01/03/2011. Contributed by Sue Davies
pub: Big Finish. 1 CD 60 minute story. Price: CD: GBP 10.99 (UK), Download: GBP 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84435-481-8) cast: Paul McGann, Carole Ann Ford, Sheridan Smith and Jake McGann.
check out web site www.BigFinish.com
If family means Christmas then the Eighth Doctor could have plenty to call on. He owes Lucie (Sheridan Smith) a Christmas after the spectacular fall-out over Auntie Pat last year and the resulting parting of the ways. But Lucie is perturbed and perhaps a little bit jealous that the Doctor (Paul McGann) actually wants to include his real blood relatives for a Christmas in the TARDIS. He has a strong desire to see granddaughter Susan (Carole Ann Ford) and her son, Alex (Jake McGann) after his previous reunion with them in ‘An Earthly Child’.
With childish delight and wonder, the Doctor plans his Christmas which includes shopping in the January sales for next year’s presents. There is none of that tedious hiding everything for eleven months and then losing it as they simply make it Christmas by moving the TARDIS. There will be food, too, but that’s Lucie’s area of expertise. Along with the touching reunion, there will also be a hidden agenda and an annoying alien. Christmas and family is never straightforward.
This is a Christmas Special by any other name and, although a light-hearted poke at traditional gatherings, it manages to address some of the family issues that always manage to make Christmas so full of tensions. Everyone has expectations about what makes a good Christmas and Susan is struggling with Alex since the events in ‘An Earthly Child’. There is the inevitable stress of putting several generations together and forcing them to eat turkey. With great age comes wisdom or perhaps the Doctor only thinks that as things contrive to go spectacularly wrong as only family events can. There is a reason why people drink so much at Christmas.
This is also a pivotal episode as it sets up the next set of events that will culminate in the final three episodes. I found some of it irritating especially as the danger to the inhabitants of the TARDIS is nothing to do with the alien presence; it really is a red herring in this case. That aside the vibrant relationship of Lucie and the Doctor is always fascinating. The companions make the Doctor part of the cosmos and he struggles with his role as mentor and friend all the time. His great plan in this episode is shambolic and he is thwarted by the very human desires that his ‘family’ put in front of him. This is essentially a filler episode for what is to come but it is still memorable for daring to move the story of Susan on which is something not addressed in the TV series. I like the way the original companions can be brought in to a later incarnations of the Doctor showing the persistence of feelings through his different bodies. It continues to breathe life into the character and provoke discussion about the nature of his existence, something deeper that the TV Doctor can ever explore. Who knows perhaps Riversong is Susan’s Grandma? There’s a thought.
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