'I've turned it into a climate-change fable, and it's all about looking after the natural world,' says Mackenzie
A new version of Worzel Gummidge is to start on BBC1 on Boxing Day, with Mackenzie Crook taking on the role of the loveable scarecrow made famous by Jon Pertwee in the classic ITV series.
And it's also been revealed that comedy legend Michael Palin, Harry Potter actress Zoe Wanamaker, Benidrom's Steve Pemberton, and Getting On's Vicki Pepperdine are also starring.
The BBC has released first look snaps of Mackenzie as Worzel and Vicki as Aunt Sally and revealed that there will be two one-hour films, the first on Boxing Day at 6.20pm and the second on Friday 27th December at 7pm.
Writer, director and star Mackenzie said: “I’m thrilled to be back working with the BBC and many members of the Detectorists team to bring Worzel Gummidge to a new generation of viewers and reintroduce him to old friends.
“Adapting Barbara Euphan Todd’s books into these two films has been a joy and I’ve completely fallen for her charming, irreverent scarecrow.”
Mackenzie tells us: "I've turned it into a climate-change fable, and it's all about looking after the natural world. It seemed like a good opportunity to push forward those issues in a funny rather than a preachy way. I hope it's magical, and will also make kids sit up and realise they've got to act now.”
Teasing the first episode, The Scarecrow of Scatterbrook, the BBC says that the world of two young strangers, Susan and John, is "sent spinning into confusion when they realise Gummidge comes to life. The only person more shocked is Worzel, when he discovers that the children are not in fact fellow scarecrows but humans".
Which characters do Michael Palin and Zoe Wanamaker play in the new Worzel Gummidge?
Michael Palin will appear in the second film as The Green Man, the creator of the scarecrows. "It’s a lovely part for me, but the whole script is very memorable and touching, and very funny too. It quite skillfully weaves in something for everybody all the time," said Michael.
Zoe Wanamaker will play the eccentric local aristocrat, Lady Bloomsbury Barton in episode two, while Steve Pemberton will play Mr Braithwaite, the farmer.
Speaking about the new Worzel Gummidge, My Family and Harry Potter star Zoe says: "The whole thing is so charming and inventive. It’s the sort of thing I’d watch. I’m sure it will be a huge success. I know it will - it’s divine.”
Who plays Aunt Sally in the new Worzel Gummidge?
Vicki Pepperdine, also known for The Windsors, has landed the iconic part of Aunt Sally."There’s something for everybody. It’s got this heart to it, and you’d be hard pushed as an adult not to engage with it,” she said.
The books were adapted before for the ITV children’s series, which ran from 1979 to 1981. Jon Pertwee, best known for his role as the Third Doctor in Doctor Who, starred as Worzel alongside Sherlock actress Una Stubbs as Aunt Sally.
The gentle series, which was packed with plenty of comedy, also featured EastEnders legend Barbara Windsor as Saucy Nancy, Carry On star Joan Sims as Mrs Bloomsbury-Barton, Geoffrey Bayldon as The Crowman, Four Weddings and A Funeral actress Charlotte Coleman as schoolgirl Sue Peters and ex Emmerdale star Lorraine Chase as Dolly Clothes-Peg.
Mackenzie says he never saw the original. “I never watched it. I was from one of those strange, old-fashioned families who watched the BBC but commercial TV was almost frowned upon! Perhaps if I had of been fond of the original series, I'd have been more wary of taking it on!”
When is the new Worzel Gummidge on BBC1?
Worzel Gummidge is one of the gems of the Christmas TV schedule. The BBC has now confirmed it will begin on Boxing Day!
What time will Worzel Gummidge be on Boxing Day?
Worzel Gummidge: The Scarecrow of Scatterbrook will begin at 6.20pm on Boxing Day.
When will the second story, Worzel Gummidge - The Green Man be show?
Friday 27th December at 7pm.
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David is the What To Watch Editor and has over 20 years of experience in television journalism. He is currently writing about the latest television and film news for What To Watch.
Before working for What To Watch, David spent many years on TV Times magazine, interviewing some of television's most famous stars including Hollywood actor Kiefer Sutherland, singer Lionel Richie and wildlife legend Sir David Attenborough.
David started out as a writer on TV Times before becoming the title's deputy features editor and then features editor. During his time on TV Times, David also helped run the annual TV Times Awards. David is a huge Death in Paradise fan, although he's still failed to solve a case before the show's detective! He also loves James Bond and controversially thinks that Timothy Dalton was an excellent 007.
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