It’s Christmas, and that means another festive-themed outing for Doctor Who. And after swiping A Christmas Carol last year, this time writer Steven Moffat is borrowing from less obvious source material. And he plagiarised Dickens so utterly that he had to acknowledge it in the script, so maybe it’s for the best.
Does this bode well for the 2011 special? Or should Moffat have done a nativity adaptation with River Song in the manger?
Claire Skinner, Matt Smith and The Magic Wand
Well, if your main wish from your Christmas Doctor Who is obvious festiveness, this was a huge success. Whimsy, jokes, a big swelling emotional climax or three, and Matt Smith is great with the broad child-friendly material. The first half hour especially was a glowing example of a festive parable, unfolding with atmosphere, not explaining anything and letting us experience it.
And then they started explaining stuff, and things went a little off-track. The last few scenes were strong, but beginning from Madge’s arrival in the tower, there was a decent-length sequence of sci-fi shouting to explain the plot. Necessary, perhaps, but it broke the magic spell a bit.
Still, Claire Skinner was very good, both because she was endearing and fun, and since she’s most well-known as “Mum from Outnumbered”, casting her as the proverbial Mother Christmas works on a couple of levels. Even the child actors were convincing, which is always a relief.
Bill Bailey, The Ponds And The Female Empowerment
The little touches were particularly good in this one. The sonic screwdriver’s allergy to wood finally becomes a real problem, and Bill Bailey’s appearance, albeit brief, was great. Hope he’ll be one of these minor characters who comes back. Oh, and the Ponds scene at the end, as a quick kick for “proper” viewers, gave us a few firmer hints about the Doctor’s new “presumed dead” state.
Admittedly, the female empowerment theme kinda came out of nowhere at the end, and also that flashback about Madge’s future husband following her home… is it me, or was that more creepy than romantic?
Still, despite a few quibbles when I engaged my reviewer-brain, I came out of it with my heart warmed, and on a Christmas special that’s good enough. In a normal episode, the hand-wavey “magic wand” approach to plotting might rankle more, but at Christmas, you can get away with that.
And I don’t want me and the Doctor to part on bad terms, as it looks like this is all we’re getting until autumn. Check out the Christmas special on iPlayer, and let us know below how festive you found it.