Shona was speculated to replace Clara as The Doctor's companion. See more »
[Clara is awakened by a clatter from the roof]
[from somewhere outside]
Moron! Numbskull! Elf!
Of course it's not racist. You are an elf.
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Last Christmas (2014 Special): Solid special with wobbly tone but some nicely creepy/scary aspects to balance the festive nonsense - although low expectations of course helped
How many times do you hear someone saying something like "I didn't expect much of it, but it was alright", or conversely "I had heard such great things but it was only alright"; same outcome, but the receipt of that outcome is much more of a positive when you expected less, not more. Of course with Doctor Who it is normal that you expect less, but it almost feels deliberate that the show caused my expectations to drop so low this time. After a reasonably okay final few episodes (aside from some terrible decisions), we got Nick Frost popping in as Santa ("stunt casting" as Theo rightly calls it) to announce the Christmas special – something that made me feel this special would be even more silly and festive than usual.
Starting the episode, this is precisely how I felt as we had so-so comedy from Frost and his elves, making me feel like this was going nowhere but even lower than I had feared. The move to the North Pole doesn't help this, since we see a character dancing to Slade in an attempt to avoid some form of danger – really making me cringe. However from here we get thrown into a horror movie of sorts, with some images that sort of made me questions what we have done to ourselves in the last 25-30 years that Aliens once got an 18 but yet these very similar images are now family TV-viewing. This is not the Mary Whitehouse coming out in me, because I thought it was great to have something to shake me and the special out of a festive stupor.
From here the content is weirdly mixed; with Frost still hanging around but yet this horror going on at the same time. It doesn't really work as it is happening, but gradually it works in retrospect as the plot falls into place. Mixing Aliens and Inception kind of works, and although the plot doesn't totally hang together (moving quickly at times to try to stop viewers asking too many questions), it is broadly pretty engaging. The ending felt like it was two endings – the second of which was thrown on once they got the thumbs up from Coleman that she will return for the next season (which is what they did in the end – which is a shame because the first ending was much better). The writing is mostly okay but as usual it cannot control itself and we get silliness thrown in, along with clumsy references like we are stupid.
The cast are solid and in particular this episode shows the value of Capaldi. While Smith was part of the silliness, this slightly dour Doctor sits outside it with a cynical edge, so the viewer can sit with him, so when he reluctantly goes with it despite himself, it feels easier to accept (namely the "do you want a go scene" – which would have been totally different with a childish Smith begging to have a go). This cynicism in word and presence works to the show's favor – particularly in a silly show like this. Coleman is okay, although I really hope they find a reason to have kept her in the show; personally this previous season would have been her "big" one in terms of story, but they have done that and also not gotten too much good work from her. Frost is funny once you realize that he is not the whole show, and generally the supporting players are decent enough without being anything too amazing.
So, against my expectations this was actually quite good. The tone is wobbly, and the plot doesn't make anywhere near as much sense as it would like you to think, but it is enjoyably scary and at least brings in all the Christmas silliness in a way that allows it to have it, but also treat it as a side issue at the same time.
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