Merry Christmas, everybody!
This year, I found myself getting a few presents that I wasn’t expecting but was particularly happy to actually have when I unwrapped them, such as a tool kit, and a Dad’s Army DVD boxset. It’s nice when something like that happens – and in fact, that’s also what happened in tonight’s Doctor Who Christmas special.
- So an off-world human colony in 5343 celebrates Christmas with the exact same decorations and carols? That’s actually quite pleasant. I also liked the special festive opening titles for the episode.
- Without a companion, the Twelfth Doctor seems to have let his grouchy side out again. Fortunately, being with River again definitely has a positive effect on him and makes him much more cheery.
- I certainly didn’t mind seeing River Song again for this special, even though there didn’t seem to be much of a story for a while. (I expect quite a few people will moan about the sonic trowel.) Once we got to the final quarter and this turned out to be a significant point in the Doctor and River’s story, it proved an excellent bonus. It was intriguing that she didn’t recognise the Twelfth Doctor, but once the point of the supposedly limited regeneration cycle was brought up, it made sense. (Though how does River know about the War Doctor?) Given how casual this River was about killing, I was under the impression at first that it was a younger incarnation, so it was something of a surprise to realise she was actually nearing the end of her life. As for her anguished declaration that the Doctor can’t really love her, that didn’t really seem to fit with her attitude in previous episodes – though it’s hard to tell how honest River is ever really being.
- Most of this episode was less about melodrama and telling a complex story, and more about just having fun. Quite a bit of it was plain ridiculous, such as Hydroflax’s disembodied head having a conversation with his robot body, but I hardly minded: it was a riot. I don’t normally like Matt Lucas, but I even found him funny here, such as the frightened sounds he makes while being questioned by the Doctor. Admittedly, I sometimes felt a bit guilty for laughing as a lot of the scenes being portrayed as funny were really quite dark, such as Matt Lucas’s character having his head cut off and attached to the Hydroflax robot against his will.
- Mind you, the man who peels his own head open was probably going a bit far for six in the evening.
- I loved the Doctor’s rendition of how he feels seeing the TARDIS interior for the first time should be done.
- That sparkly costume change by River wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Christmas Littlewoods advert.
- History’s Best Exploding Restaurants – that’s actually a pretty clever idea for time-travellers. It feels reminiscent of Jack Harkness’s self-cleaning con all the way back in Series 1.
- With the central conflict apparently solved with fifteen minutes to go, I wasn’t sure what was coming next. I certainly wasn’t expecting to actually see the scene with the singing towers of Darillium, which River described to the Tenth Doctor as their previous (and penultimate) meeting back in Series 4. It felt very poignant, and it was certainly in character – and pretty sad – that the Doctor has been trying to put that moment off for a long time. Was it necessary to see it? Probably not, but it was still a fulfilling pleasure.
With the kind of humour it uses, and with it being more concerned with that than a strong story (for most of the running time at least), this felt like an episode that people will either love or hate, like Love and Monsters. But as for me, I enjoyed Love and Monsters, and I really loved this one too. Rating: 4.5/5.