TO the casual observer it is nothing more than a police call box, a relic of a bygone age.

But as any science fiction fan knows, the Tardis is much more than a museum piece.

Now it has been redesigned for the 21st century, with a new look to be unveiled in tomorrow’s Christmas Day episode of Doctor Who.

The creation is the brainchild of film production designer and North Oxford resident Michael Pickwoad.

While he is sworn to secrecy over the ship’s new interior, he shared a few clues exclusively with the Oxford Mail.

“What I can say is the new Tardis has a darker and more mechanical feel along with a sense of the organic,” he said.

“It’s a sort of ‘hi-tech organic’. As soon as you enter, there is an immediate suggestion that this machine can fly.”

Mr Pickwoad has been at the heart of the British film and television industry for 40 years, designing sets for such familiar shows as Miss Marple, Poirot, and such movies as Hawk the Slayer and How to Get Ahead in Advertising.

Among the heavyweight actors he has worked with are Hayley Mills, Judi Dench and Ray Winston.

The festive episode, called The Snowmen, will reunite Mr Pickwoad with the actor Richard E. Grant.

Mr Grant, who plays the villain, starred as Withnail in the cult British comedy Withnail and I, on which Mr Pickwoad was the production designer.

Coincidentally, that film also starred Paul McGann as “I”, who was briefly the eighth incarnation of The Doctor.

To date, 13 episodes of the ever popular show have benefited from his design work.

“It’s enormous fun,” he said. “I was a bit worried when I started as I’d never designed a spaceship before.

“But if the story is good, you can get away with anything.”

He confessed: “Compared to what people might imagine there is, not very much money is spent on it at all.

“That means you have to be cunning with what you do. It’s extremely hard work, but it’s tremendous fun. And Matt Smith [as The Doctor] is extremely good; I’ve enjoyed working with him.”

Few watching the Christmas special will realise how long it has taken to design the new Tardis at the studio in Cardiff where the show is filmed.

Mr Pickwoad said: “The new design began last Christmas when I produced a model which slowly grew into the exciting reality to be seen tomorrow.

“We didn’t want to spoil it for people, so it was under wraps – but will soon be seen in full.”

  • The Christmas special, which will also introduce The Doctor’s latest sidekick, Clara, can be seen tomorrow at 5.15pm on BBC 1.