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A ghostly tweet has arrived from the outer reaches of Gallifrey - OK, more like the BBC canteen in Cardiff: Richard E Grant will star in this year's Doctor Who Christmas special in which fans will see the Time Lord's newest companion for the first time.

The latest series of the hugely popular sci-fi telly drama is in production and Auntie has now offered up a few more details about the hotly anticipated Xmas episode. Grant - of Withnail and I "I demand to have some booze" fame - will appear in the Doctor Who instalment alongside current Time Lord Matt Smith.

"I played Doctor Who in the digital animated Scream Of The Shalka and I'm honoured to be in the Christmas Special," Grant said.

The Doctor's latest sidekick, played by Jenna-Louise Coleman, will make her first appearance during the episode, which was written by Steven Moffat and directed by Saul Metzstein.

Filming of the festive episode is already underway, the Beeb said. New episodes of Doctor Who will hit the UK's small screen in the autumn, and a further eight shows are planned to follow in 2013.

The BBC revealed late last year that the Doctor's current companions Amy and Rory Pond will leave the show during the next series in a "heartbreaking" fashion. Karen Gillan, who plays Amy, has reportedly said she was unable to read the script detailing her exit without crying.

Last week, the Beeb offered up a new and dreadfully exciting trailer of the show:

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