IN­SIDE: Seven days of TV view­ing

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - DEBBIE SCHIPP The Doc­tor, The Widow and The Wardrobe, ABC1, Mon­day, De­cem­ber 26, 7.30pm

AS a child, Doc­tor Who’s lead­ing man Matt Smith was told by his sis­ter if he touched his presents be­fore Christ­mas Day they would dis­ap­pear.

He doesn’t re­mem­ber how old he was, but he does re­call spend­ing a watch­ful Christ­mas Eve, snatch­ing sleep, then semi- wak­ing to eye a dark form at the end of his bed, re­sist­ing the urge to take a peek be­fore dawn.

‘‘ My sis­ter and I al­ways slept in the same room on Christ­mas Eve and I thought: ‘ I can’t wake up, and if I touch it, it will be gone’, so I just watched it all night un­til morn­ing,’’ Smith, the 11th doc­tor on the cult se­ries which, in 2013 cel­e­brates its 50th an­niver­sary, re­calls with a laugh.

‘‘ What a won­der­ful thing that you could ac­tu­ally think that. I didn’t be­lieve it for that long, but it be­came in­grained – I never peeked.’’

It taught Smith to ap­pre­ci­ate the de­li­cious an­tic­i­pa­tion of wait­ing for some­thing, no mat­ter how much you want to know what it is.

It’s a rea­son he loves that de­tails of the an­nual Doc­tor Who Christ­mas

Spe­cial are a closely guarded se­cret. So this year, as Smith ap­pears in his sec­ond of the an­nual spe­cials – a Christ­mas tele­vi­sion tra­di­tion in the UK which, for the sec­ond year run­ning, is be­ing fast- tracked to Aus­tralia to air here on Box­ing Day – he’s hon­our­ing the Doc­tor Who tra­di­tion of keep­ing de­tails of the show un­der wraps.

‘‘ We meet a fam­ily who is on the verge of hav­ing a ter­ri­ble and dis­mal Christ­mas. By some stroke of Doc­tor Who ge­nius, he lands upon them and, need­less to say, wants to make their Christ­mas bet­ter and take them on an ex­plo­ration to give them some­thing to re­mem­ber, but as usual he runs into trou­ble,’’ Smith says.

‘‘ Steven [ Mof­fat, Doc­tor Who’s lead writer and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer] has

writ­ten a bril­liant script. This year has a magic Christ­mas feel to it.’’

Of­fi­cial de­tails re­veal the Doc­tor finds him­self in war- torn Eng­land em­bark­ing on a mag­i­cal and mys­te­ri­ous ad­ven­ture with a young widow and her two chil­dren and the guest cast in­cludes Claire Skin­ner ( Out­num­bered) and Bill Bai­ley ( Black Books).

There’s also a hint that the Time Lord owes the fam­ily some­thing, and the Doc­tor never for­gets his debts. Smith says he’s sim­i­lar in real life. ‘‘ My dad al­ways brought me up that a bet’s a bet. You pay bets early. But as for my gas bill, God knows where it’s at, I just hope for the best.’’

This year has been a huge one for Smith, as he has ce­mented his reg­u­lar role as the Doc­tor, gain­ing ac­cep­tance from fans and crit­i­cal ac­claim.

When he was named the 11th doc­tor in 2010, the English press head­lined the news Doc­tor Who?, in ref­er­ence to the then rel­a­tively- un­known Smith’s early ca­reer.

More than 14 months on, Smith has an­swered the ques­tion with a BAFTA nom­i­na­tion this year for lead­ing ac­tor.

He says the role is the most free­ing he has ever played.

‘‘ Ev­ery script is like open­ing a Christ­mas gift be­cause you are not bound by time or logic or genre or space or any of the nor­mal things you are bound by in nor­mal drama.

‘‘ The doc­tor has the abil­ity to turn on a six­pence, un­like any other char­ac­ter, with no ex­pla­na­tion.

‘‘ I’ve never ever played a char­ac­ter like him. I don’t think I ever will again.’’

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