Thursday, 28 May 2015

Who Reviews The Matt Smith Christmas Specials by Jeffrey Zyra

The Matt Smith Christmas Specials

A Christmas Carol

By Steven Moffat
Reviewed by Jeffrey Zyra

“I’m the ghost of Christmas past.”

It’s Christmas time once again and that means it’s time once again for another Doctor Who Yuletide special.    A Christmas Carol is the sixth Doctor Who Christmas special and the first not to be written by Russell T. Davies.   This time its Steven Moffat’s turn and you can tell the difference.   A Christmas Carol starts off with a bang as the Honeymoon ship that Amy and Rory are on is heading for a crash landing.  It’s up to the Doctor to save them and this time it won’t be by using cheap writer’s tricks like the sonic screwdriver or having the TARDIS put the ship in a tracker beam.

Instead we have the Doctor trying to convince an old heartless man to do the right thing and shut off his machine that controls the sky in order to save all the people on the crashing ship.   A task easier said than done and here is where the story really takes off and shines.  As you probably have guessed from the title of this episode A Christmas Carol is a take on the Charles Dickens classic.   I say a take because the story mainly deals with the past.  

The Doctor tries to convince an old Kazran to be a better person by visiting him while he was a kid.    It’s at this point that we find out why Abigail was frozen and what she means to Kazran.  We also find out what makes Kazran a bitter and mean old man that won’t lift one arm to help anyone.   With the help of Amy and Kazrans younger self the Doctor does pull it off and gives us a happy Christmas ending.

A Christmas Carol is by far the best of the Christmas Specials.    Steven Moffat has weaved a gem of a story that had a lot of emotion to it.  I really enjoyed this story as it was different from the Doctor Who stories we have seen before.   Instead of fighting aliens and monsters the Doctor goes up against a man that is Scrooge like.  I liked the Dickens influence of the story.  It was pretty clever to see the Doctor go back and interact with the young Kazran and have the old Kazran watch it all on the view screen of his digital recorder. 

A Christmas Carol was a pretty solid story that had a good conclusion.  It did not have to revert to a reset button or any of RTD’s cheap resolutions.   A Christmas Carol had a true resolution that was quite shocking in a way as I was not expecting to see.   I truly liked the scenes with Kazran and Abigail on all the Christmas Eves that they spent with each other and you could predict what makes Kazran an old and bitter person.  If there was one fault to this story it was the predictability of Abigail’s fate and the effect on Kazran. 

Matt Smith has truly arrived as the Doctor as this is one of his finest performances.  You can surely tell that he is comfortable playing the Doctor now and will solidify himself as one of the greats to ever play the Doctor.   Michael Gambon was terrific as Kazran and the Harry Potter actor gave a performance that made you really dislike Kazran.  His scenes with Matt Smith were very powerful and some of the best since the show has returned.   It’s too bad that Amy and Rory were delegated to stay out of the way but this story would not have worked if the companions had a bigger role.  In all a very entertaining Christmas Special that is so far the best in 6 Christmas’s.
Grade A

The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe

By Steven Moffat

"Usually called the The Doctor or The Caretaker or Get Off This Planet."

It's Christmas Time 2011 and you know what that means. It means presents, Santa Claus leaving something good, having Christmas Dinner with family and friends, and of course a brand new Doctor Who Christmas Special. The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe is Matt Smith’s second Doctor Who Christmas Special and it is not as good as his first.

Well this is also Steven Moffat's second Christmas Special and like last year he has borrowed from popular literature.  Last year was obviously a take on Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" and this time it is a take on C. S. Lewis's The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I know what you’re saying well no duh just look at the title of this special and you should have guessed that. Well any way, I liked the idea of incorporating that story into Doctor Who and was pretty curious to see how they would pull it off.

As you can imagine 2011’s Christmas special was filled with lots of moments that make you scratch your head and there are quite a few in this one.  First off I did not particularly like how the Doctor saved himself from the exploding spaceship.  It was a bit farfetched even for Doctor Who. I mean come on the Doctor puts on a space suit in space and it happens to be a special space suit that survives re-entry and a crash into Earth plus mends his body.  Not that well-constructed if you ask me and since this is coming from the Moff I would have liked something cleverer.   Plus I didn't care for how Madge was able to drive the alien vehicle over to the tower.  You knew that was going to happen but for a woman who had trouble driving a car well I know it's Doctor Who and that has happened before.

While those things didn't detract from my enjoyment of the Christmas Special what did kind of detract from it was that I knew how the main story was going to end. (I'm not talking about Amy and Rory). Well if you didn't figure it out in the first ten minutes that the Doctor was going to somehow find a way to save Madge's husband even if it was inadvertently then you must have had too much egg nog.  Sometimes Doctor Who could be a tad bit predictable.  This was one of those times but since it is Christmas and it gave us a happy ending it didn't bother me that much.

The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe was not a bad story at all. In fact it was a nice Christmassy treat that had a decent story.  The Story wasn't mind blowing but for a tale at Christmas it was a perfect non thinking too hard story that you could enjoy at any point in the day. Nothing too complicated here.

I enjoyed the mad dash of showing off the house and all the cool things the Doctor had put into it to give Madge's kids a pretty cool bedroom.  I also liked the interaction between The Doctor and Lily.  That seemed to work and it gave the Doctor someone to bounce off of and to explain what was going on.   I liked how the tree people looked.  That was a pretty neat looking creature.  It kind of reminded me of the Ents from Lord of the Rings a little bit but a bit more like wooden chess pieces from a Nordic area.  Here is a plus to classic Who fans. How many of you know what significance Androzani has in Who history?  I did and it made me smile.

As Christmas Specials go this one was alright.  But it did have some pretty good moments in it though with none better than the Doctor reuniting with Amy and Rory in the last 5 minutes.  If anything Steven Moffat gave us a nice sentimental moment.  What a nice scene to wrap up the Christmas Special with.  It was truly a heartwarming scene.  In all a nice story but a tad predictable but nonetheless enjoyable to watch.
Grade B

The Snowmen

By Steven Moffat

“It's Smaller On The Outside."

So here we are.  It’s been months since the Ponds left and it’s time for the annual Christmas Special. 2012’s special is titled The Snowmen and boasts to having killer snowmen roaming around as the main creature of the story.   The Doctor Who Christmas Specials have now become a Christmas tradition that you expect something special to compliment the day of gift giving and enjoying the family dinner.  So was this edition of the Doctor Who Christmas Special top notch or was it, as a certain Christmas fixture would say, Humbug.

Well I found The Snowmen to be absolutely entertaining and a whole lot of fun but a bit dark for a Christmas Special.  It did have a dark feel to it as the Doctor was moping around and being negative and not his normal self. Not really caring what was going on and not really wanting to get involved with anyone or any situation.  Sometimes the Christmas stories can get a bit too silly but The Snowmen wasn’t as silly as I feared it would be from the impression I got from the trailers.  In fact the comedy relief was not overdone and I really enjoyed the scenes with Drax and The Doctor as it brought a nice touch of lightness to a story that seemed darker than normal for Doctor Who’s Christmas romps. 

The story itself was pretty good.  I enjoyed the way they got the Doctor off the snide and back into action.   Really liked how the story moved along at a leisurely pace  and kept you thinking what would happen next and would The Doctor recover his senses and be his old self again and get involved and save the day.   Loved how Clara just seemed to get attached to The Doctor and persisted on trying to get him to help.  I think the pairing of those two will work as the pairing of Matt Smith and Jenna – Louise Coleman seems like a great fit and we should be in for a great ride with those two in the TARDIS.

I didn’t really mind that Madame Vastra and Jenny were in this story as they were a nice touch.  They weren’t in it all that much and their scenes did help the story along and they weren’t overused which is a fault of Steven Moffat sometimes overusing secondary characters but in The Snowmen I believe he got it right this time.  I do like Madame Vastra and Jenny and think they would be good in their own spinoff.  It would be pretty interesting to see their adventures in Victorian England.

It was wonderful to see the Great Intelligence return to Doctor Who.  Loved the two stories during Patrick Troughton’s era The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear and with the recent recovery of The Web of Fear fans can now see what he was like back then.  Loved reading about the Great Intelligence in the Target book novelizations and am glad that new fans and I can get to see this villain again.  What a wonderful surprise for the fans and loved the killer snowmen he controlled. Plus The Great Intelligence was voiced by Gandalf himself Sir Ian McKellen so how cool was that.  This brings me to Richard E. Grant and his portrayal of Doctor Simeon.  He was really good in The Snowmen and Richard E. Grant made Doctor Simeon really creepy.  Such a wonderful performance and one you’d expect to get for the Christmas Special and it was good to see him as The Great Intelligence in the Series 7 finale The Name of The Doctor.

One thing that I did not care for and which was not really explained all that well was the rain.  We see the dying Clara crying and then it starts to rain.  Not really explained too well and I’m guessing it is just part of the mystery that is surrounding Clara but it did seem to dampen, sorry bad pun, the story just a bit. I mean it did seem a bit convenient and an easy way to come about the conclusion but not all that sure how it came about.  It was a pretty clever plot device though and we do know now why the rain was like that.

What really intrigued me about The Snowmen was Clara.  Who is she?  We did find out that she is indeed Oswin Oswald from Asylum of the Daleks or in fact some form of her.  Now this revelation I did find to be really cool and to leave off on a mystery was awesome and did breathe some new life into the same old Doctor Companion relationship. It was interesting watching this again knowing where Steven Moffat takes this in the second half of Series 7.  

On a whole I really enjoyed The Snowmen.  I enjoyed it way better than 2011’s C.S Lewis homage. In fact I enjoyed it 100% more than 2012’s.  It was a wonderful story that does a lot of things different and surprising like killing off Clara and just making it a traditional Doctor Who story for once with monsters and baddies to fight.   It opens up a can of mystery for the fans to ponder and that is a great thing to have happen.  Plus I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the new theme and opening credits.  I loved it. It was good to see The Doctors face in the sequence again.  Plus the theme sounded retro and harkens back to the classic series in way while keeping it fresh.   In all a wonderful story that makes it a special Christmas day for all Whovians.
Grade A

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