Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Doctor Who, Christmas 2012

Warning! Danger, Will Robinson!
Here be SPOILERS for the Doctor bloody Who Christmas Special 2012!

Right. Now you lot know I love Doctor bloody Who, right? I mean, just look at the panel on the left there and note how many times that tag has been used on this site. A million. Well, close-to. Whilst it’s no secret that I have issues with the way Moffat has been writing and running the new regeneration, I hope it’s also no secret that the reason I keep bitching and moaning about - BUT STILL WATCHING - it is because I want the next episode to be better, to be great, to be good enough for Matt Smith. Because Matt Smith is doing a wonderful job; it’s the stories that are letting him down. Well no, actually, it’s the writing, not the stories themselves.

It was with due excitement and anticipation that I sat down with my flatmate to watch this year’s Christmas special. Every year I look forward to it - because, in 2010, we had the sharks and Michael Gambon, and it was so brilliant we watched it again this Christmas Eve. Everything about it was ace. We’ve had some great Christmas specials, and at the end of the day, I just want DW to be good. So we got some tea ready, pulled on our Nana Rugs, and set-to.

The episode was going swimmingly, albeit a little slowly. I get the inversion; in 2010 it was the Doctor bringing the spirit of Christmas to a Scrooge-type git. Last Christmas (a bit of a let-down) was all about the Doctor bringing families together because he just wanted to help. This year, after all that’s happened, it’s all about the Doctor not wanting anything to do with anyone. Nice change. So, to, was the fact that he had an alien and two out-of-their-time Earthlings to help him. Strax was great, and Vastra and Jenny were brilliant as always. There was good dialogue, some nice touches, and it was interesting. In fact, the episode was doing really well until it... wasn’t.

In a nutshell: been there, done that.

I know the universe will go on and on about this, speculating what exactly Clara is and how she’s doing it, but really, Moffat, just stop. We’ve already had (1) companions/recurring characters who die when we first meet them, and then have their life/lives played out in reverse, knowing their ultimate fate can never be changed, and (2) impossible things. Combining the features of the rather original storylines of Captain Jack Harkness and of River Song into one new series arc does not make it new. It makes it feel recycled and the same old stuff just rehashed one more time; done that.

While we’re on the subject? The moment Clara had to give Vastra a one-word answer as to why the Doctor should help, everyone in the universe groaned ‘don’t say POND’ (or at least I did). And then she did. Echoes of ‘that name - Rose - keeps me fighting', anyone? Done that.

The whole Rory Williams idea of dying a million ways from Sunday, once per episode? Done that.

As soon as Clara asked about kitchens and souffl├ęs, I sagged into the sofa with all of my soul. I was hoping she’d be a different character, some innocuous friend who runs around having fun screwdrivering and investigating and generally getting a kick out of living on a spaceship, Donna Noble-style. But no. She appears to be have been prepped for turning into another Impossible Thing - like Jack Harkness. I’m just hoping The Writers That Be develop the idea differently and it all comes out in the wash as hinging on the Doctor, and not Clara. Because one more Companion being the absolute reason for everything and saving reality as we know it in some big series finale is really going to make me stop watching the Moffat years and go back to DVDs. What if she has more in common with the Doctor than just popping up places after she’s died? What if she can keep coming back from the dead, spanning decades? That kind of sounds like Captain Jack. If she turns out to be Jack's daughter, I’ll be thrilled. And I'm not even joking.

Would-be Companions throwing themselves at the Doctor, with kissing and one-sided flirting and all that teenage-girlie stuff? DONE THAT. WITH BELLS ON. Oh please, give us a lesbian, or a straight bloke, in the TARDIS. PLEASE.

Having said all that, we did get new villains, which was nice. If they’d brought back anything from previous series I would have been really bored. However, the villains themselves were never properly explained. So the Snow Globe of Doom was something vaguely to do with Richard E. Grant - and then it wasn’t. Right. Couldn’t we have had three or four throw-away sentences from the Doctor, saying he’d heard about these ‘parasites’ (the only clue we’re given to why there's a story here in the first place) on some-such planet, that they were called ‘Species ABC’ and they were said to use people’s thoughts etc. to enable them to do Very Bad Things? A little information on them would have gone a long way to showing that the episode itself knew what was going on. Instead it’s taken over by Clara and the family, and their Magic Tears of Deus ex Machina. It’s like the entire plot of the Ice Lady and also the Evil Telepathic Snow that seemed to have randomly come out of nowhere - a point that nobody, including the Doctor, cares about - abruptly turned into bothersome fluff that was no longer important; Clara was everything, Clara was the key, Clara made the family cry and together they appeared to wipe out the entire plot without needing the Doctor or in fact us to see it happen. What was the point of the end, again? We had a kind of build-up with the talking snow globe, the Toclaphane-that-wasn’t, trying to take over the world, but then the Ice Lady just seemed to go by the wayside (how did she even cease to be, again? Did anyone notice or care?) and the Snow Globe of Doom just... melted. Because of rain. Made real by some kind of unexplained link with a bunch of people and their tears.

Riiiiiiiiiight, she types scathingly.

I’m all for working stuff out as you go along, but this seemed oddly lazy. Or, perhaps, snatches of script had been cut for length - unfortunately, just the parts that would have made it a better episode.

To say we were disappointed, in that frightfully English way, would be correct. There were good moments; we enjoyed Matt Smith and he no doubt did everything he could to make a go of it. However, you can’t bail out the Titanic with a thimble. Good things: we enjoyed Strax and his alienness. We enjoyed Madam Vastra giving Richard E. Grant lip and being right. We enjoyed a lot of the dialogue. We liked the new music (well, return to older style, I suppose) and the face-in-the-credits again. We liked the new TARDIS layout. We liked that Jenna-Louise Coleman managed to make this Clara a lot less annoying than her last incarnation. We liked the premise we were handed at the start. But then it all dribbled into the last few minutes that took us away from the Doctor and away from any kind of ending, good or bad. No closure, no sense of being finished - just a reason to set us on our way for the rest of series seven. So was all this simply a vehicle to get to what he really wants? Clara Oswin and her amazing amazingness of bemazement? Not good, Moffat. Not good.

I will be watching the rest of series seven; that goes without saying. Because I want it to be good. I really do. Please, Moffat - sort it out. Give us back our good old days of DW.


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