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Christmas '08

So - we did it. In spite of everything, we had an absolutely lovely Christmas. There were presents, and dinner, and the Doctor Who Christmas special. And there were not tears, or arguments, or even too much gloominess about the future. Obviously it wasn't the same as most years. Mum had to take a back seat while the rest of us handled all the food preparation and so on, and even then the day clearly tired her out quite a lot. But she enjoyed it, and so did we, and that's what counts.

And as for Doctor Who? Well, I'm pretty sure that was the best Christmas special so far. OK, so it had a bit of a silly ending - but isn't that par for the course with RTD? And along the way this story really freshened up the genre by simply turning most of it on its head. No need to write your way around the problem of a London population who've got used to annual alien battles if you set your story back in 1851; no need to find some tortuous way of creating fake 'snow' at the end if it is simply snowing anyway (in proper Dickensian fashion) all the way through the story. Thank goodness.

The other major inversion, of course, is putting the Doctor into the role of his own companion, and allowing him to see what he is like from the outside. That should be great - and it was. Sadly for Rosita, though, it left her with precious little to do. Sure, she had her Awesome Axe Moment... but other than that, she was a bit of a third wheel, really. And at the end, after all that, she gets to be a nursemaid. Oh, Mammy!

This year's Extreme Fandom Squee was, of course, the archive footage of all ten Doctors to date (with the black-and-white / colour gulf neatly elided by simply putting all of them - and indeed all infostamp footage that I can remember - in black-and-white). This probably constitutes rather healthier squee-fodder than last year's "I am a god from Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous" speech. And this year's Christmas-related references that I caught included the rise of a new king, someone sleeping in a stable, and the Doctor as a sort of 'good shepherd' rescuing a small boy - besides the obvious A Christmas Carol / Wolves Of Willoughby Chase-style Victorian London, of course.

More personally, I couldn't help but see the Cyber-shades as Taran Woodbeasts with metal masks on - and I find both far more cute than scary. And if I already felt when reading one of the Oz books earlier in the year that the Wizard reminded me of the Doctor, that goes quadruple now I've seen him taking off in a balloon.

So they kept us guessing and speculating very effectively in the run-up, and for once I felt the pay-off on the 'Next Doctor' hook was nicely worked out. We got evil governesses, classic Victoriana, really very plausible Cybermen, and gratuitous explosions. And Who's past was treated respectfully and reverently, without either getting skewed into something it never was or being allowed to over-burden the plot. Pity about the five-minute Transformers movie tagged onto the end - but other than that, top notch!

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( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 25th, 2008 10:28 pm (UTC)
I'm glad that its been a good Christmas for you and your family.

As for Who, out of the three Christmas specials I've seen with Tennant as the Doctor, this was definitely my favourite. It touched upon the show's own mythology, had plenty of references to Christmas, and did have that Dickensian feel to it. Great stuff, and followed by Wallace and Gromit!
Dec. 25th, 2008 11:11 pm (UTC)
Ah, we were eating during Wallace and Gromit, but I hear from elsewhere on my f-list that it was good. Here's hoping it's be on iPlayer before long.
Dec. 26th, 2008 01:32 am (UTC)
It's repeated - New Year's Day I think (I went looking for it because it was on five minutes later than scheduled so my recording missed off the end).
Dec. 25th, 2008 10:35 pm (UTC)
I'm so pleased you had a good Christmas.

I thought the Cyber-King was massively silly and an excuse to blow the special effects budget, and the nursemaid line was total wtfery, but it was definitely the best Xmas special to date. I loved the Doctor being all Oncoming Storm in a balloon.
Dec. 25th, 2008 11:09 pm (UTC)
to blow the special effects budget

And not even to terribly good effect, for all that. There was at least once scene with the Doctor hanging in front of the Cyberking in his balloon which might have well have used a hand-painted backdrop for all that it convinced. But yes - Oncoming Storm inna Balloon indeed! :-)
Dec. 25th, 2008 10:37 pm (UTC)
I'm so, so glad that you and your family enjoyed Christmas this year and that it went so well.

I heartily agree that this was the best of the Xmas specials. Of course, I am slightly (well, perhaps more than slightly!) disappointed that it all turned out to be a red herring, because I'm a huge David Morrissey fan and I think he would make a fantastic 11th Doctor. Or 12th! However, it was great to see the Doctor in companion mode, and the dynamic between Tennant and Morrissey was excellent. And despite the aforementioned disappointment, it really was great all round: lovely reference to the previous Doctors, an excllent villian (Dervla Kirwin as Miss Hartigan), beautiful costumes, and not too much in the way of cheese/overburdening of plot devices.
Dec. 25th, 2008 11:05 pm (UTC)
Alas, I think David Morrissey must now count as the World's Most Unlikely Person to Play the Next Doctor. But you're right - he was great while he nearly did.
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Dec. 25th, 2008 11:13 pm (UTC)
I think it would have been awesome as the climax to a kind of Alien vs. Predator vs. Godzilla vs. the Transformers-style extravaganza. But it just seemed a bit too silly to me in the context of what had been up till then a quite human-scaled and believable story.

Edited at 2008-12-25 11:14 pm (UTC)
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Dec. 25th, 2008 11:26 pm (UTC)
It had VENTS! and COGS! and PISTONS!!!
Dec. 26th, 2008 04:31 pm (UTC)
Not just vents but proper chimney stacks at the top billowing smoke!
Dec. 25th, 2008 11:25 pm (UTC)
I agree. I was thinking as the episode was running up to the end that more steampunk with teh cybermen would have been awesome. Running out of power? Steam powered cybermen! I was all ready to be disappointed til the huge steampunk cyberman rose from the water!

Generally loved the episode a lot. As others said, best christmas episode yet IMHO. Maybe more thoughts later...
Dec. 25th, 2008 11:30 pm (UTC)
Absolutely totally agreed. I knew when I saw the victorianised ear-pieces that we'd get some steam punk aesthetic in there but the hot air balloon versus iron man sequence exceeded my expectations.
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Dec. 25th, 2008 11:28 pm (UTC)
She was indeed awesome! And all the more so for her ability to be chillingly polite where is suited her. *quiver* ;-)
Jan. 2nd, 2009 12:28 pm (UTC)
I thought she was channeling Miranda Richardson rather well. :-)

Steampunk Cyber King was fun, if a little barmy.
Dec. 25th, 2008 11:44 pm (UTC)
Heh... I was wondering what you would make of the episode as I was watching it. I enjoyed it but it was quite action heavy so there was only one actually well-drawn character in it. The cybermen have long been my favourite who villain so it was good to see them getting a fair outing and I loved the grandiose steam-punk nature of the end sequence.
Dec. 26th, 2008 01:36 am (UTC)
I enjoyed the episode, but was disappointed because just imagine how cool it would have been if David Morrisey had been the next Doctor. Not only would you get David Morrisey as the next Doctor which would have been great but more the point what a great story line it would have been to have a Doctor who's lost great chunks of his memory.
Dec. 26th, 2008 10:39 am (UTC)
Yes, I was thinking while it still appeared that he really might be the next Doctor what a clever way of rebooting the series that could be. It would have been a great set-up for Steven Moffat to get his teeth into, really clearing away all the loose ends of the RTD era. And would have been an excellent way of giving audiences a sneak preview of the next incumbent in the role, so that we would already be invested in him when Tennant left, rather than being unsure about whether we would like him as much (which is what usually happens). Never mind...
Dec. 26th, 2008 03:51 am (UTC)
I am so envious of the TV viewing! And so very happy you had a good Christmas, all of you together.
Dec. 26th, 2008 10:40 am (UTC)
I hear it will be on BBC America in about a month's time, so hopefully you won't have too long to wait. And thanks. :-)
Dec. 26th, 2008 09:43 am (UTC)
Glad it wasn't just me who thought of Joan Aiken. Isn't there a balloon in Black Hearts in Battersea?

I thought there was a bit of an Arthurian thing going on too, with the Doctor yanking a sword from a stone and some stuff about the future king (which also put me in mind of Deep Thought's "I speak of the one who will come after me").

Er, anyway, merry Christmas!
Dec. 26th, 2008 10:41 am (UTC)
Yes, I think you might be right about Black Hearts - I'd forgotten all about it until you mentioned it, but I've a feeling there was a balloon on the cover of the copy I read at school.
Dec. 26th, 2008 02:07 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure I've even read it, but I do remember that cover. I love The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and read it over and over when I was younger, but the others in the series never really grabbed me in the same way.
Dec. 27th, 2008 09:39 pm (UTC)
I'm pleased to hear you've had a good Christmas, and I'm in broad agreement with you about Doctor Who.
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )

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