Remotely Interested Xmas Round Up Pt1. Doctor Who

Posted on January 1, 2010

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And so it comes to pass each year that, as sure as Granny will eat too many sprouts and Dad’ll get pissed off trying to attach the stickers to yet another toy, frightened television chiefs will pull out all of their biggest properties for a sprinkling of festive fun just to make absolutely sure you and your loved ones stop talking and having fun and stare dutifully at the box in the corner of the room once more. Old favourites and rising stars will be grabbed by sweaty palmed executives and thrown into the Christmas schedule complete with festive tie and rictus grin in an attempt to glue you to their channel. Honestly, you’d think they’d never seen Scrooged.

The BBC are especially good at this, having as they do a wealth of funny and unfunny sitcoms and their habit of using their talent on any of their legions of chat and panel shows in order to boost anticipation and ratings. Case in point this year? David Tennant. The outgoing Doctor was everywhere this year, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Qi, The Graham Norton Show and finally, on Christmas Day, The End Of Time: pt 1.

Traditionally the Doctor Who Christmas special is a mildly disappointing affair for a number of reasons, firstly there’s usually a new companion so all the carefully crafted chemistry between characters is thrown out the window (apart from the first one, where the new doctor spent at least three quarters of the action in bed) and secondly they are always written by Russel T. Davies. Now Davies is without question largely responsible for the Doctor’s return to relevance and popular culture, and he’s certainly good at planning a series with certain elements and clues to the finale popping up throughout each episode, but when it comes to writing single episodes his weaknesses often show far too clearly. Take last year’s season finale for example. In an effort to make a viewing spectacle, Davies drafted in virtually everyone his doctor has ever met and then pitted them against millions of CGI Daleks. What was meant to be an apocalyptic day for the planet Earth ended up being about as terrifying as tripping up on the stairs. Even worse was last year’s Christmas special, The Next Doctor, which after some fine acting work between Tennant and David Morrisey descended into a ropey CGI battle over Ye Olde London between the doc (in a hot air balloon) and a giant Cyberman. Yawn. To me there’s been nothing scary or dramatic about the Daleks or the Cybermen since the end of series two, when they went from being only one left in existence to billions of them being thrown around the screen whenever either race makes an appearance. Thank God then for John Simm’s Master. First appearing at the end of series three, it was a welcome change to see Tennant go against an equal in both character and acting ability once more instead of robots and monsters.

The plot as it was revolved around the Doctor’s impending death (he’s been warned that “he will knock four times”) and the Master’s botched resurrection to the backdrop of an unknown threat bigger than either of them. For the most part this revolved around both actors running towards each other for about thirty five minutes before finally meeting in the best scene of the episode. Basically a heart to heart between the two characters, the scene discussing their shared past managed to rise above some clunky dialogue through Simm and Tennant’s performance, successfully managing to convey a friendship lost centuries ago, and the fact that The Master’s mental drumbeat (an indication of insanity integral to the character since he reappeared two years ago) was real, and worse it could be the four knocks that The Doctor fears. The End Of Time Pt1 was by no means perfect, ending as it did with a bizarre plan by The Master and not enough explanation of some of its key concepts, but thanks to spirited performances (including the excellent Bernard Cribbins, proving to be far more entertaining than the women the Doctor has taken with him recently) and an amazingly vulnerable scene exposing the truth behind regeneration and our hero’s fears, The End Of Time Pt1 proved to be a fitting send off to a much loved character, so long as Pt2 keeps up the good work.

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