Looks like the world didn't end last week, which was good news I suppose since it at least gave us a 4-day weekend to celebrate Christmas. I spent it with family for the most part so I actually didn't get to see or catch up on as many TV shows and movies that I had wanted to watch. And yet I still got to see the Christmas specials for Doctor Who and Downton Abbey. The first acts as a premiere of sorts while the latter acts as a proper finale for the show's third season. Below are my brief thoughts, but since Downton Abbey S3 hasn't aired in the states, only my Doctor Who thoughts are spoilery.
The show's ability to reinvent and reboot itself every few years is why this show has lasted as long as it has and this particular Christmas episode speaks to that ability. Last we met up with the Doctor, he has yet again lost his friends and his world is full of doom and gloom. Matt Smith is great when he plays charismatic and quirky, but he's just brilliant with the darker, moodier stuff (probably better than David Tennant actually). But we can't have a show where the main character is wallowing in his melancholy and living literally up in the clouds. Enter the Doctor's friends in the form of Madame Vastra, her wife Jenny, and the hilarious Strax as well as "new" companion Clara played with a breath of fresh air by Jenna Louise-Coleman whose performance here only confirmed my love for her during her surprise appearance in the season's premiere. If there's one thing this show gets absolutely right, it's casting the Doctor's companions. All four slowly, but surely gets the Doctor back to his old ways with the help of an intriguing case of sentient snow and a frozen Pond. Speaking of the latter, the one-word test between Vastra and Clara was just a spectacular scene giving you more info on Clara as well as giving fans of Amy and Rory an unexpected gut check. All of this is to say this was probably my favorite Matt Smith Doctor Who Christmas episode considering they also needed to do a lot in the episode (re-introduce Coleman's character, touch on Amy/Rory's departure, re-invigorate the Doctor, get us to love Vastra/Jenny/Strax more than we already do, and finally tell a good, solid story). I am slightly mixed with the ending with regards to Clara's "impossibleness." Obviously there's something off about her as we first met her as a Dalek and now here she is again as an 18th century barmaid/governess. I'm certainly intrigued by the Doctor's investigation of this, but is Moffat stretching himself too thin again by being just a little too clever? And I really was looking forward for a non-modern person traveling with the Doctor, but the previews says it isn't so. In any case... new companion, new opening, new TARDIS interior... there's enough new here for me to get excited about for next year. A-
This past season was better than last season, which doesn't mean it was flawless. The Bates-in-prison storyline still dragged for far too long and a few other characters made questionable choices that seemed more to create drama for the show than something actually organically coming from the character. There was also a big chunk of the season where every episode something heartbreaking happened and while it provided great emotional moments, it was also difficult to "enjoy" in a sense. But it wouldn't be so emotionally harrowing if I didn't care about the characters so they're doing something all right. With that said, I was glad that most of the Christmas special was quite uneventful. Not to say that nothing happened, but for the most part, it felt like watching these characters spend a fairly routine few days in their lives, which I actually found pleasant in its normalcy. The episode itself felt a bit scattered as the main bulk of the family spent it off in the Highlands, away from Downton (a nice change of pace actually), while the servants and a couple other characters were left to their own devices back at home. Of course, the real drama happens towards the end capping off a season that felt more emotionally brutal than the previous one which mostly took place during the war. Can any of these characters get a break? I mean seriously. B+
And now back to real life... ugh, do I have to?