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Last Updated: Monday, 18 December 2006, 15:49 GMT
Tate's Christmas date with the Doctor
By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Comedian Catherine Tate trades her BBC Two sketch show for the Tardis this month with a guest appearance in the Doctor Who Christmas Day special.

David Tennant and Catherine Tate in The Runaway Bride
Tate (right) plays a blushing bride transported onto the Tardis
Best known for her stroppy schoolgirl character Lauren, The Runaway Bride finds Tate in a very different guise - that of Donna, a blushing wife-to-be outraged to be transported into outer space just as she is walking down the aisle.

Her attempts to get back to the church in time see her kidnapped by robots, attacked by Christmas tree baubles and ensnared by a giant alien spider, played by Cutting It star Sarah Parish.

Tate, whose TV comedy show finished its third series last month, describes the role as "one of the best things I've done".

"It was such a fantastic job, and so exciting," she says. "It was like making an action movie.

"I agreed to do it without even knowing what it was - I just said yes."

"It's a fairly unconventional pairing," admits actor David Tennant, who made his debut as the Doctor this time last year in the 2005 Christmas special.

"But by the end they've rather fallen for each other. Perhaps I'll come back and visit her some day."

'Cumbersome'

Tate, however, did not have to wrestle with the possibility of stepping into Billie Piper's shoes as the Doctor's new full-time assistant.

"They didn't ask me," says the 38-year-old Londoner flatly.

David Tennant and Catherine Tate in The Runaway Bride
The show features several familiar London landmarks
"It's a bit of a shame I think," says Tennant. "They could have made a great team."

No Doctor Who episode is complete without a fiendish villain, and Parish says she jumped at the chance to play the baddie.

However, that was before she realised that playing the evil Empress of the Racnoss would require extensive make-up taking four hours to apply each morning.

"It was a heavy, cumbersome costume but I loved it," she says. "It was a really interesting exercise.

"You really have to over-accentuate everything in order to make the prosthetics work."

"Since I've started this job, Sarah has been saying 'I've got to play an alien,'" says Tennant, who previously worked with Parish on BBC One musical comedy Blackpool and the forthcoming ITV drama Recovery.

"All I can say is, be careful what you wish for!"

Parish, however, dismisses suggestions that her arachnid villain may be too fearsome for family viewing.

"It's behind-the-sofa scary, as opposed to psychiatric-ward scary," she laughs.

'Good stories'

Audiences who tune in on 25 December will see a preview of the forthcoming third series of Doctor Who, featuring a host of familiar faces.

They include League of Gentleman star Mark Gatiss, comic Ardal O'Hanlon - albeit disguised as an alien - and William Shakespeare.

Robot Santas in The Runaway Bride
Also along for the ride are deadly space robots disguised as Santas
Former Coronation Street actress Thelma Barlow and comedian Jessica Stevenson also appear, alongside the Doctor's new assistant, played by Freema Agyeman.

Tennant says it is a testament to the quality of the show's writing that so many established actors are keen to take part.

"The fact that it's Doctor Who and there's so much history to it is important, but it's also because they're good stories," he explains.

"People just want to come and play for a bit, and we're very happy to let them."

However, the 35-year-old Scottish star refused to be drawn when asked how long he expected to remain in the role of TV's most durable time-traveller.

"From the moment I accepted this job, people have asked me when I'm leaving," he told reporters on Monday.

"I have tried to be as noncommittal as possible and shall maintain that stance today."

The Runaway Bride is on BBC One on 25 December at 1900 GMT.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Catherine Tate and David Tennant on the special episode



SEE ALSO
David Tennant named 'best Dr Who'
06 Dec 06 |  Entertainment
Doctor Who baddie role for Barlow
28 Sep 06 |  Entertainment
Tate to guest star in Doctor Who
09 Jul 06 |  Entertainment

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