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Why the Doctor Who Christmas Prequel Disappoints

There’s only one thing wrong with the “prequel” for this year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special; it relies too much on false jeopardy, and seems entirely throwaway as a result. Admit it, you thought I was going to complain about it running less than two minutes, didn’t you?

For what’s essentially ninety seconds of tease for “The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe,” there’s still a lot to like about the prequel; Matt Smith’s performance is just right, managing to get over the panic and detachment of the Doctor that’s implicit in Steven Moffat’s fun script (Maybe it’s because I like the idea of the essentially kind, humanistic Doctor so much, but I love the idea that the Doctor just wants a chat before getting blown up). But, at the same time… the ending, described by the BBC as “jaw dropping”? That was a bum note, and one that should’ve been incredibly obvious for all involved.

Here’s the thing: The Doctor clearly isn’t dead, and not just because this is a prequel to an hour-long show where he’ll feature prominently (For one thing, the show is named after him, which is always a hint about who’s going to stick around for awhile). But more than that, we’ve just finished a year’s worth of shows centered around the death of the Doctor that ended with pretty much as close to an in-story acceptance of the character’s immortality as we’re ever going to get – You might forget, but the Doctor “died” twice in the sixth season, and turned out to survive both events; short of having the character turn to the audience and say “Don’t worry, I’ll live forever,” that’s as good as it’s going to get – so the idea of any kind of cliffhanger centering around “Oh Noes The Doctor Is Dead” just seems kind of… cheap, now.

And not just cheap, but overly familiar – He’s survived death twice in the last year! How many times can you pretend to kill him? – and almost insulting towards viewers. We all know he’s not going to die by this point, so why use that as your cliffhanger? Why pretend watching the ship explode is “jaw dropping”? It’s surprisingly unlike the normal winking-at-the-audience of Doctor Who in general, and Moffat’s Doctor Who in particular; Moffat does use “smithereened” in the dialogue, which could be said to mean something other than “killed,” but I still wish some other kind of ending had been used (Watching the Doctor fall to Earth in some flaming wreckage, displaying a similarly detached, “This might hurt” attitude, perhaps), instead.

The Christmas Special premieres December 25th, and I hope you all join me in hoping that there won’t be any pretend deaths for the Doctor during the whole thing.


  • Jacob

    “Admit it, you thought I was going to complain about it running less than two minutes, didn’t you?”

    No, actually I got exactly what I expected: complaining that you got exactly what you expected.

    …Kinda cyclical, eh?

    But more elaborately: You’re complaining that the short featured false jeopardy. Where were these complaints during the Doctor’s three (don’t forget “Let’s Kill Hitler”) deaths this past season? It was clear during each that he was going to survive. The idea isn’t to make you think he’s died, but to make you wonder how he’s going to get out of it. By exploding the ship, they’ve lead to the expectation that his escape will be equally grand. You’re not supposed to actually think he’s dead.

  • Jase

    Spot on, Jacob.

  • Dan Worsley

    Maybe the “threat” will be “will he be able to repair the TARDIS during the course of the story, or is he going to be stuck on Earth for a while”?

  • Jacob

    I’d love for that to happen again.

  • Artoftony

    Why “kill” him again?

    Beacuse its usually learning HOW he got out of the pickle that makes the story so damn fun to watch.

  • Kandor

    The point isn´t so much if the Doctor died or not, which obviously he didn´t. The point is that the ship explodes and the interrogations is how did he manage to escape if he doesn´t seem to have nowhere to go. Besides we have no idea what the spaceship itself is, how he got there and  what happened before the explosion. And then, there is the question on how it’s going to tie-in with the Christmas special. It seems to me that every action tv show always deals with dangerous situations one knows the main characters will escape safe and sound, so why watch them at all if you think that it is disappointing  to have a cliffhanger in which the character seems to have died? …have you ever watched tv in your life?

  • Battlecat

    please shut up….  this was a non article

  • JJ

    Exactly. I mean I guess I agree that it wasn’t jaw-dropping like the BBC said, if they said it. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the prequel because I hadn’t even read the BBC description so I didn’t know what I was going to get. I loved the prequel.

  • Jacob

    The hell is a “non article”?

  • Ipsilon1


    Of course the Doctor isn’t going to die. It’s not about whether he’s going to survive or not. It’s about how is he going to get out of /this/ jam.

    That’s what it’s /always/ about. That’s why it’s fun.

    I like reading your Doctor Who pieces, Graeme, but you often focus too much thought on the wrong things.

  • Kandor

    An article about Non, the minion of General Zod…
    I guess what Battlecat meant is that this wasn´t a real article.