5 JANUARY 2009

As the latest Time Lord gets used to being in the limelight fans of the sci-fi series are asking Dr who?

Largely unknown until now Matt Smith, the actor due to step into David Tennant's shoes as the eleventh time traveller, came to the public's attention with a handful of roles - three of them alongside the Doctor's former assistant Billie Piper.

In particular he distinguished himself in a 2006 TV adaptation of Philip Pullman's The Ruby In The Smoke and the theatre production Swimming With Sharks, where he shared the stage with Christian Slater.

At 26 he is the youngest doctor to be cast in the cult programme's 45-year history. And his excitement at landing the role was so great he admits to pacing his room for three days smiling.

"I'm flabbergasted. I haven't slept, really, to be honest," said Matt, who still is based at his parents' home in the village of Great Billing, near Northampton.

His enthusiasm wasn't shared by everyone, however. Some fans, known as Whovians have left messages on websites suggesting the keys of the Tardis had been entrusted to "a toddler".

But the show's producer, Steven Moffat, says Matt, who once considered a career as a professional footballer, "blew us away from the moment he walked in the door". "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," he explained.

Outgoing Timelord David Tennant, who's just returned to the stage as Hamlet after undergoing back surgery, has spoken of his "jealousy" that his replacement is embarking on this exciting journey.

Photo: Rex
At 26 Ruby In The Smoke actor Matt Smith, who appeared onstage with Christian Slater in Swimming With Sharks, is the youngest ever actor to wield a sonic screwdriver. Former EastEnders star Michelle Ryan is being touted as his possible sidekick