Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

(I know. :) )

I can usually recognise when Doctor Who is a 'special'. It's all up there there on the screen in the opening credits…

"Doctor Who"


"Matt Smith"


"Some woman you've never heard of before."

All right, so Claire Skinner is probably quite well-known, in fact they all probably are, but each year this viewer has genuinely had no idea at all who on earth Catherine Tate, Michelle Ryan, Lindsay Duncan and Katherine Jenkins were.

(I assumed 2007's billing of "Kylie Minogue" to be a joke)

Guest stars hold little sway with me. The recognition and reminder that it's someone from another series behaving in a way different to how I expect breaks the illusion somehow. Here, Alexander Armstrong as Reg reminded me of someone, but I wasn't sure who, which distracted in a different way.

The one guest who I did recognise here - Spaced's Bill Bailey - duly does his usual world-weary bureaucratic thing, so I was good with that.

As for the eleventh Doctor, never before has he so proved himself as such a watchable incompetent fool.

Well, he's not actually that incompetent, but there are sequences in this that are, frankly, Mr Bean with dialogue.

That whole opening sequence for example, with him blowing up the spaceship and wrestling to get the spacesuit on backwards, before being driven blind into town, walking into a lamppost, and eventually trying to take-off inside an actual Police Box. I can hear him graciously accepting my gushing praise now…

Doctor: "I know."

Alas, one reason why his visual comedy works so well might just be because some of his dialogue here is so hard to make out. There's a classic scene when he's showing the children around their Christmas bedroom, which would be wondrous, but for his off-mic dialogue getting hammered into submission by all the heavy music. Maybe they can remix this and/or even redub it as a DVD extra - such an epic sequence deserves to be set free.

As the episode progressed, the storyline seemed to be moving quite slowly, which was an achievement given that it also fitted in enough mystery to make the episode feel quite eventful.

I mean all right, yes, so the aliens turn humans into zombies as usual. Yes, there was a spacesuit which hid its wearer's face from view as usual. Yes, there are enormous coincidences that no-one notices as usual (the proximity of the Doctor's crash-landing to the TARDIS, the foursome's eleventh hour arrival in the forest). Yes the Doctor, pretending to be dead after The Wedding Of River Song, still draws attention to his TARDIS, even parking it on a street corner at the end.

However the bottom line for me is that I found the whole thing fun, funny, touching and Christmassy.

I mean what else was I really looking forward to here?

After this CS Lewis tribute, and last year's A Christmas Carol, I wonder if the pattern has been set for a different famous Christmas story to be the show's inspiration every year? Next yuletide I'm hoping for The Wizard Of Oz (complete with song and set in Australia), and after that, oh I don't know, maybe Star Wars.

But then, it kind of looked like we were getting that at the start this year:

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