There are a couple of rules about Doctor Who at Christmas. Mostly the usual rules don’t apply, particularly if you’ve just completed a season of puzzling, darker than usual stories with some foxing themes. Illogical gunge is fine as long as it’s entertaining enough, the logic doesn’t have to hang together all that well because nobody will be concentrating and there must, repeat must, be a lot of Christmassy stuff and feelgood ending.
On that level this story’s just about perfect – and never mind the other levels, it was supposed to be a daft thing for way after everyone had eaten and drunk too much. So yes, we kick off withb the Doctor riffing on the Moonraker opening sequence and mysteriously being heard in space without suffocating. Then he’s found in 1936 wearing a space suit and nobody bats an eyelid. Then there’s a bit more movie riffing – A Matter of Life and Death, air crash and all – then we go into a Narna-alike, there are talking trees like in the Lord of the Rings…
At the centre of it all is the increasingly magnetic Matt Smith, the glue who holds the thing together. This is the ridiculous Doctor, the bonkers one, who decorates kids’ bedrooms with train set, windows disguised as mirrors, mirrors disguised as windows and puts the beds in as an afterthought, who repairs kitchen taps so they spray lemonade, who assumes a staircase is broken because you have to walk up. He’s everything you ever wanted for your Christmas when you were three.
The story picks up a bit of tension. There are no obvious villains, just some comically incompetent space travellers, and Claire Skinner’s Madge saves the day by being a mother, much as a couple of dads in the preceding series saved the day by paternal bonding. Fond of parents, is head writer Steven Moffat – but then what else do kids want but to find that their parents’ love can actually save lives?
It’s undemanding. I loved it for all the reasons opposite to those that appealed to me about the last series. It’s schlock, it’s simplistic, it’s a Christmas special. Brilliant fun as long as you don’t take it in any way seriously.
EXTRAS ★ Oh, the extras for this are no doubt brilliant – or they will be when they put it onto the next multi-story DVD release. As per normal for a single story release, there’s precious little on here; no commentary, three made-for-America documentaries on the Matt Smith Doctor, the companions and the monsters with American ‘celebrities’ who are no doubt known there but not here, and a prequel of the main story from the BBC’s website. No doubt proper extras will follow.