The Doctor Who Christmas Specials are not known for being anything, well, special. Most are stand alone stories, nearly always not featuring the main companion, and rarely (if ever) having an effect on the last or next season’s story. They are there as one-off entertainment viewing for Christmas Day, to switch off the brain and hopefully attract a new audience for next year.
It’s not really surprising that most people are largely ambivalent about them, with some expressing disappointment for the most part. These three stand out head and shoulders above the rest, at least for me.
Matt Smith’s first Christmas trip takes him to a Victorian-like world ruled by a cruel capitalist dictator named Kazran Sardick. He’s rather Dickensian in his villainy, but in modern fashion, he has reason for being the cold-hearted bastard – childhood abuse. Seeing a fleeting moment of human decency, The Doctor decides to go all Dickens on him and teach him about love and kindness, human decency and compassion, and even love. By becoming, effectively, The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Doctor hopes that Sardick will turn off the planet’s defensive shield and allow the ship carrying Rory and Amy to land. It features Katherine Jenkins as Sardick’s lost love and Michael Gambon (Dumbledore II) as the Scrooge-like character. Inspired, simple storytelling, we all love a story about a character redeemed that is suitable for Christmas. This one nails it without being overly-sentimental.
Bucking the trend of the Christmas Special generally being a stand alone story, Matt Smith’s penultimate Christmas outing sees him in Victorian London where he encounters Clara Oswald, and not for the first time. He also encounters, not for the first time, The Great Intelligence played, nor for the last time, by Richard E. Grant and featuring Sir Ian McKellen as
Gandalf The a giant talking snow globe. Grant would reprise the role in the following season’s finale The Name of the Doctor. The story is that sentient snow is invading London, creating and forming scary snowmen. They want physical form and they are after the body of the previous governess of a well-to-do family, but why? Watch it and find out. It’s down to The Doctor to stop that happening and try to figure out the growing enigma that is Clara Oswald.
The Next Doctor
If the title wasn’t enough to send fans wild, the prospect of seeing Cybermen in Victorian era London certainly was. Plus, we had the added tantalising hint of David Tennant leaving with the inclusion of David Morrissey, a character calling himself The Doctor (by this point, we knew Tennant would leave 12 months later). He has a companion called Rosita, and something he calls a TARDIS. What is going on? Would David Morrissey be the actual next Doctor or another future incarnation? Morrissey fought off not only Cybermen, but also the freakish looking steampunk cyborgs known as “Cybershades”. We find out relatively quickly precisely who Morrissey’s character was, and by now it’s obvious he at least wasn’t Tennant’s replacement. If you don’t want to know, avoid the bit in bold. Ok, ready? He was a human, not a Timelord, who was infused with The Doctor’s memories when he used a Cyber Infostamp to fight off the Cybermen who killed his family. Dervla Kirwan stars as the Cybermen’s “Familiar”.
The 2015 Christmas Special has just had its title revealed as “The Husbands of River Song” – interesting to say the least. This will be Peter Capaldi’s second Christmas outing as the iconic character. If I have time and inclination, a review may follow.
If I don’t come beck, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!