Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Thoughts on the Doctor Who Christmas Special

I showed extraordinary patience yesterday by waiting to watch this year's Doctor Who Christmas Special--most of my family was en route back to Minnesota when it aired, and far too exhausted to sit through it when they got home a bit later. As such, it wasn't until tonight that I saw the continuation of the series. Some thoughts below the cut, for those who are waiting longer still...

I'm not surprised Richard E. Grant was so grouchy as this episode's villain. He went from being the Ninth Doctor to being a footnote to history in the span of about an hour, and his consolation prize was being a one-shot bad guy. He probably kept his teeth gritted to avoid shouting, "I had a script by Paul Cornell! Derek Jacobi was my companion! It was all webcasty and futuristic! Why did they go with you?"

It's interesting to note that the new series Doctor is much more emotional...or, if you want to be a bit sarky, much more emo...than the classic Doctor. But I don't think it's a mistake or a misreading of the character. The old Doctor, for all his occasional bouts of "I walk in eternity"-level portentiousness, had never really lost anything. He chose to be away from Gallifrey, knowing that for the most part, it was always there for him whenever he wanted it. His companions left, but never in a way he couldn't return to them. He never knew want in any significant sense. The new series Doctor? His homeworld is destroyed, his ancient enemies survived the devastation when his people didn't, and of his last five companions, four of them he can never see again without the universe detonating or their brains exploding or New York City turning into a pile of rubble. It's enough to make a guy a bit sullen, is all I'm saying.

I did see it coming that the snow was never anything more than a mirror to Richard E. Grant's character, but I'll admit it caught me pleasantly off-guard when Clara died. Clara as a companion with a mysterious connection to the woman in 'Asylum of the Daleks'? Interesting. Clara as another mysterious dead girl with a connection to the Doctor's future companion? Genuinely intriguing. Can't wait to see where they go with this.

On the other hand, I will never forgive Steven Moffat for teasing, in that one tantalizing moment, a companion who was Mary Poppins with the serial numbers filed off and not delivering. The Doctor finally meeting someone who has stories just as unbelievable as his? Oh, it would have been grand. "You may have invented fish, but I perfected them!"

Why is Strax not a companion? No, seriously, why? I have not seen interplay as good as that between Dan Starkey and Matt Smith anywhere else in the series, and I include Eccleston and Piper in that. And Moffat is clearly having way too much fun writing the character; the dialogue practically writes itself. "I suggest a full frontal assault utilizing laser monkeys, scalpel mines, and acid." "Don't noogie me, sir! Not in combat!" "I suggest we melt his brain with acid mines, and then interrogate him! ...or possibly the other way around." I seriously could listen to a whole season of this in a heartbeat.

It's almost too obvious to say, but Jenny and Vastra deserve a spin-off. It'd be better than 'Torchwood', certainly.

I was not entirely crazy about the "Great Intelligence" bit at the end, but it was more or less harmless. Gives the Doctor a nice, easy out for not chasing it down, at any rate. But how did it get to Tibet, and why did it develop an obsession with building Yeti robots? And foam machines, and web? Ah, well. It's not as bad as, "They used to call me the Face of Boe."

I love love love love love the new TARDIS interior. So much better than the previous set. Better, even, than the coral desktop, which was a thing of beauty itself. It looks wonderfully retro-futuristic, with lovely clean sharp lines and a cool (in the sense of "opposite to warm", not "neat") color scheme. Can't wait to see more of it.

Wasn't there supposed to be a new sonic screwdriver this year? I kept expecting Snow Miser Richard E. Grant to break it in half or something, but it didn't happen.

On the whole, I liked it slightly less than the previous two specials, but that's only because Moffat sets a very high bar for himself. It was easily better than most of the Tennant specials, with only 'The Next Doctor' and 'The Christmas Invasion' coming close. And the trailer, with Cybermen (Neil Gaiman Cybermen!) coming up, leaves me eager to see the next episode. Roll on the back half of Season Seven, I say!


Unknown said...

I liked this year's, but didn't love it. I did prefer it to last year's, but I still think that "Christmas Carol" was the cream of the crop. While I enjoyed Strax, I think his shtick would probably get old after too long. He's probably best used in small doses, like Craig, so one episode a year is probably all he's good for.

On the other hand, one of my main complaints with "The Snowmen" was that Vashta and Jenny were underused. I don't want to see them just to see them, I'd like them to actually do something which they did in "A Good Man Goes to War" but really didn't in this one.

I can't imagine why there hasn't been at least a Big Finish or webisode or something with them up till now. You're certainly correct that a spin-off series about them would be better than Torchwood, and I liked Torchwood (at least until Miracle Day).

I did enjoy Clara, and I'm looking forward to seeing Coleman as the new companion. I doubt they'd do it, but wouldn't it be awesome if the new girl dies in every episode to displace Rory as the most murdered companion?

That would totally sell it, in my book.

Fakefaux said...

My initial thought was that Clara was going to be an ancestor of Oswin, and that the Doctor was going to keep running into her ancestors/heirs , who would all keep dying. Then I realized her being the show's Kenny was a stupid idea and moved on to better things.

I did love the interactions with Strax, especially how rude and condescending the Doctor was to him, and how oblivious Strax was to this. It's not a dynamic you usually see with one of the companions.