Monday, December 26, 2011

REVIEW: 2011 Christmas Specials Doctor Who/ Absolutely Fabulous

Doctor Who - The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe 

In the latest Christmas Special, the Doctor crashes into Earth after escaping from an exploding spaceship. Madge Arwell happens to be nearby when she hears the crash and goes to investigate. It turns out the Doctor has landed during Christmas in 1938. After Madge asks if she'll see the stranger again, the Doctor answers to just make a wish. Three years later, when she finds out her husband, a bomber plane pilot, died during an attack, she does just that.

Because of evacuations Madge and her two children have to move and it just so happens that the caretaker is none other than our favourite Timelord. He does his best eccentric uncle act, decorating the house with all sorts of wonderful and crazy toys and ornaments and leaving a massive present under one of the coolest Christmas trees ever. Already intrigued, when Madge's young son Cyril goes down to check out the gift at night, he can't resist opening it when it starts glowing. What he finds inside can only be described as a magical winter wonderland. When the Doctor and Cyril's older sister Lily realize the boy has gone into the world, they follow him, only to find out that the world the Doctor assumed was harmless has a bit more up it's sleeve than snowy Christmas trees. Often in the Christmas specials, Doctor Who seems to go for homages to great, classic writers. Last year it was Charles Dickens, this year there were nods to C.S. Lewis' ever popular "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe".

"The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" was very cheesy and predictable. From the start it was clear they were going for heartstring-tugging fare and not what a lot of fans prefer, an action packed, alien-of-the-week story. I don't always think the CGI in Doctor Who looks that good, I don't generally enjoy watching stories full of computer effects anyway but I thought the show looked really good, the decorations, the winter world, even the special effects were a feast for the eyes. Although I do wonder how the Doctor always manages to get hold of all this stuff, but I guess the answer would simply be "timetravel". Another thing I wondered was what happened to the other guys on Reg Arwells airplane, we don't see them when he gets out to meet his wife and there's no mention of them whatsoever. Maybe because it was a Christmas special I'm more inclined to ignore these little details the show often fails to explain.

The story was sappy and I could see every plot twist coming for miles, but I did like that it had the feel of an old-fashioned Christmas story. There was not really any good or bad, just someone in trouble, a heroine and warm fuzzy feelings. Even though I felt like a sucker for tearing up at the sad bits, it did do just that. Even though I'm sure it wasn't many peoples favorite episode (neither did it come close to any of mine) I liked it. There's nothing wrong with a bit of sentimental, easily digestible fluff for Christmas day and I don't think it pretended to be much more than that.

Absolutely Fabulous - Identity

For something else entirely, there was the much anticipated Christmas special of Absolutely Fabulous. Six years since the show ended, the first episode of a new three-part series aired on Christmas day. Now, I have to say, I've not seen all of the previous series so it came as a bit of a surprise to see that Saffy had been in prison. Upon her release she asks Edina if one of her prison friends can stay with them for a while. It turns out that the girl coming to stay was Patsy's drug dealer and that Patsy still owes her a fortune. While they get the money together, Saffy gets put into the akward and uncomfortable situation of the drug dealers "wifey", a role she's not willing to fulfill much to Eddie's disappointment.

It was great to be able to see a new episode as it aired. I only really became a fan of the show recently, so it doesn't feel like they have been away for six years to me, but I couldn't really tell a difference in quality. All the regulars where there, the jokes were spot-on and even though they have all aged (apart from June Whitfield, strangely) the dynamic between the characters were exactly the same. Despite clearly deliberate references to trends that acknowledge the six-year gap, it just felt like it all fit. I liked the story a lot, it was fun to see Patsy give Saffy some credit for being "top dog" in prison, Saffy's drug dealer friend was appropriately arrogant and threatening, the scenes about Patsy trying to get her pension were really funny, especially the girl looking up her details had some wonderful lines and ofcourse the always eye-catchingly dressed Bubble had plenty of scene-stealing moments.The whole episode had that slightly uncomfortable but hilarious mood that makes Absolutely Fabulous such a great show. You could tell everyone involved was excited to do new episodes, it was very lively and vibrant. I'm very much looking forward to the next episode on New Year's day.

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