I want to preface this review by stating something that I have said in a few online chats, that being that when reviewing Christmas episodes of Doctor Who Christmas Rules apply. Christmas Rules basically mean that you cannot apply regular episode rules, you need to REALLY suspend your disbelief and just go with it. There's no need to get on the writers for canon mistakes, or sappiness, or taking liberties with things, it's a bloody Christmas episode! And for all of you Moffatt haters out there, Mr Davies wasn't much better when it came to tear inducing Christmas episodes.
I mean not since “The Next Doctor” have a I been driven to tears before the end, or at least not at a point in the story where the full story had been told. Yes, I was a bawling fool at the end of “A Christmas Carol” and slightly before the end of “Voyage of the Damned” when Astrid made her sacrifice to take out Max Capricorn in his effort to destroy the Earth, so Davies got to me too.
It wasn't the appearance of what I thought to be Douglas Adams' Vogon Constructor Fleet at the beginning with their announcements to the people of 1937 Earth (not that any of them would have heard it and Arthur Dent hadn't been born yet anyway) just before The Doctor blew up their incredibly large spaceship and chased down a spacesuit in the vacuum of space (yes – Time Lords can survive short amounts of time in the vacuum of space as was shown in the Peter Davison era episode “Four to Dooms Day” where he wore nothing but a space helmet - but I am not going to get into how he survived entry into Earth's atmosphere wearing only that spacesuit – and backwards at that), I made it to the the moment when Cyril's Dad, flying his damaged Avro Lancaster heavy bomber back to England on December 20th 1940, knew he wouldn't make it, touching the photo of his soon to be widowed wife in the cockpit of the doomed plane that got me all teary eyed, and they story hadn't even properly begun.
OK, before I go and get the box of tissues again it's time to get on with this review . . .
WHAT I LIKED
This is the first episode of Dr Who since the end of Season 6 in October and it's Christmas! Welcome back!
Cyril, with his red hair and big glasses reminded me of a tiny Elton John.
The entire kids' bedroom – I want those drop down from the ceiling hammocks, as I am sure every kid in the UK does now. The Christmas tree was pretty cool too.
That the Christmas Gift/space/time rift led to Androzani major, last heard of in the 5th Doctor's final episode, “The Caves of Androzani”, and I can only say that the harvesting crew seemed to be high on Spectrox, they were a (comedic) mess!
The shoutout to moms being the strongest force in the Universe! Of course they are! Where would we be without moms. We'd be Sontarans and Daleks and Cybermen, though The Doctor's daughter didn't have much of a mom and she turned out pretty hot, I mean she turned out pretty well. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's the estrogen in me speaking, live with it.
The guiding light home through the Time Vortex that brought Dad home for Christmas, as Mom promised, yeah – it was sappy and somewhat predictable, but, as I said, Christmas Rules apply. If that had happened in a regular episode I'd be a lot less charitable in my view of it.
Humany Wumany – a sort of reference to Timey Wimey – but it just showed that The Doctor, for as long as he's know humanity, still doesn't get them at times, in this case their shedding of tears of happiness. He understands sadness, he's obviously experienced centuries of that, but the shedding of tears at happy times makes no sense to him. He seemed to shed at least one just before closing the door to the Ponds' house.
“I got dressed in a hurry.”
“Suddenly the last 900 years of time travel seem a lot less secure.”
“Staircase . . . seems to have broken down. . . . we'll have to walk up.”
“Time is shifting across dimensional plains. What do they teach you in school these days?”
“This is a military engagement. There's no crying in military engagements.” (a bit of a paraphrase on that famous line in the movie “A League of Their Own” (also set during World War II) - “There's no crying in baseball!”
“I have mother issues, it's all in the file.”
“Crying when you're happy. . . . .That's so human.”
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE
The whole “sonic screwdriver doesn't work on wood” joke is VERY tired at this point. I almost wish the Tereliptils would show up and blast the thing out of existence again as they did in the Davison Era episode “The Visitation”.
Continuity Error - Madge tells the Androzanians that she's from England in 1941 - her husband was killed over the Chanel in 1940 - she told The Doctor that she hadn't told Lily and Cyril yet - the London Blitz ended in May of 1941 - so she could not have been at Uncle Digby's place at Christmas 1941. Either that or she had pulled off a rather elaborate ruse on her kids and had them believing their father was still alive even though he'd been dead for over a year. I think not!
WHAT I HATE – A Jayne Rant
Much like the birth of a child, it will probably not be for another 9 to 10 months, some time in October, before we see another episode. I get Mr Moffat's recent contention that Dr Who should be watched when it's dark outside. Daleks and Cybermen and whatever other monsters are out there are less scary when the sun's out and the kids are still out playing, but damnit, there are the Winter months that are just as dark and this Christmas episode could have been the launching pad for Season 7.1 with the Doctor's reuniting with Amy and Rory at the end of the episode. Season 7.2 could have started in October.
Steven Moffatt and company have already put out there that The Ponds, Amy and Rory, will be leaving the series. Why put that out there so far in advance of their actual leaving on the show? That's just wrong. Season 7.1 could have started in January, run for 7 weeks and ended with the leaving of Amy and Rory, preferably with Amy pregnant again with a normal baby that the Universe doesn't want to kidnap and the Doctor dropping in on Craig's son Alfie (the former Strormageddon) some 23 years down the road and taking him with him on adventures.
I get that you want to keep interest alive in the show, but if you're not going to come back until at least October at the earliest, why leak that out now? It seems kind of pointless. Season 7.2 could have started in October with the Doctor and Alfie hopping around the Universe and starting Season 8 with a visit to Poppa Craig at Christmas.
I know the BBC is trying to stretch things out until 2013, specifically November 23, 2013, the 50th anniversary of the very first broadcast of Doctor Who, but they run the risk of losing their audience. There are a ton of other shows to get interested in to the detriment of Doctor Who, and I mean on both sides of the Atlantic and whatever other countries the program is shown in.
In closing, the BBC runs the risk of losing fans who have been there since the re-launch on 2005, who suffered through the 1996 movie (no reflection on Paul McGann - he deserved way better), who found this crazy British show on their local American Public Broadcasting Station and grew to love it. If they wait and hold off without giving the addicts their hit, they may reach the 23rd November, 2013 (as you Brits write dates) with an all time low audience. Nuff said.