Earlier this week, tabloid newspapers claimed that science-fiction fans were all of a frenzy over Matt Smith's alleged nakedness in Doctor Who.
In a recent episode of the BBC's long-running drama series, the Doctor – who is played by the 27-year-old Matt Smith – was seen taking a shower, then wondering around his apartment dressed only in a TARDIS-blue towel.
Then, during the scene, while trying to run around the room, the towel dropped to the ground.
At this point, according to the UK tabloid press, the Internet went into overdrive with fans posting messages to bulletin boards, claiming to have seen the the actor's private parts.
The Daily Starclaimed that , "Web forums went into meltdown [...] after hawk-eyed Who fans said they had seen the Time Lord’s willy." Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror said, "fans claimed that by freeze framing the show at 15 minutes and ten seconds they caught a glimpse of Matt's manhood".
The incident happened during The Lodger – by Gareth Roberts and guest starring Gavin & Stacey's James Corden – which was broadcast in the UK last Saturday,
According to the newspapers in question, viewers were freeze-framing the episode at 15 minutes and ten seconds to catch "a glimpse of Matt's manhood"; and the Daily Star claimed that one Who fan had posted on his website: "It is true, you can clearly see. Yes, while millions were watching the football I really did see the Doctor's w***y."
Meanwhile, the BBC was quick to issue a rebuttal, with a spokesperson saying: "Fans might speculate about what they saw. But I can assure them that Matt wasn't totally naked when he filmed these scenes. He was sporting an item to protect his modesty."
This isn't the first time that the Doctor has stripped off. In 2005, when the show was relaunched with Christopher Eccleston in the lead role, the ninth Doctor was seen tied up and stripped to the waist while being interrogated by Van Statten, in Dalek – a story by Rob Shearman, which was based on his own Big Finish audio drama, Jubilee.
Then, in 2008, David Tennant appeared "almost" naked in Journey's End, after his tenth Doctor was cloned into a human version of the Time Lord.
Smith was first seen stripping off earlier this year in his very first episode, The Eleventh Hour, when the newly regenerated Doctor put on his new outfit for the very first time. That occasion, too, raised a few metaphorical eyebrows among the British tabloid media, and endeared the young actor to his increasing legion of straight women and gay male fans.
There have already been claims this year that Doctor Who is being sexed up for a modern audience. But these don't really stand up when you look back at the show's long history. The Doctor's female assistants (and some of the male ones too) have more often than not appeared young and sexy. In the current issue of Radio Times, the BBC's listings' magazine, there's a mini-feature about some of the show's 1960s' and 1970s' companions. They include, Polly (Anneke Wills), who in the mid-sixties wore skirts as skimpy as Amy does today, and Leela (Louise Jameson), who travelled around time and space in the seventies dressed only in a very tight-fitting leather sleeveless top and short skirt.
Fans also point out that Jon Pertwee, who played the third Doctor between 1970 and 1975, was seen in the shower in his very first story, Spearhead from Space, in 1970. And that Peter Davison's fifth Doctor was seen partially clothed in 1982's Black Orchid.