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Page last updated at 09:22 GMT, Tuesday, 6 April 2010 10:22 UK
Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour for UEA's Matt Smith
Matt Smith, a former drama student from the UEA, is cast as Doctor Who

BBC Look East reports on the casting of Matt Smith as the Doctor

Matt Smith made his debut as Doctor Who in the first episode of the new season which started over Easter 2010.

Matt's acting talent was realised in Norfolk as a drama and creative writing student at the University of East Anglia (UEA) between 2002 and 2005.

Jon Hyde, his former UEA tutor, was delighted when Matt was given the role.

"I was gob-smacked when I saw this young chap that I'd worked with talking about being the new Doctor Who. It was very exciting," he said.

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

Matt Smith embarked on a journey of intergalactic proportions as he took his place in sci-fi history as the 11th Doctor.

The 26-year-old actor took over from David Tennant who left the show at the end of 2009.

Smith's future as a successful actor was obvious to his former tutor.

"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," said Jon Hyde.

Smith was confirmed in his role of the Doctor in a special edition of Doctor Who Confidential, broadcast on Saturday, 3 January 2009.

David Tennant as the Doctor in Voyage of the Damned
David Tennant starred as the Doctor until Christmas 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 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.

Out of the game

Matt grew up in Northamptonshire 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 UEA.

"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.

Matt Smith starring in a UEA production
Matt Smith performed in a number of productions at the UEA

"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.

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.

"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.

Karen Davies and Christopher Eccleston
Karen Davies was crowned Doctor Who Mastermind champion in 2005

And Karen Davies, from Norwich, holds the coveted title of the world's first Doctor Who Mastermind champion. She 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.

"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 [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 - the first series featuring Matt Smith - runs for 13 episodes throughout 2010.

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