The annual Doctor Who Christmas Special has now become as regular as the obligatory post-lunch snooze and the wet weather here in the UK!
This year's episode promised to be a little more special in a number of ways. First up, it introduced the Doctor's new companion, after the departure of ‘The Ponds’ in the previous series. Secondly, they the opening theme tune and visuals were slightly revamped
All the talk about this episode has been around the Doctor’s new companion, Clara, played by Jenna-Louise Jameson. The rumour-mill had suggested that her first appearance was going to be this Christmas Special, but head writer, Steven Moffat, had wrong-footed us all by introducing her in an earlier episode in the series (Asylum of the Daleks) and have her play a different character - Oswin. She made a great impact in that episode, but it left everyone guessing as to whether she was the same character (with a different name), yet to become the Doctor’s companion - or someone completely different.
In this episode, she certainly made no less an impact, and once again demonstrated an instant on-screen presence, gelling perfectly with Matt Smith’s character. I'm sure she's going to go from strength-to-strength when the new series unfolds in 2013 - and more especially, for the 50th anniversary in November.
What about this year's story? In past years, I've often been slightly disappointed with many of the Christmas Specials (maybe it's all the Who-hype), so it was with some hesitation, I sat down to watch 2012's. I say, 'disappointed', but in truth, they've always been quite watchable, but lacked a certain dramatic punch (a notable exception being, 'The End of Time' two-parter from a few years back when David Tennant was playing the titular role).
I needn't have worried! Steven Moffat is a great story-teller and he really pulled out all the stops for this one. The result - an instantly watchable episode(whether you’re a Who-fan or not) with just the right balance between drama and comedy (Clara's initial comments on seeing the Tardis for the first time: 'It's smaller on the outside' and 'does it have a kitchen?' were priceless!)
Visually, the episode was a treat too! The scene of the Doctor and Carla ascending the spiral staircase into the clouds was just spectacular, and the part where they both entered the TARDIS from outside and the camera followed them in, was a simple, but really effective special effect (how did they do that?).
For the new companion, Steven Moffat has already created some mystery around her back-story, and this was a master-stroke in terms of the overall story arc - it makes a change for the companion to be a complex character too!
Even before the full series begins, many of us are still trying to work out whether Clara is Oswin, or Oswin is Clara!!! Normally it’s the Doctor who is associated with all the ‘mystery’, so it’s a refreshing change to see so many unanswered questions associated with the companion - and that’s bound to generate some extra buzz!
I got a real kick out of this episode - the Victorian timeline worked really well, as it made the story feel even more Chrismassy. Great acting from Richard E Grant as the bad-guy and Tom Ward, as well as all the other supporting actors. It had just the right amount of SFX, without going over the top and I’m hoping all of this is a good sign of things to come in the next series.