Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Doctor Who Christmas Special 2012: The Snowmen

Finally! Doctor Who's back! Well, for one day anyway, for the annual Christmas Special. From what I can tell Christmas Specials seem to be a TV tradition in England, one that I kind of wish they'd start up here in the States. Sure, most American series have Christmas episodes, but they're usually not super-sized and well, special.

But I digest. On with the review. And as always, Spoilers Ahead!

• Wow, Ian McKellan, Gandalf himself, makes a surprise (voice over) appearance! How cool was that? Can an appearance by Patrick Stewart be far behind?

McKellan plays The Great Intelligence, a name which probably sailed far over the heads of most of the audience, but was no doubt familiar to long-time fans. The Great Intelligence is an evil formless entity that plagued the Second Doctor way back in the 1960s in the episodes The Abominable Snowman (coincidence?) and The Web Of Fear. I have a feeling they were setting up some groundwork here and we haven't seen the last of the Great Intelligence (or heard the last of Ian McKellan).

• The Snowmen were nice Christmassy villains I suppose, but... I don't know. They were a little too... cartoony to actually be scary. Maybe if I was six years old I'd be terrified of them, but as an adult I just thought they looked kind of goofy. In fact they look a lot like the snowmen in the Calvin & Hobbes comic strip. I'm not sure how else you'd design a snowman to make it more intimidating though... maybe if their mouths were bigger and full of icicles for teeth?

• I really liked Clara, the Doctor's new companion. She was like a breath of fresh air and I'm looking forward to seeing more of her. And looking forward to figuring out what's going on with her: how and why she keeps popping up in different time periods (and dying each time). So far I have absolutely no ideas or theories as to who or what she is.

It doesn't hurt either that she's also incredibly cute and quite a good actress, able to hold her own against Matt Smith.

•  Can't say I'm a fan of the new title sequence. A lot of people across the interwebs are praising it, but it looked and felt like some sort of LSD fueled hallucination to me. I guess it was a nice touch to see the Doctor's face (briefly) in the titles again, which was a tradition in the early days of the series. I didn't particularly care for the previous title sequence either but I eventually got used to it, so maybe I'll grow to tolerate this one as well.

• It was great to see Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax again. They first appeared in last season's episode A Good Man Goes To War. It was especially fun to see Strax again, the Sontaran soldier turned nurse now apparently turned butler. 

If you'll remember, Strax died at the end of AGMGTW but apparently got better. The Doctor gives us a half-hearted explanation for Strax's return, saying he did indeed die but "a friend brought him back to life." Was the friend perhaps River Song? I guess we'll never know, and it doesn't really matter, he's just back. A show like Star Trek or LOST would have devoted entire episodes detailing with how Strax came back, but Doctor Who resurrects him with no explanation whatsoever. And you know what? I'm OK with that. It's one of the things that makes the show so much more fun than others.

I really like these characters and hope to see more of them. In fact, I wouldn't mind seeing them get their own show. I would totally watch a Victorian era series starring the three of them.

• Best line of the episode: "Hello, I'm a lizard woman from the dawn of time and this is my wife."

• Could we please have a moratorium on the "Doctor Who" jokes? You know what I'm talking about: someone meets the Doctor and asks him who he is, he says, "I'm the Doctor" and then the other person says, "Doctor Who?," echoing the name of the show.

It was funny the first time they did it a few seasons ago, and mildly amusing the next 47 times they did it, but now it's become grating and annoying. And this Christmas episode set a new record-- they said it at least four times! Maybe five, I lost count. 

• Hey, BBC America, nice move to air a commercial for the 5" Doctor Who action figures-- a month after they've decided to stop making them and switch to a 3.75" scale. Well done.

• I'm liking the new TARDIS interior quite a bit. The hexagonal console's very reminiscent of the one from the early days of the show, and the whole room looks very slick and well-ordered. Looking forward to seeing more of it.

It's definitely a vast improvement over the previous control room, of which I was definitely not a fan. That room was a random, chaotic orange flavored disco nightmare with no discernible pattern or shape.

• So why was the exterior of the TARDIS all beaten up and tarnished? What happened  and how much time passed between The Angels Take Manhattan and now? 

• We finally get a cool continuous shot of someone outside the TARDIS walking through the door and into the cavernous interior. I've been wishing they'd do this for years now and it was great to see it happen at last.

• Second best line of the episode: "It's smaller on the outside!"

All in all it was a great episode and a vast improvement over last year's Christmas Special. Unfortunately we'll have to wait until freakin' April for any new episodes, now that the BBC has decided to jealously dole out their precious episodes a drop at a time.

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