ONLY a few years ago Branksome-based actor Barry Howard, star of TV’s Hi-de-Hi, seemed resigned to a life of semi-retirement. Work was sparse and his enthusiasm had dwindled.

Now 72, he is fuelled with new excitement and zest for life as he looks forward to starring in a Doctor Who two-parter starting on Christmas Day (BBC1).

“I had a couple of days down in Cardiff where we did the filming. It’s the last one for David Tenant – he was an absolutely charming man,” says Barry.

The comedy actor only played a very small starring role in the long-running sci-fi series.

“I got all of four lines – it literally is a ‘blink and you’ll miss me’. My agent put me up for it and by the time I got to do it, they’d whittled it down to several lines. I felt a bit of a fraud,” says Barry.

“I wanted to be a monster but the producers thought I was too good-looking for that!”

Barry was joined on screen by June Whitfield, with whom he appeared in the classic TV show Terry and June.

“I’m in a scene with June Whitfield and Bernard Cribbins and I looked a bit like the poor relation, I thought. But it paid the gas bill!”

“I’d known June and Bernard forever. I did a season with June Whitfield in Bournemouth with Terry Scott.

“They were hot from the Terry and June series and we did a farce in the mid-70s called A Bed Full of Foreigners.”

After such a long career treading the boards, Barry admits that life in the theatre doesn’t seem quite what it used to be.

“The last season I did on Bournemouth Pier we were struggling to play to 100 people a night.

“Years ago, star comics used to rent a house for the season and bring their family down.

“All that seems over and done with now. Those sort of people have all passed on, certainly the ones I worked with.”

A veteran of countless pantomimes and summer season shows, perhaps Barry Howard is still best known as Barry Stuart-Hargreaves, the camp dance instructor from hit BBC sitcom Hi-de-Hi.

One of his co-stars, Su Pollard, is currently appearing at the BIC in the panto Snow White and they hope to meet up.

“We’ve left phone messages for each other and I’ve got two days off over Christmas, so I intend to go and see her in Snow White at the BIC. We’re great mates.”

Barry Howard is set to appear in a new stage version of Hi-de- Hi that is planned next year.

“Six weeks after Christmas I start rehearsals for a stage show of Hi-de-Hi. I’m thrilled to bits about that, 30 years after the original TV programme.

“The rest of the cast will be look-alikes, but I shall be hopefully tripping the light fantastic.”

As for future plans, Barry hopes to continue his working relationship with Russell T Davies, writer of Doctor Who and Queer As Folk.

“Russell has gone off to America to greater things now, I would imagine.

“I did a series he wrote called The House of Windsor years ago. I’m hoping that there might be something else in the offing when this tour of Hi-de-Hi finishes.”

Don't miss the Echo on Christmas Eve for your guide to Christmas TV, including Doctor Who.