Monday, December 20, 2010

The Doctor Who Christmas Special

An Spailpín Fánach is unlikely to be alone in considering the Doctor Who Christmas Special a Christmas TV highlight. But to really understand the appeal of the long-running TV show, it’s more instructive to look back to the summer, when the Doctor Who Prom was held in the Albert Hall.

The wonderful thing about Doctor Who Prom is that music from the TV series can be used as a way of introducing children to orchestral, actual, music, as opposed to the unspeakable X-Factor and its vile spawn. But this summer, there was an extra twist at the Royal Albert Hall: they brought along monsters from the TV show.

Highlights from the Prom were broadcast in September and it was wonderful to see the reaction of the kids as the monsters suddenly clanked, glided and slithered down the stars, as appropriate.

The ideal audience for Doctor Who are not internet saddos. They are children, from about age seven to eleven, and those lucky souls who remember what it was like to be that age.

The great thing about being aged between seven and eleven is that you’re old enough to tell the difference between a grocer and a goblin, but you’re still innocent enough to believe that there are such things as goblins and spooks and weirdies in the first place.

And even though you know there really aren’t any monsters under the bed and the creaking in the house is just the wind – well, maybe it isn’t. Maybe this time it really is the sound the advance craft of Admiral Zozo and his Martian fleet landing in the garden, and it’s now down to you to save the Earth. Maybe. You never can tell, and there’s no point in taking a chance when the future of the entire planet is in danger.

And that duality, between having being told by your parents that there are no such things as Daleks or Cybermen or Venetian vampires, and then actually those crazy chicks in the white dresses gliding down the stairs in the Royal Albert Hall with those gobs full of pointy teeth – well, I don’t know about you adults, but I’m going to keep my two eyes on them and I advise you against making any sudden movements, or else it could be curtains for the lot of us.

And that’s the joy of Doctor Who. People who should know better have tried to load the show up with a lot of sturm und drang but it’s all my hat. If you want Schopenhauer, read Schopenhauer. Leave fighting the Death Lizards of Megalon 7 to the professionals.

This is something that the current Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat understands absolutely. He’s said that he decides on what goes on the show according to whether or not he thinks it’ll scare the bejabbers out of his kids. Once it does, it stays in the show. How perfect.

The Doctor Who Christmas episodes have been a mixed bag since they were introduced for David Tennant’s debut, with Tennant’s exit and the Kylie one being particularly weak. This year’s seems rather similar to a story by Chas. Dickens in its inspiration, but no matter. It’ll be wonderful for an hour. Christmas is a good time for Doctor Who. Who is Santa after all, but another traveller in time and space? Just like a Time Lord, in fact. Oh hold on ...