Eccleston's role as TV's iconic Doctor Who

ACTOR Christopher Eccleston is to be the new Doctor Who when the cult sci-fi show returns to our screens next year, it was announced last night.

Eccleston, star of Flesh and Blood and The Second Coming, will appear as the TV Time Lord in the 13-part BBC1 series to be shown in 2005.

The BBC said the Salford-born 40-year-old would take the famous doctor into the 21st century in a "fresh and modern approach" involving travelling through time and space and fighting monsters on all fronts.

Jane Tranter, BBC controller of drama commissioning, said: "We are delighted to have cast an actor of such calibre in one of British television’s most iconic roles.

"It signals our intention to take Doctor Who into the 21st century, as well as retaining its core traditional values - to be surprising, edgy and eccentric.

"We have chosen one of Britain’s finest actors to play what, in effect, will be an overtly modern hero."

Executive producer and writer Russell Davies said: "We considered many great actors for this wonderful part, but Christopher was our first choice. This man can give the Doctor a wisdom, wit and emotional range as far-reaching as the Doctor’s travels in time and space."

Eccleston, who first came to prominence in the 1994 film Shallow Grave and found further fame in the TV series Our Friends in the North two years later, will be the ninth Doctor to take control of the TV Tardis.

He follows in the footsteps of William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann, who took the role for a one-off television film in 1996.

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