Christmas Day TV: Doctor Who; EastEnders; Coronation Street
Here’s a bit of seasonal sacrilege: Doctor Who (BBC One) sucks.
The Christmas special amounted to a delirious tribute to The Poseidon
Adventure. It featured, in no particular order, Kylie Minogue, monsters,
explosions, a threat to destroy Earth, references to Titanic (both
the real-life disaster and the film) and The Apprentice and murderous
angels. It was boring, despite the endless dashing about and CGI flimflam. Doctor
Who thinks it can do no wrong. Yesterday evening, it did.
The show began on what looked like the Titanic. It wasn’t. It was a
space liner whose passengers were paying for “primary cultural experiences”
of Earth. The thing was, no one from the planet knew why the Titanic was
embedded in cultural history, so while they dressed the part – flapper
dresses, the best spats – they didn’t know the ill-starred omen that the
name conjured. A lunatic called Max Capricorn owned the ship and wanted to
crash it into Earth to avenge himself on some former business colleagues.
But the Doctor saved the Titanic and the Earth – of course he did –
and in a weird sequence seemed to attain Christlike status by being raised
aloft by angels.
The Christmas special was geared, sensitively, to the mood of the audience. If
you were beached after Christmas lunch, buried under Quality Street and
swimming in Bailey’s, watching through a fug of dismembered Transformers and
children secretly necking vodka shots, then the writer Russell T. Davies
provided a big bang roughly every three minutes. Kylie was fine, but rather
like Doctor Who, this capped off a year for her where the nation’s
love and adulation has reached a kind of unmerited zenith – the truth is her
new songs aren’t that great and the ridiculous film White Diamond,
far from being a revealing portrait as advertised, was a delirious,
uncritical bit of gush-ography.
Here, as the gutsy Titanic waitress Astrid, she looked older, and her
breathy delivery reminded me of early Charlene-falls-for-Scott, so much so
that I thought she might tell the Doctor to “rack off”. The Doctor led some
survivors (fat couple, little alien, self-interested bastard and the best
character here, a sweet man called Mr Copper, played by Clive Swift) through
the bashed-up craft. David Tennant did his cheeky-chappy thing, explaining
complicated sci-fi stuff as if he was ordering a bag of chips – this shtick
is becoming charmless rather than charming.
In the end, Kylie-love got way out of control. Astrid sacrificed herself for
the good of the world, the Doctor howled and Astrid was transformed into
myriad pretty blue stars. “She’s stardust,” said the Doctor breathily.
Can he get over his nonviolence thing, dump that sonic screwdriver, which he
is way too overreliant on, and just beat the crap out of the next villainous
monster to cross his path? This would be quite out of character, but it may
raise the show out of the torpor it has fallen into. Every week it seems to
be a variation of: Doctor pitches up at planet or historical period. Bish,
bash, monster, bosh, speech about love, thinly veiled gay references, kissy
kissy, bish, bosh, more explosions, back to the Tardis, Doctor regrets woman
he loves dying/ leaving him, Doctor doubts himself, his mission, then
gathers himself, bish, bash, bosh, Tardis zooms away.
Doctor Who is now a national treasure of which no ill must be spoken,
but for me the show and character has become lazy, predictable and
indulgent; as evidenced in that ridiculous “I’m the Timelord, I’m 903 years
old” rallying speech last night. The imminent arrival of Catherine Tate as
the Doctor’s new assistant will hopefully undercut the self-love sinking the
The great battle of the Christmas Day soaps ended with a resounding victory
for EastEnders (BBC One), just for playing out so deliciously the DVD
revelation of Max’s affair with Stacey. On Coronation Street (ITV1),
teacher John’s affair with Rosie Webster led to a kicking from Kevin Webster
and not much else. For the first time in years, the Street looks shaky and EastEnders
If EastEnders’ Tanya survives her fall down the stairs can the
scriptwriters do a really twisted storyline where she suffers an unseen
brain injury, undergoes a shocking personality change and ends up Albert
Square’s newest gangland boss with Sean Slater as her bitch? It’s only a
thought, but, as you can see, it’s quite evolved.
Out of the box
— An interesting thought from a colleague: could the Doctor, in managing not
to crash the Titanic into Buckingham Palace earning a “Thank you
Doctor” from the Queen be an oblique attempt by the BBC to draw a line under
its own troubled relationship with the Palace this year after the Annie
Leibovitz/walkout row? It wouldn’t have looked good to have Buck Pal going
up in smoke on Christmas Day.
— Sorry, there were no preview discs made available for a review of last
night’s much-anticipated revival, To the Manor Born. Early
clips did not look hopeful – one lame gag featured hoity-toity Audrey
getting shirty with modern telecommunications – but let us know how you