Doctor Who Children in Need Special 2012
The Doctor Who Children in Need Mini-sodes (as present Doctor Matt Smith calls them) have a mixed history. At their best they are five to ten minutes of joyous funny TV. At their worst they are like a dull Christmas cracker joke. Sadly, the Great Detective fits more into the latter category.
There are good things though. The opening voice-over from Mark Gatiss, although he finishes sounding more like Bill Paterson, is fantastic giving us a sense of atmosphere and character introductions that are a mix of movie trailers and boxers coming into the ring. So we have Madame Vastra, the lizard woman of Paternoster Row, her beautiful assistant Jenny Flitt and their mysterious henchman Strax whose appearance too abominable to be photographed and if you are anything like me you want this to be a TV show all of its own. It would be what Torchwood should have been but with more lesbian lizards and cursed nurses!
But the bubble bursts. As the mysterious man in the shadows approaches (clearly the Doctor in a daft hat) the excitement goes to be replaced by bad Christmas cracker level jokes, daft schemes to get the Doctor to come out of retirement – more on that later!
However, like any box of crackers, one joke does work. After a couple of lame jokes about Earth drills and meter showers, Strax steps forward and claims, “I have declared war on the moon.” Even the music jumps in joy at such a wonderfully daft idea, which like all good jokes, Moffat expands to get at least another two punch lines out of and even closes the episode with one of them. If the line “Damn Moon” doesn’t enter into the public consciousness by New Year I’ll be surprised.
But let’s talk about the biggest problem with The Great Detective. Simply it is the lack of believable tension. I don’t believe anyone actually believes that the Doctor has retired. In fact we know he’ll be back, on Christmas day probably around 7pm. Even Matt (or is he playing the Doctor, you can never tell) and Jenna Louise Coleman (our new companion come Christmas day) in their bit of banter after the episode show how ridiculous this whole concept is. When Matt asks will the Doctor save the day, Jenna answers simply, “Yes.”
Now, before people on start to point out that none of the other mini-sodes have ever had real tension, they haven’t needed it. In fact I believe they work best has character pieces. Banter between characters we know and love. The problem for The Great Detective is that two well love characters (unless you are the editor of TV Jam!) have just left. Therefore Moffat is stuck trying to introduce new characters, a plot and a conclusion all in four minutes and twelve seconds.
So overall The Great Detective is a bad Christmas cracker of a mini-sode. Yes there are smiles but no more than that. Yet will I still watch on Christmas day? Of course, it’s Doctor Who. With Jenna by his side, I fully expect the Doctor to be back to his best. What more could you want from Christmas than man-eating Snowmen, evil Richard E. Grant and plans to invade that damn moon!