08/05/2013 AT 3:45 PM ET
Peter Capaldi is going from spin doctor to Doctor Who.
The BBC announced Sunday that the Scottish actor, best known as venom-spitting political fixer Malcolm Tucker in the sitcom The Thick of It and its film spin-off, In the Loop, is the new star of Doctor Who, the famed sci-fi series soon to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
The identity of the new Doctor had been the subject of frantic speculation, and the revelation was made with fanfare befitting one of Britain’s best-known shows – during a live dinnertime TV broadcast.
Capaldi is the 12th actor to play the Doctor, a galaxy-hopping Time Lord who travels in the Tardis, a time machine shaped like an old-fashioned British police telephone booth. At age 55, he’s also the oldest since the first Doctor, William Hartnell.
Capaldi, a fan of the show since childhood, said that “being asked to play the Doctor is an amazing privilege.”
“Like the Doctor himself I find myself in a state of utter terror and delight,” he said.
Capaldi has a long list of movie, TV and stage credits, from the whimsical 1983 screen comedy with Peter Riegert and Burt Lancaster, Local Hero, to this summer’s zombie thriller World War Z. He is currently playing Cardinal Richelieu in BBC drama The Musketeers.
He’s also an Oscar winner – for directing Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, which won the Academy Award for best short film in 1995.
Doctor Who, first broadcast in 1963, is one of the BBC’s most popular programs, both in Britain and abroad. Its longevity is due partly to the flexibility of the premise. The Doctor can regenerate into new bodies and can travel to any point in space or time.
The original series ran from 1963 to 1989, then was revived to acclaim in 2005. Since then, the Doctor has been played by Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith, who took the part in 2010.
Looking ahead, there will be November episode to mark the show’s 50th anniversary and a Christmas special that will see the doctor regenerate into Capaldi – whose first full episode will air next year.