LONDON: The BBC is on the hunt for a new Time Lord after British actor Matt Smith announced on Saturday that he is quitting as the star of cult sci-fi drama Doctor Who.
Smith, who has played the eccentric, time-travelling Doctor since 2010, said he would bow out in a special Christmas episode of the 50-year-old show and a new star would take over at the helm of his spaceship, the Tardis.
The 30-year-old, who came to the role as a relatively unknown actor, said it had been “an honour” to play the Doctor.
“Doctor Who has been the most brilliant experience for me as an actor and a bloke, and that largely is down to the cast, crew and fans of the show,” he said.
“The fans of Doctor Who around the world are unlike any other -- they dress up, shout louder, know more about the history of the show,” he added.
Doctor Who is the world's longest-running science fiction series, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, and has been sold by the BBC to more than 200 territories around the world.
Smith is the 11th and youngest actor to star in the show, which has seen the Doctor battle enemies from the Daleks to the Cybermen since 1963.
Like his predecessors, he was joined by a series of companions as he travelled to faraway worlds in the Tardis.
“The Doctor can be clown and hero, often at the same time, and Matt rose to both challenges magnificently,” said Steven Moffat, the show's lead writer and executive producer.
“The way he'd turn a line, or spin on his heels, or make something funny, or out of nowhere make me cry -- I just never knew what was coming next.”Smith recently made his directorial debut and has spoken of his ambitions for a film-making career.
As with previous Time Lords, news of his departure sparked feverish speculation amongst fans about who will come next -- with some predicting that a woman could finally land the role.