Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

It's Christmas Day, and the alien spaceship Titanic is plummeting towards an apocalyptic crash-landing on Earth. More specifically, on Buckingham Palace.

First up – the good.

1. The opening credits music. It's a thumping rocky arrangement of the theme, and quite unashamed about it.

2. Kylie Minogue's name in the opening credits. With sincere respect to Ms Minogue, this was funny. It looked like such a parody.

Who's next - Billie Pipe... oh.

3. Barring the newsreader, Nicholas Witchell, Bernard Cribbins and the Queen, almost everyone in this is an alien, although only Bannakaffalatta looks it.

4. Mr Copper's skewed impressions of Christmas. "Now human beings worship the great god Santa – creature with fearsome claws – and his wife Mary." Yeah, society's really going that way now.

5. The mass-abandonment of London at Christmas, after what happened at the last two, is a logical consequence. Such public terror is of course somewhat at loggerheads with the innocent world of The Sarah Jane Adventures, so someone in authority should really make a decision on this now and stick with it.

6. The slower pace. This script really takes time over its characters, and is in no rush to get where it's going to. As a result, the emotional content actually has room to happen. It's really sad when those people die, although, to be fair, having three of them separately commit suicide to save the others is a little repetitive.

Bannakaffalatta's self-sacrifice to save the others
Foon Van Hoff's self-sacrifice to save the others
Astrid Peth's self-sacrifice to save the others7. The line about cyborgs getting equal rights.

8. Its silliness. The scene in which the Doctor is wrestling with the steering-wheel to prevent the Titanic from crash-landing into Buckingham Palace was refreshingly silly. I just wish there had been any reason at all for such astronomically bad luck, other than just "Aww!"

9. Mr Copper's line at the end: “But if you could choose Doctor, if you could decide who lives and who dies, that would make you a monster.” As the Doctor himself might say, brilliant!

And now for the bad: (I might start copying and pasting these to save time)

1. Yet again the story's location is planet Earth, in the present day. For the first time, however, there is an acknowledgement of this repetition –

Astrid: "How come you know it [the Earth] so well?"

Doctor: "I was sort of, erm... a few years ago I was sort of made, well, sort of, homeless, and erm... there was the Earth."

That's great, that's all he needed to say three years ago.

2. Yet again it's about zombies. This time, it's heavenly host zombies.

No throwaway lines justifying their ubiquity these days though.

Hosts, flying high
One of the heavenly Hosts forgets that it can fly, and falls to its death.

Host, falling for that old trick
I can just about accept that Foon weighs significantly more than half the Doctor's body-weight (which two Hosts later fly straight upwards at speed carrying), and/or that it was perhaps still too low on power, but no-one says this, and we don't get any shots of it trying to fly either.

4. Another villain who's happy to stop and talk, and more aliens who are happy to stop killing the Doctor and talk too.

5. Astrid stays in the alien fork lift truck, only choosing to jump out after it has begun to plummet to her doom, even though one of the hosts has helpfully severed the brake-line for her.

6. The Doctor says of the drifting-in-space TARDIS "Problem is, once it's set adrift it's programmed to lock-onto the nearest centre of gravity, and that would be... the Earth." That's actually called gravity, Doctor. Why don't you just use your key to get it back, like in Father's Day?

7. Both the TARDIS and the Titanic fall separately from Earth-orbit, yet both coincidentally land in the tiny UK:

TARDIS falling to the UK (look closely!)
Titanic falling to the UK
The guy who wrote this Christmas special has written a whopping 15 TV Doctor Who stories in recent years, much of which I've really not liked. I've often found his plots to be repetitive and contradictory. Consequently, I've also found them a bit pretentious, but that's rather more subjective.

He's turned-in a couple of good scripts too – Tooth And Claw and Army Of Ghosts / Doomsday for example – but this one is good for a different reason.

This one succeeds because, I think, it isn't trying so hard to be both dumbed-down and clever at the same time. While this one is unquestionably dumbed-down in places, nowhere does it also try to be clever. As a result, my impressions of pretentiousness were thankfully absent from this episode, at long long last, freeing it to be the Christmas pantomime that it was obviously aiming for.

Next season, I would really like to see this guy write a Doctor Who script set entirely on an alien planet, about aliens who aren't fighting zombies.

It's good to step-out of your comfort-zone.

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