REVIEW: Doctor Who was a five star Christmas cracker

Richard E Grant and Matt Smith starred in this year's Doctor Who Christmas special Adrian Rogers/BBC/PA Wire
Richard E Grant and Matt Smith starred in this year's Doctor Who Christmas special Adrian Rogers/BBC/PA Wire

Our resident Whovian Darren Sykes gives us his lowdown of this year’s Christmas special, The Snowmen by Steven Moffatt...

Doctor Who returned to our screens this Christmas, but whilst the episode was a cracker, the Time Lord was not full of festive fun.

After the catastrophic events of The Angels Take Manhattan left him without his travelling companions - Amy and Rory - The Doctor had become a festive figure of a rather different kind.

Living a lonely life, disinterested in the rest of the word and wearing his crumpled stovepipe hat, The Doctor bore more than a passing resemblance to Ebeneezer Scrooge.

However, rather than another retelling of the Dickens classic, which Steven Moffatt tried a couple of years ago, the episode revolved around the Time Lord finding his mojo via his company of friends.

Meanwhile his nemesis in the story, Dr Simeon (played chillingly by Richard E. Grant), was plotting to bring about the end of human kind via his alliance with an alien power.

The concept of taking something mundane and making it menacing is a tried and tested format in Doctor Who.

Therefore what could be more Christmassy than snow? Give it the Steven Moffatt treatment and suddenly it becomes malevolent snowmen with big sharp teeth that can spring up anywhere the snow exists.

The characters of Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax all make a welcome return in this episode, having appeared previously in the episode A Good Man Goes to War.

Of the three, the standout character was Strax, the potato-headed Sontaran, bringing some comedic relief when the Doctor was at his darkest. His interactions with the Time Lord were some of the most humorous moments.

Of course this episode also saw the re-introduction of Jenna-Louise Coleman’s character - who we now know is called Clara. In just her first couple of outings, her performance has really stood out, with her breathless enthusiasm and winning smile she seems set to become a great foil to Matt Smith’s Doctor.

My only slight concerns are the ongoing mysteries surrounding her character. We still don’t know exactly who see is? And how can she be both alive and have die in both this episode and the future’s Asylum of the Dalek?

Arguably too many storylines revolved around the Doctor’s former companion Amy Pond. Surely a companion should be there to serve the story; not become it?

However, these mysteries proved the final catalyst for the Doctor, snapping him out of his morose mood and by the end of the episode he was setting off in the new-look TARDIS for answers.

The big reveal at the end of the episode, as the Doctor finally realises the alien force controlling Dr Simeon and the snowmen is the Great Intelligence, was a nice touch.

Long-time fans of the series will know that this was the force behind the Yeti whom the Patrick Troughton’s Doctor did battle against in the 1960s.

Alternatively, if you didn’t know this: it didn’t really matter. In my mind the perfect way to incorporate the show’s past.

So, we set forth on Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary on a strong note.

A re-energised Doctor, a fresh feisty companion, a new TARDIS and a re-working of the opening titles (with the Doctor’s face added to these, another nod to the past).

In all honesty, I would rate this episode as the best of the Christmas fayre served up since the show’s return. The autumn’s run of episodes managed to avoided any turkeys and the preview of the new episodes to come in the spring showed there are still plenty of nice shiny presents to unwrap.

Rating: 5/5

Doctor Who returns in the Spring.