Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Tag

Holiday magic   Leave a comment

In past seasons I’ve written about nearly every episode. This season I did not, and I wondered about that. It isn’t that I didn’t love the season. It isn’t even that I had less time than I’ve had in previous years. Watching this year’s Christmas special, I think I’ve realized the reason.

It’s that so much of this season has left me speechless.

Daleks-May-Return-Doctor-Who-Season-8

SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

There aren’t words for how much I love seeing David Bradley’s First Doctor playing off Capaldi’s Twelve. There aren’t words for the perfection of Bill. There aren’t words for Nardole, or Clara, or Captain Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart.

(Is that an intentional Watson reference? Given the source, I can’t help but think so.)

Further, how has it taken so long for the Doctor to visit the Christmas Armistice? I felt silly for not catching it earlier – Ypres 1914 should have been a giveaway – but it’s just as well or I might have sobbed through the entire episode instead of just the last act. It’s one of those miraculous moments that happen in real life, every now and then when the wind stands fair, one that humans made for themselves, and which the Doctor merely takes advantage of. Perhaps it’s those moments that keep him coming back, that remind him, just when he’s ready to give up on us, what we’re capable of.

Good old humans.

Jodie’s first moments too are more than I could have asked for. The last few Doctors introduced themselves by their body parts – teeth and legs and kidneys, even ears if you count that belated reveal – but this new Doctor is more than parts. She is, in a word, “brilliant.”

I highly recommend following up the episode with The Fan Show Aftershow, featuring Moffat, Bradley, Gatiss, and a few cracks about Chris Chibnall. It’s the best.

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Posted December 27, 2017 by Elisabeth in Christmas Specials, Season 10

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I can’t help it   Leave a comment

Let’s watch that Christmas special trailer again!

Caught a definite glimpse of Polly on that last pass. What are you people doing??

Also, I haven’t watched it yet, but this looks intriguing and awesome:

The Fan Show is the best thing to happen to Doctor Who since the reboot. It is awesome and I love it. I am a Christel Dee fangirl! ‚̧

Posted July 28, 2017 by Elisabeth in Christmas Specials, Cool Stuff, Squee!, Video

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Writers, and the return of the Titanic   3 comments

It’s interesting to consider what qualities an actor may bring out in a writer.

Back in 2005, Russell T. Davies was lucky to score Christopher Eccleston for the Ninth Doctor role. A serious film actor in the middle of an impressive career, Eccleston came to the show exclusively due to Davies’ reputation as a writer. Davies was forced to bring his A game – not only to give his beloved show a chance, but to meet the demands of his lead.

David Tennant, fresh off Casanova, offered his writer an entirely different set of strengths. The two share a taste for melodrama and a flair for the ridiculous, and it shows in the three seasons they worked together. Serious storytelling took second place to showmanship and fun. ‘Voyage of the Damned,’ the 2007 Christmas special, is a prime example. From Astrid’s death until the Doctor saves the day, we are treated to dramatic zooms, swelling music, and significant facial expressions, all while the story slips quietly into the background. The episode remains engaging and fun, but it loses a share of its sincerity.

Things took a marked turn for the worse with the pairing of Stephen Moffat and Matt Smith. Moffat is a fanboy from the school of thought that all fans are boys. Smith is a young man who still sees women as alien creatures, rather than fellow humans. Together they made television strictly for the most juvenile part of themselves, to the exclusion of any other type of fan. Their work still has merit, in places, but it is marred by their twelve-year-old-boy thinking.

Now, Peter Capaldi brings out the best in Stephen Moffat. Not since Series 1, when Eccleston pushed Davies to be his best, has the writing been so consistently strong, with storytelling as its focus. The nerd remains strong in them – the season is peppered with show history – but now the nerd serves the story rather than the other way round. Authenticity matters again. Human beings matter again.

We enjoyed our re-watch of the third new-Who Christmas special, but it doesn’t hold a candle to S9.

 

Runaway   3 comments

Tonight we re-watched ‘The Runaway Bride.’

The_Runaway_Bride_0259

“You are kidding me.”

This scene remains one of the highlights of the series. It’s hilarious and tense, the music is great, and the crosscut of cheering kids in the car ahead is one of my all-time favorite Russell moments.

Overall, the episode is at the high end of the fun scale РSegways, anyone? Рbut also has a heavy measure of sincerity. Known for her comedy, Catherine Tate portrays heartbreak with touching authenticity. Her sadness and her wonder ring true, alongside all the humor and shouting. From day one Donna was an authentic human being, and a perfect contradiction for the Doctor.

We – and he – were incredibly fortunate to get her back.

The episode includes a number of references, both to past and future events. Of course there’s lots of talk of Rose, whose last goodbye has left the Doctor shaken. Her former employer, Henrik’s, appears prominently advertised in the background of Donna’s race across London. Torchwood, the arc of the prior season and the spinoff still to come, owns Donna’s employer, H. C. Clements. The order to fire on the Racnoss ship comes from a Mr. Saxon, the upcoming arc for Series 3.

Beyond that: The pop song playing at Donna’s reception also played in the garage where Mickey worked in ‘The Christmas Invasion.’ The Doctor mentions secret bases under major London landmarks, most recently experienced with the Nestene in ‘Rose,’ but also true of the Black Archive and Torchwood itself – though in that case the landmark is in Cardiff. He questions Donna’s failure to remember the events of either ‘The Christmas Invasion’ or ‘Army of Ghosts/Doomsday.’ And here we get our first hint of the danger of the Time Lord Victorious. The Doctor said a year ago, in ‘The Christmas Invasion:’

“No second chances. I’m that kind of man.”

Now, in Rose’s absence, a vindictive streak begins to show in him – a streak that will culminate in his destruction.

A good, fun episode with lots of nerdery, a cool and shiny monster, and really excellent performances from our leads.

Next up: ‘Voyage of the Damned.’

Christmas Cheer   3 comments

Obviously, spoilers follow.

tardiswreath

DO NOT OPEN UNTIL XMAS SPECIAL

 

"Grr, spoilers!"

“Grr, spoilers!”

A year ago I would have said it was impossible. Even after S9, amazing as it was, I had my doubts. He’d followed up the 50th anniversary special with the disastrous ‘Time of the Doctor.’ He’d set up ‘Silence in the Library’ with ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ and ‘The Angels Take Manhattan.’ Moffat’s been good before, but it’s never stopped him also being terrible.

But S9 held on to the end. ‘The Husbands of River Song,’ in spite of its title, gives the character the arc she has awaited and deserved since 2008.

Well done, Mr. Moffat.

Way back when the Twelfth Doctor was first cast, it occured to me that this was the man to take River to Darillium. This man had the depth of character, the emotional courage, the grace to see her off properly. But given everything that happened in Matt Smith’s era, I figured that was off the table.

I have never been happier to be wrong.

This episode is everything I could want from a Christmas special. It’s ridiculous and spectacular, sweet and funny and sad. Twelve’s joy is contagious, the best treat we could ask for. River, when she’s over being campy, is courageous and sincere and – for nearly the first time since the Library – entirely real. This is the River I’ve been missing all these years.

It’s strange to think that River could ever have loved or been loved by the Eleventh Doctor. Her chemistry with Ten was undeniable – which of course could be said of just about anyone – but her scenes with his successor lacked any hint of a spark. Now, in a single look Capaldi’s Doctor conveys what Smith’s had failed at for four seasons. This Doctor knows River, loves River. That Doctor was just pretending. One possible explanation is that Matt Smith is just a vastly inferior actor. However, while Capaldi is undeniably a master, Smith is not lacking in skill. I’m not sure it’s entirely his fault that the love story failed to launch. It’s more like both actor and writer had some growing up to do. Working with Capaldi has somehow forced Moffat to move past the twelve-year-old boy and start writing for grownups again.

My husband points out that you could look at it as River’s growth and development over the course of her timeline. In the Library, she was as mature as she was going to get; in ‘Let’s Kill Hitler,’ the most puerile. She grew up out of order, from our point of view. We’ve been tolerating her childishness for a long time; now at last she’s the adult we’ve been missing.

Whatever it is, I’ll take more. Onward to Series 10!

Re-Invasion   Leave a comment

Imagine my delight when my husband announced that he’d like to watch ALL the Christmas specials this year.

tenmeetssj

“Oh I should think so.”

And so it began, with ‘The Christmas Invasion.’

Two things stood out for me this episode, things characteristic of the RTD era which I find I miss now that he’s gone. One of them is the newscasts. Trinity Wells and her ilk covered no fewer than eight alien incursions on Doctor Who, The Sarah Jane Adventures, and Torchwood over five years of Russell’s reign, lending verisimilitude and a familiar humanity to the events. Of course we’d all watch the Slitheen or the Sycorax on television, as we watched everything from the moon landing to the Challenger disaster to the September 11 attack on New York.

Since then of course most of us have moved away from twenty-four-hour CNN; everything happens on the Internet now, as in ‘The Bells of St. John.’

The other thing I noticed was the inclusion of small, anonymous moments of humanity. When the Sycorax engage their blood control, one third of the population enters a trance and leaves home to climb the tallest buildings they can reach – many of them families. Early Christmas morning, Rose’s baffled neighbor follows her partner out of the flat and up onto the roof. Nearby, a terrified mother urges her husband and children to respond to her. The tears in her voice break my heart. Many of Moffat’s stories focus closely on our heroes; Russell makes sure we see everyone.

We had a great time re-watching this episode. Rose, Mickey, and Jackie are my television family. Harriet Jones is wonderful and terrible. The special effects have aged no better than their forebears on the classic show. Revisiting the Tenth Doctor’s first outing is a delight.

I look forward to Donna in ‘The Runaway Bride.’

Posted December 16, 2015 by Elisabeth in Christmas Specials, Season 1

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Snowmen etc   Leave a comment

Holy crap there are a lot of ‘prequels’ out there.

I watched ‘The Snowmen,’ forgetting that there were two prequels – plus Strax’s recovery from Demons Run, where he supposedly died. But first things first:

The 2012 Christmas special has its problems. There is no motivation for Clara to seek out the Doctor. There is no explanation for her double life. There is no reason for her to kiss him. It’s another collection of inadequately connected ideas with no foundation.

Still, it has its moments. Clara is of course a delight. Every moment of Strax is hilarious – and eminently quotable. The Sherlock Holmes stuff is fun, and of course the ‘Asylum’ parallels. The scene of Clara’s death is touching and sad.

I still wish Moffat had kept Victorian Clara with her double life.

SUCH a fantastic hat!

SUCH a fantastic hat!

(image source)

Onto the prequels (sequels?) or anyway, mini-sodes.

I can’t find a decent version of ‘Demons Run: Two Days Later.’ It’s a silly little character study of the Paternoster gang coming together, dumb but fun. It must be on a DVD somewhere.

‘The Great Detective’ is a Children in Need special (presented by Matt and Jenna!) featuring the Gang trying to get the Doctor back in the world. Again, Strax makes it all worthwhile.

‘Vastra Investigates’ is a more immediate prequel featuring the Gang being detective-y – and once more, Moffat finding women (and their sexuality) more alien than aliens. *eyeroll*

Again the Doctor’s retirement is made issue of. It’s a bit much, really, but at least with the end of ‘The Snowmen’ it’s over at last.

As Christmas specials go, I’m afraid I have to rank this one nearer the bottom than I was prepared to. It’s funny enough and Clara has spunk, but it lacks the heart of its two immediate predecessors and the joy of the Tenth Doctor’s holiday adventures (three out of the five anyway). Here’s my current ranking, with more still to re-watch:

  • A Christmas Carol
  • The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe
  • The Runaway Bride
  • The Next Doctor
  • The Christmas Invasion
  • Last Christmas
  • The End of Time Part I
  • The Snowmen
  • Voyage of the Damned
  • The Time of the Doctor

I imagine the list will continue to evolve, though I’m fairly confident of the first three.

On to Series 7b, and more Clara Oswin Oswald.