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Well, Christmas was lovely. We did our usual stuff - a leisurely breakfast, presents in front of the fire, a buffet-style grab-whatever-you-fancy lunch, dinner prep, Doctor Who and then the dinner itself in the evening. I got some great presents, including two Doctor Who DVDs (The Time Meddler and New Who season 3), various books which will get reviewed here eventually, two boxes of chocolates and some vouchers for Next and Marks and Spencer. And the presents I got for other people seemed to go down well, too. I gave Charlotte some posh tea-cups and a huge pampering lotions & potions set; Mum a voucher for concerts at the Town Hall and Symphony Hall in Birmingham and a waterproof radio which you can listen to in the shower; and Dad two jazz CD sets which he wanted. Plus a general package of chocolates, a Lindt Santa and a Saturnalian beeswax candle for each person.

A Christmas Carol took us to a different kind of Christmas. Russell T. Davies seems to have leaned towards an ordinary, modern-day vision of Christmas, focussing on the little things like Rose's family in paper hats or Wilf's comedy reindeer antlers - the kind of things which he knew his viewers would be doing themselves as they gathered round the telly to watch his latest story. (Though of course even RTD dipped his toes in Dickensian waters himself with The Next Doctor.) But Moffat is distinctly less interested in everyday reality, and distinctly more interested in historical settings. So it's no great surprise to find that his first Christmas special has left the Earth behind altogether, and focussed on a fantastical take on the nostalgic myth of the Victorian Christmas.

Occasionally, I found the inevitable sentimentality which comes with that sort of story a little too much, and I also thought that it could have been better told in 45 minutes rather than 60 - the montage of their various different Christmas eve celebrations threatened to get a bit dull for a minute or two there in the middle. But hey, it is a Christmas special. Character redemption, silly antics and happy endings are the order of the day. And overall I really enjoyed it. Stories in which the protagonists move at different speeds through time in between their meetings, and sometimes in different directions, are now well established as classic Moffat (The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink, everything involving River Song), but they are still a delight. There were loads of fantastic little asides - like the psychic paper shorting out when the Doctor tried to get it to certify that he was a mature, responsible adult; his failed attempts at card tricks ("You're doing it wrong!"); or him accidentally getting engaged to Marilyn Monroe. And I loved Amy and Rory emerging from the honeymoon suite in their role-playing outfits!

I also very much liked the way that quite a lot of the story was presented simultaneously as 'live' action from the point of view of the Doctor, but also a recording watched by Kazran Sardick of his own past, even as it was in the process of changing. I've banged on and on in review after review about how much Doctor Who has always done this, right from early stories like The Chase and The Celestial Toymaker to much later ones like Vengeance on Varos - drawing its viewers into the story by establishing a parallel between their action of watching a story unfold on TV and the actions of some of the characters within that story doing the same thing. It's a simple but very powerful device for involving us more deeply in the story, and I cheer every time I see it in action.

But I thought that it was being used in what seemed to me a slightly new way this time, too - specifically when the Doctor hopped back and forth from being in the room with the elderly Kazran Sardick to being in the recording with his 12-year-old self, and especially when he broke the fourth wall (within the story) to address the older Kazran directly from within the recording. This reminded me instantly of the pre-recorded scenes which have been used during the Doctor Who proms, where the Doctor appears on a screen in the Albert Hall, and addresses the audience directly. (I believe similar scenes are also used in the Doctor Who Live! stage show, although I haven't seen it myself.)

Although David Tennant didn't appear in person within the Albert Hall after his pre-recorded scene, the Graske who featured in it with him did; and so also did Matt Smith after his equivalent in 2010. So Kazran Sardick's experience of having the Doctor with him one minute, and talking to him from a recording the next, seemed to me to be building on and appropriating this device - a sort of example of genre-bleed between spin-off publicity appearances and the main show itself. Which is great because I think those Albert Hall scenes are fantastic. You could hardly find a more effective way of blurring the boundaries between TV fantasy and every day reality: "See this character whom you normally experience through a TV screen, and know isn't really real, no matter how much you would like him to be? Well guess what - he just hopped out of the screen and is now directly in the Albert Hall with you. What's real now, huh?"

Obviously you can't actually have Matt Smith popping up for real in every living room up and down the country, even on such a magical day as Christmas. But showing him within the story flipping back and forth between being a recording and a reality at least gave the boundary between the two a good old shake-up, and helped to create a thrilling little frisson of the feeling that, after all, he might just tumble down our chimneys too. That sort of stuff is at the absolute heart of why I like Doctor Who so much, and I was very happy to get a good hefty helping of it before tucking into my turkey.

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Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
strange_complex
Dec. 26th, 2010 03:30 pm (UTC)
:-D
ms_siobhan
Dec. 26th, 2010 03:32 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a lovely way to spend xmas day :-)

I quite enjoyed the Dr's shenanigans yesterday apart from Amy Pond's bits that is, she gets on my nerves at the best of times with her pouting but yesterday all she seemed to do was say 'Doctor, Doctor' at various levels of panic and volume, how boring for the actress and how boring if she just becomes a lady character who does nothing but get rescued after shouting a bit.

I do like the steam punkiness of the set design though.
strange_complex
Dec. 26th, 2010 03:39 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean about Amy's role in this story, but I don't think it's indicative of a permanent change in role for her character. I thought of it as just being an 'Amy + Rory lite' story, really, so it didn't bother me too much that they didn't have much of a role in it. I'm sure they will be back to full capacity in the new season!
steer
Dec. 26th, 2010 08:16 pm (UTC)
'live' action from the point of view of the Doctor, but also a recording watched by Kazran Sardick of his own past

Was it also Trial of a Time Lord which did this for most of a season?

Personally I was cheering when they decided that the shark was, in fact, nice after all and a good and helpful shark in its way.
strange_complex
Dec. 26th, 2010 08:52 pm (UTC)
Yes, indeed - Trial of a Time Lord gets quite timey-wimey about the relationship between what's being seen on the screen from the court-room and what has or hasn't actually happened yet.

I'd have kind of liked it better without the shark, as that would have made for an entirely monster-free story - something I'd like to see a bit more of. But yes, it was used quite well if it had to be there.
steer
Dec. 26th, 2010 09:32 pm (UTC)
I was concerned it would be a "shark as monster" thing (since right now most species are endangered or threatened and being killed) but they turned it around nicely -- plus I did love the fog fish.
steer
Dec. 26th, 2010 09:43 pm (UTC)
Oh by the way, I don't know if you're on any of the BBC mailing lists but they're offering entry to the draw for pre-show tests of the new Dr Who Experience thingum.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/shows/events/doctor_who_experience
strange_complex
Dec. 26th, 2010 10:38 pm (UTC)
Ooh, cool - didn't know about that. Sounds really awesome, too. Thanks for the tip-off!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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