Somebody better ring the Daily Mail, because there’s a far better case for Stephen Moffat waging a War on Christmas than this week’s ethnic minority hate figures.
11th Doctor Matt Smith has been the star of four Christmas specials, somewhat dismissively collected on Time Of The Doctor + Other Eleventh Doctor Christmas Specials, but decreasingly have they actually had any real connection to the season.
2010’s sublime A Christmas Carol is one of the best. Sticking to the feelgood Russell T Davies template with the right mix of schmaltz and celebrity, it was also a perfect example of the sort of story that can only be told with Doctor Who.
By 2011 the demands of the holiday season began to take their toll. Though The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe managed to capture the essential wonder of the Doctor, the threads binding the seasonal aspect of the story together had begun to fray and Moffat had sought comfort in his old standby – the power of love to overcome alien technology (see Closing Time, Asylum Of The Daleks, The Lodger etc).
By 2012 the Moff was through with being held back by baby Jesus and The Snowmen didn’t just rely heavily on another of his increasingly prominent secondary trope (stuff from the Sixties, reimagined by the Early Learning Centre), but was really a backdoor premier for Series Seven Part Two – introducing the arc plot, the recurring villain and a new set of enemies that hung heavy over the 50th Anniversary year and then didn’t actually play any role whatsoever.
All of which leads us neatly into 2013’s The Time Of The Doctor, the dispiriting awful third part in the 50th Anniversary triptych which begrudgingly pulled on a Santa hat in the form of a town called Christmas.
Matt Smith is clearly tired, his cartoonish energy curtailed due to an IRL leg injury, the ongoing emasculation of the Daleks continues as they roll around asking for someone to please bring them the Doctor, the Silents are retconned into being good guys (apart from those other guys), a powerful female character is reduced to being the Doctor’s ex, a headless Cyberman is dropkicked straight into Tumblr to fool people into thinking they enjoyed it and after all this, the actual act of regeneration into Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor is as brusque as a mic drop.
In pure storytelling terms, The Time Of The Doctor wore the evidence of the last-minute rewrites on its purple sleeves, with story elements having precious little connection, and the whole thing gets wrapped up with the weakest application of The Power Of Love yet – Jenna Coleman whispering into a wall.
A Doctor Who Christmas special should be a moment outside of time. RTD made a tradition of (mostly) standalone romps with celebs and magic and snow. They weren’t always perfect – or even good – but they didn’t require you having to tell your mum about Yetis in the Underground, or remind your nan in a loud voice about how Gallifrey wasn’t actually destroyed (and what Gallifrey is).
Instead, Stephen Moffat has incorporated the Christmas Special into his overarching masterplan for Doctor Who, and putting the debate over whether or not that’s working to one side, this definitely isn’t.
Come on mate, it’s Christmas. Give yourself a day off.