“There are some situations that are just too stupid to be allowed to continue” said the Doctor halfway through this year’s Christmas special. Well if only that was true of the situation Steven Moffat found himself in while scripting this episode. After a gruelling twelve month wait for any new Doctor Who, this fell flat.
Right from the off, the episode felt nothing like Doctor Who had ever felt like. Of course, you need to branch out, especially when a show is fifty three years old, and try something new now and again. But when you do that, you have to ensure that what gives a show such longevity remains, and this didn’t. For large sections of the episode, I could’ve been watching anything.
The script didn’t lend itself to any sort of Doctor Who story we’ve seen before and that led to some forced dialogue that had me squirming. Steven Moffat’s previous attempts at humour have been, to say the least, dubious. Here though there were simply awful. Peter Capaldi proved in season nine what an incredible actor he is, when he was given some great scripts in “The Zygon Inversion”, “Face the Raven” and “Heaven Sent”. He’s undoubtedly at his best when he’s serious, moody and dark. Just because it’s Christmas, he’s not going to all of a sudden turn into Matt Smith. Every second line seemed to be a pun, a joke, the Doctor goofing about and it just didn’t work. Capaldi looked awkward and it’s such a shame because it’s clear he’s much better than what he was provided with.
The plot itself could’ve worked just fine without a superhero in sight. The attempted hijack of all the World Leaders’ brains was solid enough. But so much time was taken up by the Grant/The Ghost/Lucy story. This should’ve been a five minute side show at most. I’ve rarely been more frustrated than I was while watching Lucy, a seemingly bright and switched on reporter, miss all the obvious clues as to who The Ghost was. She was even shocked at his existence when they met for the first time. It was strange to be so surprised when The Ghost never appeared to put any effort into concealing his true identity. It was so obvious for the entire second half of the episode that Grant and Lucy were going to get together, so why were their storylines so drawn out and tedious? It wasted so much time, that Moffat couldn’t even finish the story off as we saw two of the Harmony Shoal had infiltrated U.N.I.T. at the end of the episode. Personally, I’d much rather have seen what they were up to, than watch Lucy try to work out who The Ghost was.
Nardole was back too, and unlike a lot of fans, I’ve been quite positive about his return. I’ve already written about how I want Matt Lucas involved in penning his own jokes. If his return continues like it began here though, I’ll be swiftly joining those fans who’ve been critical of his return. How are we meant to take scenes where spaceships are about to crash into New York seriously, when Matt Lucas is squealing like a toddler on Christmas morning? I like Matt Lucas, and I’m all for a bit of comic relief in Doctor Who. Mickey was great, Rory fitted in to the eleventh Doctor and Amy’s little crew too. But they were serious when the situation demanded it. Nardole needs to be written like Mickey and Rory, otherwise he’s going to grow very irksome, very quickly.
Not even a poignant little speech from the Doctor at the dinner table could save this Christmas special. There was nothing wrong with the acting. All of the cast performed what was expected of them. Steven Moffat’s forte has never been Christmas specials though, and this may have been the worst of the lot. If we ever see superheroes again in Doctor Who, I’ll be very surprised. On the up side though, the trailer for series ten was exactly what I needed to cheer me up after what I’d just watched. And with the possibility of Peter Capaldi regenerating next Christmas, this could be Moffat’s last Christmas special that’s purpose is solely for Christmas.
Episode Rating: 3/10