Who, who, who! Merry Christmas!
Well, that was a feel-good little slice of schmaltz. It was a hugely silly storyline and lacked some of the punch of other episodes in this series; however, there were some very funny moments and somehow, between them, Matt Smith and Claire Skinner carried the show along so well that it was only afterwards that you noticed its failings.
Claire Skinner was marvellous as Madge Arwell, mother hen extraordinaire, and had a wonderful rapport with Matt Smith’s Doctor/Caretaker despite the fact that after meeting him a few years before the main storyline, when he fell out of the sky in a back-to-front space suit, she supposedly didn’t recognise him for most of the episode. She also got some fantastic one-liners, of which my favourite has to be the classic, on entering the building from a rain of acid, “Don’t go outside, the rain is frightful!”
The Christmas tree forest was a nice idea and provided some great visuals with the stars on top of the trees. The creepy, growing baubles looked great too, but were a bit puzzling in that they only seemed to need one or two tree people to deal with any humans who came to the tower (one with the crown/relay and one to sit in the downstairs throne and look menacing), and yet they kept popping out after one had been hatched. Furthermore, if they only hatch when a human picks a bauble/egg, how did the female one at the top of the tower appear? Was she just grown as part of the highly inorganic-looking ‘tree tower’, and if so why bother with the baubles at all?
My other issues are as follows: how did the forest get out of Madge’s head and out among the stars if they were in the time vortex and they needed her to travel? And what happened to Anderson (who was in a bad way) when the plane arrived on Christmas morning? No one seemed to remember him – indeed, the co-pilot seemed to have disappeared as well. Clearly it was a very strange night, but you would think that Reg would be at least a little bit concerned for his fellow crew-members.
I enjoyed the interlude with the ‘harvesters’, but felt that more could have been done with them. I mean, Bill Bailey is a funny man and he didn’t have that much to do or say. While I loved the wool/sidearms confusion, the whole incident felt almost like something that had been added on as an afterthought or an excuse, that is only developed as far as necessary to advance the plot. Surely, if you have Bill Bailey in the show, you use his talents! I think even the tree statues had more to do and their acting was really wooden (ho ho ho!).
Anyway, on that note I had better conclude before you desert me on account of my horrible puns. Put it down to one too many Christmas crackers yesterday. While I’ve pointed out various peculiarities or failings in the story, it was an enjoyable episode, with great leads and a wonderful ending – the Doctor goes back to see Amy and Rory to tell them he isn’t dead, only to find that they’ve already laid a place for him at Christmas dinner as they always do. Cue happy tears. So, overall you’re left with a warm, fuzzy feeling, which is basically what you’re looking for out of a Christmas special, really.