Before I discuss tonight's Doctor Who, here's a relevant family anecdote. My brother and his girlfriend work for a well-known chain of music stores, and recently a customer complained about one of their colleagues making "inappropriate" comments. It turns out that the customer in question was buying a Katherine Jenkins CD, and had said "She's very popular at the moment, isn't she?", to which the colleague had replied "Yes, she's particularly big in the Bristol area."
Well, I laughed.
And now, batten down your spoiler hatches and brace yourselves for a few thoughts on Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol:
- Let's start at the end, rather than the beginning. As is traditional, I watched this episode en famille, and as the credits rolled, the following exchange took place:
MY MOTHER: So, what did you think?
ME: Umm... pretty shit.
MY MOTHER: Well, it's not going to take you very long to type THAT on the internet, is it?
And initially, I thought the same thing, but as often happens, my brain has somehow managed to dredge up some lengthier sentences.
- Oh look, it's spaceship captain Pooky Quesnel on her franchise-flouting Galaxy-class starship, with nothing to do except yell in distress and press buttons. Still, at least she can take heart from the fact that she's called Pooky Quesnel, which is one of the great actress names, along with Googie Withers and Sylvestra Le Touzel.
- So what were Amy and Rory up to, playing dressing-up in the honeymoon suite? Why, they were making huge savings on the BBC costume budget, that's what. It's not kinkiness, children: it's sensible economic practice! Ask any TV licence-payer, and they'll tell you the same thing, I'm (almost) sure.
- As soon as the refrigerated Katherine Jenkins hoved into view, my mother shouted out: "Keep her in there!"
- "It's a Christmas carol..." - oh, thank you for that meta-comment, Doctor. Sometimes the postmodernism in this show gets so arch that it virtually falls over backwards and does itself a mischief. This was one of those moments. It shouldn't have been hard for the Doctor to work out the Christmassy plotline he was meant to follow, especially given that the other seasonal staple, It's A Wonderful Life, has already had a Who-ish reworking in the form of Turn Left.
- The second act of the show was all right, I suppose, held up as it was by Matt Smith's unflagging enthusiasm and the not-bad-for-an-onscreen-child acting of Little Kazran, supplement by the occasional Gambon face-pull. I'm fairly sure the timey-wimey memory fiddling made NO sense, but for about fifteen minutes, I was almost willing to handwave it.
- I pictured a few kids asking their parents awkward questions at the line "You're twelve years old, we'll stay away from under the bed..." (socks, they're talking about smelly socks, that's what it is, honest). The other giggleworthy gem was the fact that the Doctor's claim to be "universally recognized as a responsible adult" short-circuited the psychic paper. You can fool some of the people some of the time, Doctor, but sometimes your own stationery demands more realism than you can provide.
- "You know what boys say in the face of danger? 'Mummy'." - Ah, it was only this time last year that the Doctor's mother (or was it?) was skulking around the place, obliquely trying to keep his nose clean and stop him from breaking the galaxy. But that feels like a century ago.
- Oh look, a giant space shark is attacking! And now it's dying and everybody's sniffling over it! And now it's attacking again! And now Katherine Jenkins is singing to it! Oh, that's just needlessly cruel and unusual.
- The moment I knew that I was a bit too sober to be watching Christmas Doctor Who was after Kazran's sudden "oops, now I'm quite a hottie" age jump. I know the mechanics of reasonably-cheap television won't allow anything other than a quick switch from a child actor to a grown-up actor, but in real life, the change would be much more gradual to Abigail, wouldn't it? And therefore she's only known him for the equivalent of two or three days as a kid, and then suddenly we have to buy that he's all grown-up and she fancies him? Umm, if you say so. Yeah, I know the Moff clearly doesn't feel this way, because this is basically the Girl In The Fireplace all over again with switched sexes, innit? But my own libido refuses to suspend its disbelief.
- "It's this, or go to your room and design a new screwdriver. Don't make my mistakes." - yes, this was an amusing line, but for one moment there, when the Doctor and Kazran were sharing a moment of man-to-man panic, I couldn't help wondering what would have happened if the Doctor had offered to give a demonstration of the old-fashioned science of liplocking, just for
gratuitous slashyeducational purposes...
- I'm vaguely curious as to whether anyone will be moved to write about the fez-packed Christmas Eve adventures of the Doctor, Kazran and Abigail. Maybe not, since they weren't exactly massively intriguing characters in their own right. (Personally, I'm still a bit peeved that nobody really ran with the post-Next Doctor adventures of Jackson Lake.)
- So is Eleven/Marilyn Monroe canon now? The Doctor is SUCH a celeb groupie, it's untrue. Still, I suppose it's an alternative to all those Queen Elizabeth I jokes.
- When Abigail announced that she had bad news to impart, my brother yelled "There's no cure for Welsh!" Whatever it was that actually ailed her, its sense of dramatic timing was completely ridiculous. What, were her batteries running out? And if so, couldn't they have plugged her into the heart of the TARDIS for a recharge, or at least a reboot to factory settings?
- Old Kazran's reconciliation with Little Kazran was the only bit of the climax that coaxed anything approaching an "aww" from me. Take a moment to hug your inner child, everyone. It IS Christmas, after all.
- Meanwhile, the absolute fingers-down-the-throat nadir of this episode was Abigail's climactic power ballad, complete with a
hairbrushsonic screwdriver microphone. It might impress the space-sharks, but it's tragically too late to make a bid for Christmas number one, even if she IS better-looking than the Ood from last year (but then again, isn't everybody?).
- At the very end, I was waiting for Abigail to be conveniently cured (it's Christmas, it's Moffat - surely everybody lives?) but credit where it's due, that didn't happen. Nonetheless, I've thought of a romantic Hollywood ending if anyone wants one: she and Old!Kazran come home from their shark-drawn sleighride and have a full-on shagging session, his heart conks out from the strain, and they BOTH die with big smiles on their faces. How's that for head canon? (Or perhaps it'd be better described as "back corner of my mind, don't want to think about Gambon-based nudity TOO closely" canon.)
- In conclusion: start with a surprisingly large portion of The Lodger (the Doctor helps a large bloke sort out his hopeless love life while Amy shouts on the phone), stir in a helping of timeshifted romance from the jar marked The Girl In The Fireplace, some flying seafood leftovers from Planet of the Dead and a couple of nutty one-liners, then sprinkle with a thick layer of supermarket-brand cheese and serve until everyone's arteries are clogged with cliché. This is the recipe, and the results made me sprawl on the sofa and groan. Then again, aren't ALL Christmas episodes of Doctor Who rather rubbish? I guess some traditions never change...