My surprise comes from the fact that I was tepid at best about, and actively annoyed at times by, the fifth series. It's the first series of the modern era that I don't yet have (and may not get) on DVD. I was prepared to dislike this episode, but it may be that bracing myself for the worst left me to be pleasantly surprised.
To be honest, as an episode of "Doctor Who", it has a major flaw: The timey-wimey element violates every prior rule established by the show. Well, most of them; it's not as if the show itself is consistent ... but what we saw here goes beyond even the timejinks of the end of Smith's first series. It also contradicts the "he can't ever go exactly where he wants to go!" meme they've pushed sporadically.
It does work nicely, though, when considered alone.
A few other minor complaints: Moffat has written this story before, several times. The poignancy loses its punch when we know that nearly every story he tells is going to have the same dynamic. (Seriously: several people in "Blink"; Mme. Pompadour in GitF; River Song and the Doctor in the Library two-parter as well as across series five; Rory and Amy at the end of series five ... we get it, having one person on the slow path and one not is sad. Can we move along now?)
The paucity of Amy and Rory ... I don't know, it worries me that their absence is associated with the episodes I've liked best. I really hate Moffat's idea of relationship cuteness, though; it's noxious and sexist — and he plays that out in the Amy/Rory dynamic in abundant spades (as well as in Amy's nudge-nudge commentary about the River/Doctor dynamic, in the first part of the series five Weeping Angels two-parter). There just wasn't time for that here, and I liked them well enough; I want to like the characters in general, but "she's emotionally abusive and he's pussy-whipped, hurr-durr!" is not my idea of fun. I hope, hope, hope the new series drops that and lets them be fun.
(Though ... "I somehow accidentally got engaged to Marilyn! And thwarted in my attempt to just run away, I was somehow forced to actually marry her!" Um, ew. Women naturally trap/force men into marriage, LOL! Ew.)
And dude, neither the winter solstice nor Christmas is the middle of winter. The solstice by definition. Oy. (That's leaving aside the implication that "people" throughout all of time and space celebrate Christmas-or-as-good-as. It's not as blatant as the online alarm I saw, but the show is led by that assertion and the mitigating language isn't really enough for me.)
But. They did a lot right here. It was just fun, for starters. The Doctor merrily broke all the rules of timeline management, which made for an entertaining story. They actually used the alien and science-fiction settings to build a story that depended on those elements, reshaping the Christmas story around them, rather than cramming a couple of blinking lights into an otherwise bog-standard Christmas story. That doesn't happen nearly often enough!
The Doctor was zany and bizarre in ways that really worked for me, and boy howdy did he come across as ace, which I always appreciate. (The line encouraging Kazran to kiss Abigail rather than making his mistakes, perhaps not, but that was a funny line.)
I don't know why, with all of time and space at their fingertips, they couldn't cure Abigail (sorry, that's just a gaping plot hole), but I think I like that the otherwise happy story doesn't have a perfectly happy magical-cure ending. I also like that Kazran was willing to let 4003 people die not because he was evil but because he just didn't care; I love that even at his most evil point, he had the saving grace that he was, by deliberate choice, not his physically abusive father.
And young Kazran is determined that a shark is worth saving, even the shark that tried to eat them. I adore them for that.
Hmm. That's more than I thought I thought, but I think that's about it. I will say I'm slightly more enthusiastic about the upcoming season after seeing this episode.
Originally posted at Dreamwidth | Comment | comments