Ah, Christmas, how do I love thee? Not at all as it turns out, sorry. Yes, I am of the Bah Humbug persuasion, and proud of it.
Anyway, this is not the place for a big woe is me whingeathon, this is a place to discuss television shows. Of which there are none worth watching over the 'festive' season. The US imports have either ended (and I talked about those a couple of weeks back) or are winding down for mid season breaks (I've not watched last Fridays The Event yet; I'm rationing it). The only bright spot on the horizon is a Christmas special that holds out a little hope of not being totally shit.
I speak, of course, of The Weakest Link. No hang on, Doctor Who, that's the lad.
I know, I know. I'm well aware that since Doctor Who returned to our screens with 'Rose', the annual Christmas special has fostered a jealously guarded reputation for being, well, a bit rubbish. Credit where it's due, it's a rep they worked hard for. To produce something as mind bogglingly atrocious as 'Voyage of the Damned' or the execrable 'End of Time' takes true grit and determination.*
To be fair, The Christmas Invasion wasn't all bad.
The novelty factor of Tennant assuming the role for the first time bought it a lot of leeway, any episode that heavily features the rather wonderful Jackie Tyler scores points from me and then we have the delightful Penelope Wilton back. Of course, Tennant is hardly present for most of it and when he does wake up he struggles with some of the awkward tonal shifts in the script, Jackie is saddled with that Godawful clunker of a line that absolutely NEVER works (you know the one) and Wilton is only back so Davies can contradict what he wrote in the Slitheen storyline in aid of a half baked 'dark Doctor' moment that isn't half as clever as he thinks it is. Add to that the frankly ridiculous notion that there would be a button on the side of the ship that makes a huge chunk of said ship fall off and, well...So swings and roundabouts.
The Runaway Bride is better, because we at least have a Doctor who's active throughout, we're finally free of that nauseating Doctor/Rose pseudo romance thing that fucked up S2 and the Racnoss makes a half way decent villain but it still had it's flaws. Chief among them one Donna Noble . Now, I'm not one of those people who hated the Donna character. Indeed, I think that the Doctor/Donna relationship in S4 was probably the best Doctor/Companion pairing in RTDs era but I absolutely do subscribe to the theory that she was bloody awful in her debut. And I think that the blame for that is pretty evenly shared between the writer (who was it again?, oh yes) and the actress. Given that she was written as a screeching harridan for most of it, Tate probably took one look at the script and thought 'to hell with it, if they want pantomime I'll give them pantomime'. She's capable, as she proved so well in S4, of more than that but she lowered herself to the material rather than trying to elevate it.
The Voyage Of The Damned was next and was the first time I watched one of these and thought 'this is shit' while I was still watching. Previously I would get swept up in the moment and only realise during the comedown just how riddled with flaws they were but here it was just in your face from the get-go. I won't go into all the flaws, because frankly I don't have the inclination to waste my time on what would be an overwhelmingly negative rant so I'll just mention the one moment that actually genuinely offended me in it's heavy handed, club to the head, oh fuck off, Doctor Messiah bullshit.
It was the heavy handed, club to the head, oh fuck off, Doctor Messiah moment.
Seriously, that speech? And the striding through the wreckage, with the lighting and the flashes around him and the soaring music? The ship is falling apart and they are all going to die so the Doc figures now is the perfect time to stop for 5 minutes so he can tell everyone how great he is and how he's going to save them all. Which he then doesn't do. Awful. Still, Kylie in that uniform. Phwooaar eh? Weeell, kind of anyway.
Then we come to that Cyberman bollocks with that giant machine thing terrorising London and finally The End Of Time.
One had Dervla Kerwan looking lovely, offset by Davies forgetting (or just not caring) that he'd retconned the Cybermen origins, so he could crowbar in a past Doctors montage. These montages work, and fans like to see them, but they have to have a logical reason for existing. This one didn't.
The other story has Davies pissing on everything he'd done in the previous 5 years.
Here's the thing though. Poorly thought out, lacking in any kind of logical story structure and chock full of risible dialogue they may be; alright, definitely were, but there was one thing that can not be denied; they didn't lack for spectacle. The hope then, is that under the new regime, that spectacle, which is a big part of what you want from a Christmas blow-out, can be married to something resembling a cohesive narrative.
You see, for all my carping and moaning, (and I'm not alone and far from the most vicious) these shows were successful. Massively so. They pulled in the punters and got the big numbers. Is that enough though? Eastenders and The X-fucking-Factor can do that. As a writer, wouldn't you like to do the big numbers and tell a good story at the same time? The two are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, the episodes above could all have been made so much better with an extra draft and a few nips and tucks. None of them were unsalvageable. If they'd had a writer who cared as much about making good telly as he did about boosting his own ego, who knows what they could have been.
My policy on spoiler avoidance means I am probably the least 'in the know' person in Britain right now when it comes to this years upcoming Christmas special. However the (slightly excessive) case of hero worship I have going on for Steven Moffat (come on, the man wrote Press Gang) means that my expectations are raised and I have well and truly 'got my hopes up'. I just hope they aren't dashed come Christmas night. I have faith.
*Seriously though, he was taking the piss with that one right? I mean, surely even the staunchest Nu-Who/RTD apologist can't defend that bilge, can they?