The whole Doctor Who ‘thing’ has now become such a significant event at Christmas, that this year’s episode, for the first time, got a gala launch at the National Film Theatre. Apparently, there were Santa-shaped bouncers on the doors and fake snow too!
This was the seventh festive episode written by showrunner Steven Moffat - and his last, as the role of showrunner is now passed to Chris Chibnall (creator of Broadchurch) as he takes over the reins for the show’s future direction after the final series in 2017 by SM.
Some will be sorry to see SM go, whilst, according the ‘net mutterings’, others are very relieved. Personally, I always thought that SM would steer the show appropriately (having penned my fave Who episode of all time – ‘Blink’), but more recent episodes have relied on a minimum 1000% attention it all, and struggling to ‘keep up’. Additonally, as the family Who expert, I was expected to explain ‘what it all means’.
Back to this year’s offering then…
I didn’t get to watch this until the Wednesday after Christmas – that’s a (poor) record!
Off the bat, the episode had a familiar Who-Christmassy feel to it without being too obvious (no snow, no mistletoe, no Santa etc). In fact, for a while it was difficult to spot that it WAS a Christmas episode, let alone a Who story-line!
Thankfully, as the episode progressed, we were treated to a very family-friendly script - and mercifully no sign of those aforementioned impenetrable Who-storylines! You can always count on the Christmas episode to be one that everyone in the family could watch together, and this one was no exception. I think I also detected a slight remix of the opening theme tune too!
With the (inter)national obsession with super-heroes, SM nailed the story perfectly by pivoting the episode around a super-hero ('The Ghost') with strong parallels between him and known ‘mixes’ of super-hero lore (black glasses/rotating globe on the roof/famous quote from Spider-Man: "With great power, comes great responsibility").
After a witty opening where the young Ghost mistakes the Doctor for Santa, the episode for me, got a little pedestrian and overly simplistic. Maybe using the familiar Aliens-want-to-take-over-the-planet-but-the-Doctor-will-save-us premise has just got a little worn-out?
Hey, but overall, I still enjoyed it – it was good to see ‘Who’ back on our screens and Peter Capaldi now seems very at home in the role – but perhaps not as much as I was expecting to.