Xmas Special – THE SNOWMEN

For the first time in his era, Steven Moffat invented an original concept for a Chirstmas special, and the result was by far his best Christmas episode at this point. There were no rip-offs of Scrooge or Narnia and the Snowmen were good, frighteningly designed villains. Dr Simeon was also a very mysterious and creepy character and along with the Great Intelligence, there was a very eerie and sinister threat throughout the story. Jenny, Vastra and Strax were back together and they had formed a hilarious little group to protect the Doctor. Strax in particular, played brilliantly by Dan Starkey, has perfect comic timing. This was the first episode since the Ponds departed the show permanently and it was actually refreshing. I did like Amy and Rory but their stay in the TARDIS went on for half a series to a series too long. Clara, or this version of Clara was entertaining to watch. I enjoyed her following the Doctor and the sequence where she climbed the swirling staircase into the sky and discovered the TARDIS was excellent. The way the TARDIS looked in the sky was a credit to everyone who produced those shots, it looked realistic and stunning. I loved the continuous shot of the Doctor and Clara walking into the TARDIS from outside without the camera cutting away briefly, it was a first for the show and was executed very well. Clara’s; “It’s smaller on the outside” line was quirky and a new reaction for a companion which was clever from Moffat. I enjoyed seeing the Doctor in recluse and refusing to help anyone, but when he looked in the mirror and saw his bow tie, it was a terrific moment in the episode as the Doctor was once again the helpful and dynamic man we all knew and loved. Clara dying again was very intriguing and set up the second part to series seven very well. I would’ve like to have seen this Victorian version of the character travel with the Doctor as it would’ve been a welcome change to move away from the 21st century Earth girl format. Murray Gold’s theme for Clara is one of his best pieces for the show and that was beautifully played throughout the episode. There wasn’t too much in the way of action, but Moffat finally found the right balance between sci-fi and Christmas. 7/10

Episode 6 – THE BELLS OF SAINT JOHN

Despite being episode six, the split halfway through the series made this feel like a series opener. There’s a modern and realistic threat to this episode that I like. Doctor Who is a show that has always kept up with the times, and to see the internet being used against society was fascinating. Although the threat in this episode wasn’t the usual worldwide or universal danger, it was a frightening watch to see people effectively kidnapped by the controllers of the Wi-Fi. Ms Kizlet wasn’t the most imposing of enemies but she didn’t have a certain evil and manipulative side that I thought worked. This time we saw Clara in modern day Earth, and it was this version that was to go and travel with the Doctor. We heard that “the woman in the shop” gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number, which of course turned out to be Missy. This was a good mystery but was sadly ruined by the revelation she had only wanted them together to create “the Hybrid”. I loved the scene in the episode where the Doctor used the TARDIS to stop the plane from crashing and killing them. We don’t often see the TARDIS used so productively so that was good to watch, in what was such a thrilling scene. The Doctor riding his anti-grav motorbike up the Shard and into Ms Kizlet’s office was another hugely entertaining and well produced scene. The resolution of the Doctor controlling the Spoonhead that took his image to download Ms Kizlet was clever and led to everyone else who had been downloaded being rescued. It’s not a classic, but it’s a slightly creepy and very entertaining start to the eleventh Doctor and Clara’s relationship. 7/10

Episode 7 – THE RINGS OF AKHATEN

I featured this story in my “Five Underappreciated Modern Era Stories” post, and I don’t regret it. Although there are some brief moments where the episode drags a little, and Clara is annoyingly overconfident for her first outer space adventure, it’s still a gem of a script. Akhaten is a beautiful setting and I enjoyed encountering some new aliens. The idea that the Queen of Years sang to “Grandfather” was nice, but that obviously changed as the Doctor and Clara discover the perceived God, is in fact a parasite feeding on the souls of his victims. The Doctor and Clara chasing Mary on a quad bike was an exciting scene which contained more excellent CGI, as we’d seen throughout series seven. The script had some funny lines too. I enjoyed watching the Doctor’s struggle to keep the “exceptionally heavy” door open, and Clara’s face was brilliant when he locked them in. The Doctor and Clara’s exchanges about scones was also absolutely hilarious as the Doctor decided he was going to take on the parasite. The Doctor’s dramatic speech to attempt to over feed the parasite was perfectly written by Neil Cross and performed by Matt Smith, it was one of his best moments of his tenure. Clara eventually defeating the parasite by feeding it “the most important leaf in human history” was a fitting end to the story. We’d seen earlier how Clara’s parents had met, obviously leading to Clara being born, so it was clever that played a part in the resolution. As I said in my review of The Beast Below, it’s important for a companion to prove themselves early on in their tenure, and I’m glad Clara did that here. Neil Cross produced one of the most enjoyable and beautiful episodes of series seven and it’s a shame that it isn’t as highly regarded as it should be. 8/10

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