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Last Updated: Monday, 9 January 2006, 14:14 GMT
Dr Who star in BBC Pullman drama
Billie Piper
Piper has appeared in Doctor Who and Much Ado About Nothing
Doctor Who actress Billie Piper will take the lead role in a BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman's Victorian thriller The Ruby in the Smoke.

Piper will play orphan Sally Lockhart, who investigates her father's death.

"Billie is the perfect choice for bringing to life this engaging and fearless heroine," said Laura Mackie, head of BBC drama series.

Filming on The Ruby In The Smoke begins in May, to be followed by a second Pullman novel The Shadow In The North.

'Absorbing characters'

The first of four Sally Lockhart novels, The Ruby in the Smoke will be adapted by Rome writer Adrian Hodges. No broadcast date has been set.

"Philip is without question one of Britain's leading novelists," said Ms Mackie.

"His books are full of absorbing characters and engaging multi-layered plots that appeal to both adults and children alike."

Piper's casting follows roles as the Doctor's companion Rose Tyler in sci-fi series Doctor Who, and as Hero in the BBC's updated version of Much Ado About Nothing.

Pullman also wrote the acclaimed His Dark Materials fantasy trilogy, which is being made into a series of movies.

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