Doctor Who: The Time Of The Doctor star on Peter Capaldi

Fringe’s Orla Brady on the Doctor Who 2013 Christmas Special, working with Peter Capaldi and Matt Smith

Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald and Matt Smith as The Doctor in 'The Time Of The Doctor'
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald and Matt Smith as The Doctor in ‘The Time Of The Doctor’

In this year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special, ‘The Time Of The Doctor’, the 11th Doctor will be visited by ghosts of Christmas’ past before the bell tolls and his regeneration gets underway

The Daleks, Cybermen, Weeping Angels and The Silence will be in attendance, drawn to a mysterious signal, and the Time Lord (Matt Smith) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) must discover what this means for his fate and that of the universe. Their journey will take the time-travellers to Trenzalore, the infamous place where the First Question is asked and the Doctor will fall, according to the big blue decapitated Dorium Maldovar in Doctor Who Series 6’s ‘The Wedding Of River Song’.

Among the roster of recognisable faces is guest star Orla Brady, best known as Elizabeth Bishop in Fringe. She stars as someone from the Doctor’s past and plays a pivotal part in the festivities. Brad spoke exclusively to SciFiNow about filming Matt Smith’s last ever episode.

How did you land the role in the Doctor Who Christmas special?

They offered it to me, and it was a lovely surprise. It’s something I admired from afar, so I agreed and set the date, but I didn’t have time to read the script. My agent and I have a long-standing joke between us where I say “I better give the part a quick read just in case it’s a killer nun,” because sometimes you get scripts where you’re running around in latex with a machine gun.

So in this instance I said to her, “I haven’t got time to read it, I absolutely would love to do it, it’s hardly going to be a killer nun, is it?” Anyway [laughs], you’ll see!

Orla Brady as Tasha Lem in Doctor Who's 2013 Christmas Special
Orla Brady as Tasha Lem in Doctor Who’s 2013 Christmas Special

Steven Moffat said this episode will tie together the remaining story strands from the 11th Doctor’s era. Did you catch every reference?

I wasn’t familiar with the show in its current incarnation, and there’s a lot of mythology and names of places that turn out to be significant in the Whoniverse that went straight over my head. I wanted to understand it, so I spent a long time talking with the story editor and with Steven [Moffat], and they gave me key episodes that pertained to this regeneration.

What was it like working with Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman?

What struck me about Matt is that it was as if it was his first day on set. He was truly engaging with it in a way that somebody new would, always trying to push it further. It’s typical when someone is getting to grips with the character, but people usually pull back when they’ve been in a show as long as he has. It was really joyful to see someone working that way.

I was trying to leave Matt and Jenna alone a bit because it was their last week working together and it could only have been sad for them. I didn’t want them to have to entertain a guest, so I’d wander off on my own a bit, but in spite of that they were very warm and welcoming.

The Christmas Special is Matt Smith's final outing as the 11th Doctor - renumbering be damned.
The Christmas Special is Matt Smith’s final outing as the 11th Doctor – renumbering be damned.

Did you get the chance to meet Peter Capaldi at any point?

I saw Peter when he came to set for his first day, and obviously it’s a big deal to come onto Doctor Who and step into those well-worn shoes. It can only be a rather delightful but big weight on the shoulders, I imagine. People know him as Malcolm Tucker [from The Thick Of It], but he’s so polite and charming and, I think, possibly a bit shy. He seemed very happy to be there and I was overjoyed to hear he got the part.

I actually played his fiancé in a Christmas special of The Vicar Of Dibley years ago. He was the Vicar’s handsome dream man and appears at her door and says, “I thought of you and wondered, would you marry me?” And she’s jumping up and down, until he pulls me into the doorway and she spends the rest of the episode hating me.

Did you discover how the regeneration really happens, or was that a closely guarded secret?

Oh yes, I read all of it, but your name is plastered all over the script, so you’re terrified of losing it. My character is great fun; she and the Doctor are old acquaintances, and when they meet it’s been a few hundred years, because that’s space and time for you. They’re friends, they like each other, and that’s all I’m allowed to say.

The 2013 Doctor Who Christmas Special will air 25 December 2013 on BBC 1. Pick up the Doctor Who Series 7 box set  on DVD for £34.50 or Blu-ray for £36.33 from