and creative writing at the University Of East Anglia (UEA) between 2002 and 2005.

His former tutor Jon Hyde was as surprised as the rest of the world's Doctor Who fans when Matt was revealed in the title role.

Matt Smith stars in a drama production at the University Of East Anglia

Matt Smith starring in a UEA production

"I just tuned into the television like everyone else. I was really gob-smacked when I saw this young chap that I'd worked with for three years sitting there in the studio, talking about being the new Doctor Who. It was very exciting," said Jon.

"I didn't even know Matt was in the running, they kept it pretty secret. All of a sudden, there he was. This is a great achievement and I am absolutely delighted for him.

"He was a very dedicated student, very inventive, determined, and you could see he was hugely talented. He is a bright young man and a brilliant comic actor particularly. He had a lot of friends, and worked hard," he added.

Doctor Who Confidential

The identity of the new Doctor was revealed on a special edition of Doctor Who Confidential, broadcast on Saturday, 3 January, 2009.

"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," said Matt Smith.

David Tennant in The Next Doctor

David Tennant in The Next Doctor

"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," he added.

Sporting drama

Matt grew up in Northants and was initially destined to perform on the football pitch, before a back injury forced him out of the game. Following his injury, and with the encouragement of one of his teachers, Matt decided to join the National Youth Theatre.

It was during this time that Matt first gained attention at the Royal Court Theatre when he was cast in the play Fresh Kills, directed by Wilson Milam, while still at the University Of East Anglia where he was studying Drama and Creative Writing.

"Matt possibly became known to the producers of Doctor Who as he was cast in Ruby And The Smoke [written by Philip Pullman] which the BBC did with Billie Piper when she was in the series," said Jon.

"He has recently been doing a lot of very good stage work in the West End. Even at his young age, he was nominated in 2008 for an Olivier best newcomer award for a play called That Face. All his hard work has obviously paid off," he added.

Star quality

During Matt's time at the UEA it became clear he had star quality.

"I directed him here in his second year for a play. He was very inventive, very lively and he'd always come to rehearsals with new ideas," said Jon Hyde.

Matt Smith is cast at the 11th Doctor

Matt will star as the Doctor in 2010

"The play I worked with him on was a comedy, so I know he has a comic gift as well. I think his character will therefore be quite amusing.

"He has very distinctive features and he's very handsome. I think a lot of young ladies will be pleased he's the new Doctor once they start seeing him in the spring of 2010.

"With his looks I don't think he will frighten any of the public, but hopefully a few monsters - he is more than 900 years old after all! I'm very proud of him and everyone here at UEA drama is delighted," he added.

Norfolk's who-niverse

The county is no stranger to the world of Doctor Who. Davros, the Doctor's arch-enemy, was played by Norfolk-based actor Terry Molloy for three season's of the classic series.

Sophie Aldred, who played feisty companion Ace to Sylvestor McCoy's Doctor, admits she's a Norfolk girl at heart. She married her husband in Walsingham and regularly returns to the county to visit family and spend time on the north Norfolk coast.

Mixed feelings

And Karen Davies, from Norwich, holds the coveted title of the world's first Doctor Who Mastermind champion. She's has mixed feelings about the identity of the new Doctor.

"I'm not surprised that they've gone for somebody like him as everything in television is aimed at youth and children at the moment," she said.

"He's very much in the mold of Robert Pattinson, the guy that's in Twilight, which is obviously going for the teens' market. Matt is quite androgynous and will appeal to everybody of that 16-24 age group," said Karen.

Karen Davies is crowned Doctor Who Mastermind by Christopher Eccleston

Karen is crowned Mastermind champion

"I just can't see how to believe a man of 26 will credibly portray a Time Lord who's more than 900 years old - but he's a Doctor for a new generation and following on from the success of a young Merlin and Robin Hood, to do it with Doctor Who is the logical step and I can see that.

"I think Stephen Moffat [new lead writer and executive producer of Doctor Who] will attempt to make Doctor Who his with this one.

"Russell T Davies and David Tennant was such a winning combination, I think Stephen Moffat has thought 'I've got to do something really radical to put my mark on it'.

"I'm trying to be really positive, but it's no longer the show that I've grown up with and supported, and for women of my age who like Doctor Who and an adventure we don't want to see a boy playing the Doctor, it's wrong.

"No disrespect to Matt, I wish him all the very best. But for me, and I think lots of fans who are also in their 40s who've grown up with the series, unless the writing is strong enough we'll be very disappointed," she added.

Doctor Who Confidential – The Eleventh Doctor can be seen on BBC iPlayer until 10, January 2009.

There will be four Doctor Who specials featuring David Tennant that will run in 2009 into New Year 2010 (dates to be confirmed).

last updated: 06/01/2009 at 16:07
created: 05/01/2009

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