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Doctor Who? Next time-travelling star of British show to be revealed Sunday

Nick Thompson

CNN

(CNN) -- Whovians, clear your calendars -- the next star of the British science-fiction series "Doctor Who" will be unveiled Sunday during a live half-hour television special on the BBC.

The 12th Doctor of the long-running show, which has aired 33 seasons and nearly 800 episodes since it premiered in 1963, will be revealed in front of a studio audience set against a backdrop of a swirling vortex, Daleks, and the TARDIS, the BBC has announced.

Peter Capaldi, who starred as a foul-mouthed spin doctor in the British political comedy series "The Thick of It," has been the odds-on favorite to step into the good Doctor's blue phone booth-shaped time machine after Matt Smith, the 11th Doctor, announced in June that he would be leaving the show after four years.

Ben Stephenson, Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning, said: "We can't wait to unveil the next Doctor ... It's the biggest secret in showbiz, even those working with the new Doctor on other projects at the moment have no idea they are in the presence of the 12th incarnation."

The show will air live simultaneously on BBC One in Britain at 6:00 p.m. GMT and on BBC America at 2:00 p.m. ET.

The seminal British series first aired in 1963 -- when the broadcast of the premiere was delayed due to coverage of the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy -- and spawned a number of spinoffs, books, stage performances and radio shows before going off the air in 1989.

The show returned to television in 2005 to critical acclaim in Britain. The BBC has said it will debut the new Doctor in this year's Christmas special.

Rory Kinnear, who played Bill Tanner in the James Bond films "Quantum of Solace" and "Skyfall," and Idris Elba, better known as Stringer Bell from the HBO drama "The Wire," have also been tipped as candidates to be the next incarnation of the Time Lord.

As fans eagerly await the appointment of the next Doctor, the BBC will celebrate the 50th anniversary of "Doctor Who" with a biopic about the show's origins.

"An Adventure in Space and Time" will premiere later this year and fictionally recounts the creation of the series while exploring the team behind its first episode.

The show will also mark the highly-anticipated milestone on November 23 with a special episode starring Matt Smith, David Tennant -- Smith's predecessor -- and John Hurt as the Doctor, according to the BBC.

Emily Zemler and Kevin Taverner contributed to this report.

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