Doctor Who: Christmas and the Companion

Note: while there are no series spoilers, this is a discussion of the Christmas Special and will certainly spoil that episode if you haven’t seen it.

I may still be having a sugar hangover from my made-from-scratch cinnamon rolls; nonetheless, we need to discuss Christmas.  Not the presents or the weather – the Doctor Who special, of course!  And particularly, the brand-new (or not-so-new) companion, Clara.  First, a bit about the special as a whole:

More Scrooge McDuck

I’ll be honest: I was a little wary when I first saw the webisode leading up to the special.  The Doctor is established as someone who’s turned his back on the misfortune of others; Victorian morals, indeed.  The trouble is, this sort of thing has been done before; the Christmas Carol story, obviously, but even the emo Doctor brooding after the loss of a companion.  I didn’t want to take this Doctor down that same path again (really, I felt it was kind of lame last time).  And besides, that’s not really who this Doctor is.  Dark side, maybe.  Pouting about it, lashing out at others?  No.

Thankfully, it was obvious from the first few minutes of the special that we weren’t really going to go down the Angsty Doctor route.  He may have sworn off “investigating,” but it’s obvious it’s just a matter of time.  The tone is established quite quickly, bantering with Strax with a bit of slapstick.  However, while I love Matt Smith’s fun, sharp delivery, my very favorite moments are always the quieter ones, and this episode is no exception: witness the sad fondness and longing on his face when, in his first encounter with Clara, he says “Those were the days.”

So it’s obvious this is not going to be a “Doctor Scrooge” story.  Or, at least, that won’t be the main point.  We’re just establishing the fact that this isn’t some rebound companion; time has passed.  How much time, exactly, we can’t say, especially since the TARDIS has had a makeover – and the last season has been playing fast and loose with the passage of time.  The Doctor is now apparently rounding off his age at 1000, and he can stick with that approximation for quite some time.

Clarity Obscured

Then we have Clara.  Now, it is possible to be a Doctor Who fan and not know that the new companion was going to be Jenna-Louise Coleman, last seen making eggs-sterminate souffles inside a Dalek.  I, however, was not one of those people, and I’ve driven myself mad over the last few months trying not to spoil myself but wondering what they were going to do with this actress.  Would her name really be Clara?  Would she be the same character, or would she pull a Martha, Amy, Gwen and Sixth Doctor and just mysteriously be a doppelganger for some previously-seen role?

Now we’ve reached the end of the episode and we still don’t know precisely what is going on, but we know there is something going on.  And as a girl who loves a mystery, I’m all for it.

Every time we’ve seen the Clara/Oswin character she’s been full of surprises.  Last time we had the Dalek reveal; this time we discovered she’s a barmaid with a secret double life as a proper governess.  Even this was a bit of a twist; I found myself wondering if we’d have to go through the next few years with this new accent (haunting memories of Rose Tyler) and then she’s revealed to be a governess!  Oh no, but wait, her true self is the barmaid, so maybe she’ll slip back to this when she’s being herself.  Hrm.  Nope, it’s okay, this version’s been killed off!  Hooray!

Wait… killed off again?  Who does she think she is, Rory Williams?

Honestly, I do hope that this will have been the only two deaths we see from Clara – I fear over time, the Groundhog Day-esque “starting over” will feel like the same River Song story in a slightly different guise.  Hopefully that route will be avoided as we delve into the mystery of exactly who – or what – Clara is.

As far as Clara the person, I’m quite liking her.  Yes, she’s mouthy and clever, but not in the same way Amy Pond was.  She’s a touch brighter than most of the companions, which is always nice, because while many companions over time have fallen into the wide-eyed “explain this to me, Doctor!” role, they certainly haven’t all done so.  And yet, she certainly has the wide eyes that fill the screen.  Oh, and she’s short!  As someone who shops petite sizes and would certainly have required an umbrella, this is met with approval.

A Lot’s Changed Since You Last Saw Me

Let’s talk about the other changes we saw in the episode, shall we?  First and foremost, the new opener with the new musical arrangement.  Personally I love it; the theme keeps getting more and more layered and moving “forward,” while visually there are more than a few callbacks to Classic Who: the use of Matt Smith’s face, the font… just loving it, and it feels like a perfect build-up to the 50th Anniversary.

The new TARDIS: it’s always exciting to see a new look for the TARDIS, but I admit I was particularly fond of the last Matt Smith-glassy-version.  Still, maybe they felt the need to change it due to demands of the show, or maybe because the general color scheme was very similar (brighter and warmer, but still similar) to the “coral” TARDIS of the 9th and 10th Doctors.  I’m liking the new version in that it feels more alien.  The spiral staircase made me think of the 8th Doctor, but I think the staircase only matched the aesthetic of the episode and will be taken away in favor of something… safer.  I suggest a bouncy inflatable slide.  Or a flume ride.

Also, I admit, my first thought was whether or not they’d be altering the TARDIS portion of the Doctor Who Experience.  Or that the now-defunct glassy TARDIS should headline its own Doctor Who Experience US tour.  Just sayin’.

As far as the actual storyline of the Christmas Special, the snowmen and ice creatures and whatnot?  Eh, the snowmen looked great, and Ian McKellen’s voice is always amazing, but as a stand-alone thing it wasn’t amazing.  But let’s be honest: the real story in this episode was not about the monster.  And in terms of the real story, I think it was a slam-dunk.

What about you?  What did you think about the Christmas Special?  How do you like the new companion, TARDIS, opening sequence, music… hat?  

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