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Doctor Who fans applaud new assistant

Get behind the sofa - it's Billie Piper

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Doctor Who fans are apparently beside themselves with excitement at the news that former popstress Billie Piper will become Doctor Who's new assistant for the scheduled return of the roving Time Lord.

Piper will star as Rose Tyler alongside established thespo Christopher Eccleston when the series returns in 2005. This has pleased large swathes of the Doctor Who fan community, whose approval must come as a great relief to the BBC. Doctor Who Appreciation Society spokesman Antony Wainer confirmed that punters were "very excited" by the casting coup. "She's a very pretty lady, her acting credentials have been proven and she will have a wide appeal," he told BBCi.

Indeed. One breathless posting to GallifreyOne.net says: "I think the choice of Billie Piper is absolutely fantastic. With her announcement in the papers, people were discussing her and the show at work like never before. People seem to really like the fact she has matured from a teenage pop star to an actress, getting very good reviews."

It's not all clearness and light, though: "Is it just me or does this smack of 'publicity stunt' casting?" asks one stroppy poster. "I thought we'd gotten away from that sort of ridiculous thing when Bonnie Langford proved to be so unpopular."

Bonnie Langford? Unpopular? For shame. As for Billy Piper, she has several noteworthy television achievements to her name. The most important is undoubtedly marrying ginger jester Chris Evans and jetsetting off round the world - thereby keeping Evans off UK terrestrial TV since 2000.

Meanwhile, the Doc's former companions Leela - played by Louise Jameson - and Peri (Nicola Bryant) have been dispensing essential advice to the new incumbent. "Keep your kit on" seems to be top of the list: "My first scene had me in a bikini and I seemed to wear revealling clothing for the rest of the series," notes Bryant, while Jameson laments: "Leela [was] strong and tough... but I also had to wear a tight leather costume."

We agree, and ask that Ms Piper appear fully clad at all times. Having seen a Piper/Evans beach exposé in the Sun last year, we can confirm that a bikini-clad Billie will have the kids behind the sofa quicker than a whole mothership full of Daleks. ®

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