|Source: BBC - Newsround|
The BBC have this week announced the final broadcast time for (and thus the total running time of) this year's Doctor Who Christmas Special. Picking up where Season Eight's final instalment - "Death in Heaven" (more on that in a moment) - left off, the tenth edition in the show's growing ensemble of seasonal romps stars Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Cuban Fury) and Dan Starkey (aka Strax the Sontaran-turned-butler) alongside series regulars Peter Capaldi and (for one last time, if the as-of-yet divided rumour mill is to be believed) Jenna Coleman as the Doctor and Clara Oswald confront extraterrestrial creatures who can bend both dreams and reality to their devious will.
Given that this time of year is a period of goodwill and generosity - something that evidently hasn't occurred to the aforementioned antagonists of the piece, though such is the nature of the Christmas Special's central adversary, we suppose - we've decided to include the entirety of BBC One's prime-time December 24th-25th schedule below for your viewing delight. Before that, however, as we promised via this article's title, it's about time that we provide a brief thought or three on the episode that tail-ended one of our least favourite seasons to date (and yes, we're referring to "Death in Heaven" and Season Eight respectively in this instance). A word of warning - this one isn't for fans who tend to be unwilling to compromise or shift their views on generally beloved episodes of the programme based on differing opinions surrounding said outings.
In contrast to our verdict on the season in question's penultimate chapter, "Dark Water", even after several viewings of "Death", we're still struggling to understand why it's regarded as one of the best season finales to date the world over. Not only does Moffat roll out countless tropes from the show's past here - from overly emotional Cybermen to faked deaths (see Kate and - according to Michelle Gomez - Missy), from deus ex machina resolutions (funny that Danny et al didn't mention his newfound species' ability to cleanse the air by self-destructing before the episode's final moments) to the Doctor's assertion of himself as a mere "idiot" (something which we could have argued to be apparent as far back as Season Five, wherein Matt Smith's incarnation branded himself as a "madman in a box"), they're all here and they're all uncomfortably familiar - he then goes on to make the near-unforgivable error of failing to provide Clara with any kind of closure beyond Danny's inevitable demise, prompting what's all but guaranteed to be another needlessly prolonged farewell sequence in the impending Christmas Special.
As ever, for the most part the perks on offer here outweigh the shortcomings - Rachel Talalay's direction is some of the best we've seen on the show since Steven Moffat took the helm, if not ever, whilst Capaldi, Coleman and particularly Gomez stole the show with their constantly emotionally stirring performances and Moffat's inclusion of the Brigadier was a much-appreciated (if somewhat convoluted) touch - but bearing in mind that Season Eight arguably ranks as this reviewer's least-favourite (or second-least - it's a toss up between this and Season Two, which contained memorably woeful romps such as "The Idiot's Lantern", "Love and Monsters" and (shudders) "Fear Her"), it's nothing short of a tragedy that after "Dark Water" set up its successor to be one of the sci-fi drama's most accomplished outings to date, instead the series went out with a relatively triumphant bang rather than one which signified a new era of critical prosperity for the Whoniverse. It would take an absolute train-wreck of a season to put us off returning for further adventures in time and space with the world's most beloved Time Lord, naturally, although it's simultaneously difficult for us to deny that - despite "Death in Heaven" narrowly earning a 4* score from us - Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, House of Cards and the like are running circles around the decade-old revived version of the Beeb's longest-running drama nowadays.
Now, let's get onto the main event - this, unless we're sorely mistaken, is the full line-up of seasonal programmes scheduled to air on Christmas Eve and the big day itself via BBC One (and as always, our personal highlights are marked in yellow)...
CHRISTMAS EVE (WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 24TH)
- 6.25pm - Toy Story 3
- 8pm - Eastenders
- 8.30pm - The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm
- 9.30pm - Not Going Out
- 10.15pm - The Vicar of Dibley
- 10.55pm - Mrs Brown's Boys
CHRISTMAS DAY (THURSDAY, DECEMBER 25TH)
- 3.10pm - Puss in Boots
- 5pm - Strictly Come Dancing
- 6.15pm - Doctor Who
- 7.15pm - Miranda
- 7.50pm - Call the Midwife
- 9pm - Eastenders
- 10.05pm - Mrs Brown's Boys
In case it wasn't already obvious from the schedule above, the 2014 Doctor Who Christmas Special, "Last Christmas", will première on BBC One at 6.15pm on Christmas Day and on BBC America at 9/8c.