Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Special Double Review

Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe

I haven't liked a Doctor Who Christmas special since David Tennant's first episode. All of the other specials have been boring forgettable affairs. Moffat's first Christmas special was interesting if only for its aggressive disregard of principles of time travel set before in the show. This particular Christmas special is noteworthy for the revelation that the Doctor is apparently immune to the cold vacuum of space.

The Doctor is blowing up some shit on a spaceship and gets blasted out of it, landing on Earth just before the War. He survives somehow and makes a friend in some lady. Then, years later, the lady's husband is dead in the war, and she is left with two kids. They go to a house where the Doctor has conveniently set himself up as the caretaker. He has a present for the kids, which is a gateway to the future, to a planet made up of a sentient forest. When the kids get there, Bill Bailey shows up for a scene and explains that the forest is scheduled for an acid-rain scorching. Then the trees talk through a character, a typically Moffat device and then timey-wimey happy ending because it's Christmas.

20 minutes of story stretched out for 59 minutes. That's it. This was the worst Christmas special since the one with the Titanic. Maybe even worse than the one with the runaway bride (which I only remember with fondness because the Doctor goes apeshit in it). The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe was boring. One entire third of the special was the various character wandering in the forest, the same set, I might add, but time displaced. In typical classic Who fashion, one episode out of four was simply pushing the characters from one corridor to the next. The son is chasing a bizarre creature, the daughter and the Doctor are chasing the son, and the mother is chasing them both, only to be thwarted by Bill Bailey, who is criminally underused. His scene, along with his henchmen, is easily the funniest thing Moffat has written in years. Funnier than the Cybermen episode that everybody hated (but I liked).

There's a fairly large plot hole in this special, in regards to the creature that the son is chasing. Upon finishing it, I realized that something didn't make sense, and I'm not talking about Moffat's twisting of the time stream in order to provide a happy ending.

So to recap, this was aggressively boring, illogical, and only memorable for its bravura opening and Bill Bailey's scene-stealing. The worst Doctor Who episode I've seen in a long time. Which is a shame, because I've loved Moffat's direction so far. Matt Smith does a tremendous job in this episode, as well, showing how deft he is as a comic actor, not just a scary Doctor.

And to make matters worse, there's no a single frame of teasing for series seven!

Downton Abbey

Remember when I said I was going to give the Christmas special a try and if it was as stupid as the second series I was going to quit? Well, it was even more stupid than I could possibly imagine. Contrived, manipulative, dumb, superficial and totally contrived.

What cousin Matthew proclaims at the end of the second series is quickly and stupidly overturned in favour for plot twisting. What happens to Bates is quickly overturned because it's Christmas and this is what happens on soap operas. Rosamund's story in the Christmas special is so imminently forgettable that I can hardly remember the name of the other character she's involved with. The plot with the second cook and her dead husband that she didn't love is stretched out further and further and further, with seemingly no end in sight. All sorts of things happen, but none of it has any consequence. It's simply the plot twisted for the sake of a Christmas special.

And it was boring. Why was everything boring this Christmas? You know what was an especially good "special" even though it was a theatrical movie? The Inbetweeners Movie! Not only was the comedy fucking hilarious, but the drama was organic as it came from the characters and not from the plot (although there were a few instances of the plot twisted for convenience's sake). Not like Downton Abbey's stupid soapy special. This was awful. Awful, awful, awful, awful. I hated it more than the Doctor Who special. I can't think of anything positive to say about this episode, and normally I can.

In fact, I can even mention something that I hated more than anything. Lady Sybil, the really hot sister, doesn't make an appearance, despite her story being the most interesting. Fuck this show.

And yet I know I will watch the third series.

By the way, who the fuck is going to watch an ITV miniseries of the Titanic? Even if it's written by Julian Fellowes? The special effects are going to look campy in comparison to a thirteen year old movie that will no doubt produce a significant influence on the plot of Fellowes' script. What motivated ITV to produce this? Why didn't they do one of the Lusitania? Oh well. Sherlock starts on Jan 1 and I will be watching that with a big smile on my face.

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