This year’s Christmas special was in a difficult position - it had to be light enough to be enjoyed at prime time on the main festive day, but equally it had to hold enough gravitas to follow a very heavy series. I think this one managed to do a really good job, and improved on the fairy tale style of last year’s Christmas outing.
My only real complaint throughout the entire episode is that it was yet another set in World War II. It feels like we have done that an awful lot of the years, particularly with the gas masked children, and the Spitfires in space. We’ve even had an episode named after Hitler himself, even if that was somewhat tricksy.
The war effort played something of a crucial role in the episode, particularly with the emotions surrounding the death and then return of the father, but it wasn’t the crux of the story. Instead, that was a Narnia theme, with a secret snowy world hidden behind the doors of a box.
I loved that we saw the Doctor return to someone who had given him a helping hand - it’s wonderful when the Doctor remembers those that have helped him out in the past, and although we haven’t seen Madge before, it’s ace that he went back to help her out. His glee at giving the family a guided tour around the house was totally infectious, so much so that I almost wanted a hammock in my own bedroom.
When the action moved to the forest, I found it slightly less interesting. The three characters that included Bill Bailey were incredible but also seemingly pointless. If you’ve got the fabulous Bill Bailey playing what appears to be a really amusing character, you might want to do more than hold just two conversations, and then tie him to a pole before teleporting him away. I wanted to see so much more, but instead it was back to the room with the halo and the threat of acid rain.
I didn’t really follow the idea of her having all the forest in her head, and I couldn’t understand how she could see the images of her husband’s plane crashing when it was supposed to be her remembering things to guide them home. This is nitpicking stuff, but it was a good ten minutes or so that I didn’t really care for.
However, it was totally redeemed at the end with the reappearance of Amy Pond. We know the Ponds are leaving, and I am somewhat relieved that will be the case, but even so, for them to always hold a place at the Christmas table in case the Doctor returns is magical. The hugging standoff was inspired, and the Doctor’s happy tears were beautiful.
I can’t wait to see what the next series brings and how we are going to say goodbye to these characters who have gone the entire ride with the current Doctor. What is he going to be like without them?