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Will the Doctor weed out the space gardeners

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IT'S an unseasonably warm October day when the Doctor Who set flings opens its doors to give a sneak peek at its Christmas special.

Matt Smith, who's played the Doctor for two years now, is his usual livewire self - popping over between scenes to say hello and giving out enticing titbits about what we can expect in the Christmas Day episode.

"Last year, it felt like a Christmas romp in many ways," he says. "This year - I don't want to use the phrase fairytale because that gets used an awful lot and isn't quite right in this case - but there's a sort of slow-burning magic to the world in this story," he grins, and then he's off again before we can pin him down for more.

But not everyone is enjoying the sunshine. Guest stars Bill Bailey, Arabella Weir and Paul Bazely (the other famous faces appearing are Claire Skinner and Alexander Armstrong) are a little glum in their costumes, which involve wetsuits underneath what appear to be Cybermen helmets teamed with pieces of an old yellow skip.

"I hadn't thought of skip until you said it, but now you have..." says Bill when the likeness is pointed out to him. "Yeah, we're three space skips and we parade around a forest in a futuristic forest walker."

"We're not high end," adds Paul. "We're sort of working for the council." Actually, the trio are intergalactic forestry commission workers, or "space gardeners", as Bill claims.

They enter the story when the Doctor, who's landed in Dorset during the Second World War, tries to give a widow and her two children the best Christmas ever by whisking them away to a magical land via a big blue present.

Unfortunately, they discover the land is dominated by an enchanted forest where something evil lurks...

However, the actors are keen to point out they're not evil - quite the opposite, in fact.

"We're not very frightening. When you first see us we look scary, but really we're more like The Three Stooges," explains Arabella. "We don't really know what we're doing. We're kind rather than heroic."

"And if there are any stunts, it won't be me doing them," says Bill. "When we did a night shoot, we had to go from the studio up to the location. It involved getting into a people carrier, and that was the most difficult thing of the whole night! I had to sort of roll in face down... We didn't look like an elite fighting force at that stage."

But despite being uncomfortable, all three are thrilled about being in Doctor Who. "My son's just the right age for it," says Paul. "He's already told his friends at school and I've got kids coming up to me going, 'You're gonna be in Doctor Who'. It's then you realise what a huge thing it is."

Bill adds: "I've watched Doctor Who for as long as I can remember. It's a cliche, but I really did hide behind the sofa - from the Cybermen particularly!" Arabella can boast that she's actually played the Time Lord. Back in the days when the series was off-air, she played an alternative version of the Doctor in an audio adventure, although it didn't go quite as well as she'd hoped.

"Richard E Grant was one reincarnation, then they asked me to do it as a woman. She came back as basically a shopworker from Sainsbury's, a comedy Doctor Who. She farted and burped a lot, which I did beautifully. But it garnered the most complaints they've ever had!" With that, the trio are whisked back to the set by a runner although Bill, ever the joker, claims: "We're all going down to Yates's Wine Lodge now."

Arabella chips in: "Yeah, we're doing All The Single Ladies on the karaoke, dressed like this!"? Doctor Who is on BBC One on Christmas Day, 7pm

GRAPHIC: KITTED OUT: Arabella Weir and Bill Bailey in costume for the Christmas Doctor Who DANGER IN THE FOREST: Matt Smith and Claire Skinner star in the Christmas Doctor Who special

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  • APA 6th ed.: Morgana, Sarah (2011-12-24). Will the Doctor weed out the space gardeners. Liverpool Echo p. 3.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Morgana, Sarah. "Will the Doctor weed out the space gardeners." Liverpool Echo [add city] 2011-12-24, 3. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Morgana, Sarah. "Will the Doctor weed out the space gardeners." Liverpool Echo, edition, sec., 2011-12-24
  • Turabian: Morgana, Sarah. "Will the Doctor weed out the space gardeners." Liverpool Echo, 2011-12-24, section, 3 edition.
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