I got the most embarrassing Christmas present ever yesterday – a life-size Ten cutout. Frankly, at my age I’m rather too old for that sort of thing, or for my husband and kids sneering behind their fingers that I’ve been outed as a fangirl. It’s frankly a bit creepy to have Ten’s sad eyes following you everywhere, the printing has a greenish tinge and Ten in his latter days was a bit of a party pooper. We tried everything – fairy lights, paper hat, Chrimbo spectacles, but he went on looking sorry for himself so in the end we shoved him in a corner and got on with lunch without him (Although my daughter did kindly leave him with her new Rose bubble bath).
Mostly the day was a telly marathon culminating in the DW special. This I had mixed feelings about.
Mostly, I liked it. The story seemed a bit too complicated, which often happens with Stephen Moffatt. Gambon stole the show and Matt Smith seemed much more comfortable with the role, though still a little prone to gabble his lines. There were times, particularly in Young Karzan’s bedroom, where I couldn’t easily work out what was going on. Abigail Pettigrew was as Dickenisan as her name – Dickens could never write convincingly about virtuous women. He always idealised them and reduced them to pale, syrupy ciphers. Frankly I found Abigail irritating, and she looked awfully lively from someone doomed to expire within days (How could they be so specific about her lifespan, anyway, yet lack the technology to cure her?) Within the limitations of the role, KJ did very well and sang beautifully to boot.
I thought the fish were cute, if rather confusing at times (Did anybody else warble, "I wonder where that fish did go?" at a certain point?) Loved the way the tiddlers circled around the Narnia-style lamp. And I liked the overall aesthetic, the steampunk (a little obvious, maybe?) and the swirly skies. Having seen the new Harry Potter movie the previous night, I was a little bit over the subdued colour palette, but I did like Karzan’s lair with its gothic Victorian machine and round windows. But, having watched "Back to the Future" and "Mad Men" previously did rather draw attention to the limitations of the BBC budget concerning design. Not quite cardboard sets like the old days, but a lot of very familiar tricks with camera angles and CGI.
Is it churlish to complain about the plot? It did seem more complicated than it had to be. Doesn’t help that Smith still has a tendency to mumble the ends of his lines. Is it just poor sound mixing or could they get him to speak up a bit? I’m getting used to him now but it was strange that, just at that point, he got a script that sounded like pure Ten in places? (Loved the crack about the psychic paper, though!)
I do feel that the DW universe will eventually implode under the pressure of its own continuity issues – I suppose Moffatt can argue with some justification that this is after a total reset, but it was hard to resist the temptation to cry, "Blinovitch effect!" when old Karzan embraced his younger self. None of that, "Don’t touch the baby, Rose!" stuff here. And is it okay now for the Doctor to completely rewrite a powerful person’s timeline? It must be rather irritating to old Karzan that despite ruling an entire planet he’s a mere minnow in the overall scheme of things compared to Bowie Base One.
But what the heck? There were flying sharks! And Eleven in a Stetson! And Christmas – and nobody died, at least not on screen (Because I like to think that any technology that could be so precise about Abigail’s life span could figure out how to make her well again. One can’t help thinking that being repeatedly thawed and refrozen can’t have done her any favours, but I’m probably letting my recent experiences of going outside in sub-zero temperatures influence me unduly.
I do feel that Matt Smith has grown into his characterisation now and no longer fears the onslaught of frenzied, grieving, Tennant fans. He even managed to pull off a little subtlety and a hint that he remembered his previous life. Was it just me, or did anyone else feel that his enigmatic last words, "Halfway out of the dark," referred to his own recovery as well as the season of the year?