Michael Allan opens a portal to Christmas 2011...
Can I tell you a secret?
I don't like Christmas all that much.
Now, before you all stab me with your turkeys and call me 'Scrooge', let me explain. Its not that I dislike Christmas – the festive films, time with the family, and a good excuse to stay in bed all day, plus let's not forget the Doctor Who treats under the tree. These are all things that I like about Christmas, however the idea has never excited me. It all seems like a lot of fuss over nothing, and I know Christmas presents themselves can often cause arguments. But hey, at least we have good quality, Christmas TV on...
I love watching Christmas specials, watching the films, soaking in all the Christmas lore. This year, I'm especially looking forward to Miranda – but not Doctor Who, as there's not been one Christmas special that I've considered to be really good. However there's not one I've hated as much, or felt so much anger over, than The Doctor The Widow And The Wardrobe. In my opinion, this is not only the worst Christmas special, but one of the worst Doctor Who episodes period.
Plot wise, we have a family who are evacuated. The Doctor plays caretaker and gives them a 'magical' present, however the most obnoxious child, Cyril, goes through the magical box... and gets lost! Now the Doctor and our family of cardboard cutouts must find Cyril and stop the bad things happening there... with the power of love!
In itself that's an okay story, not the best but if it was executed well I'd be able to give it a four/ten, and just pass it off as a forgettable episode. There are good things about The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe. Visually it looks very nice and Christmassy. It's well directed, and the opening scene, while full of scientific errors (like I care!), is fun. Oh, and all the Androzani references made me very happy. I think you can see that there's greatness trying to come through in every Doctor Who episode – but sometimes, for whatever reason, it just doesn't work.
The reason it doesn't work in The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe is down to the writing. Steven Moffat is a great writer. Sure, he's no Robert Holmes and he's made many, many mistakes, but he's written some great episodes of Doctor Who, and not forgetting the masterpiece that is Sherlock! However his writing and characterisation is at its worst in this special.
We'll start with the Doctor. Eleven was always childlike and always so energetic but here he's just annoying. There's a line between being excited and being stupid, and in this episode Smith crosses it. When he's showing the family around the house his goofiness gets way too much. It almost spoils what is actually a lovely scene which follows. The 'make them happy because they're going to be sad later' segment. That is the doctor. Waving your hands around, being utterly foolish and annoying is not.
The Family themselves are the worst part though. The children's father has died, but the mother doesn't want to tell them, so as to not to ruin Christmas. This is actually an interesting concept, and if this episode was A: better written, and B: longer, then this could have been very good. But these characters are so one dimensional, so flat, you just don't care about them. You don't care about their emotional peril, or about what happens to them over the course of the story. For a good character, people have to CARE.
Then there's the ending where – guess what – the monsters are defeated by love! What is it with this new 'trend'? Night Terrors, Closing Time, and this... it makes no sense! Looking back on series eight thankfully this has died down a little, but I fear it'll recur in the coming Christmas special – it's just lazy writing!
And right at the end the father turns out not to be dead. Do I have to describe how stupid that is?
Some people will be shouting at their computer screens, saying 'Its just a Christmas special, it doesn't matter!' Wrong. Yes, it's Christmas so the episode can be a little light-hearted, and have a bit of the 'feel good' factor about it, but that doesn't mean people shouldn't try. People get paid to put this together, and as an audience we pay to watch it. So in fact, the production team should try harder on Christmas, because usually there are a lot more viewers, it's a bigger event. If it was episode seven of a series of twelve, it wouldn't matter as much, but there's so much attention on Christmas day that the production team need to get it right. They shouldn't be serving up a Christmas turkey!
From what we've seen and heard so far, Last Christmas looks okay. I have hope! I hope that it lives up to my expectations of what a Christmas special should really be, and I hope that it doesn't disappoint me with the overused 'power of love' plot device.
I wish you all a merry Christmas, enjoy it and have fun. If anyone wants me I'll be in the corner listing to Fairytale of New York on loop...