The BBC says British actor Peter Capaldi is the next star of the long-running science fiction series Doctor Who.

The announcement was made during a live television broadcast on Sunday.  He will be replacing Matt Smith, who became the youngest Doctor at age 26 when it was announced in 2009 that he would be taking over the role.

The 55-year-old is best known as venom-spitting spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in political comedy The Thick of It and its follow up film In the Loop.  He was most recently seen in the zombie epic World War Z.

He has a long list of movie, television and stage credits, from the 1983 film Local Hero to the BBC's recent newsroom drama The Hour. He's also an Oscar winner -- he directed Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life, which won the Academy Award for best short film in 1994.

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.

'Utter terror and delight'

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.

The role will be a dramatic change from Capaldi's turn as Tucker, a political manipulator known for his ceaseless and creative use of expletives. Doctor Who is a firmly child-friendly program.

"I think Malcolm has been banished from the mirror by this Doctor Who, who certainly would not put up with any of Malcolm's language or attitude," Capaldi said on the BBC show Sunday.

Doctor Who was first broadcast in 1963 and is now 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.

Doctor Who ran from 1963 to 1989, and 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.

Smith will leave after a November episode to mark the show's 50th anniversary, and a Christmas special.