Face it, despite the imagery of heaven and hell, gods, devils and messiahs, this years Christmas special lacked the real epic danger you feel with good story telling to warrant being compared to escaping damnation. No, the campy formulaic story was much more like a voyage of the darned. There is a great review of the Christmas special that I think captures what the episode was lacking at Behind the Sofa.
With that said, there were some good moments to the episode, but most of it was due to David Tennant’s solid performance as the Doctor that we have come to expect. This got me thinking, as someone who really wanted to see the Christmas episode and had to go out of my way to try and watch it in the US, I wonder how much this Christmas Special was just produced on automatic pilot? Knowing that after a few months without Doctor Who, as we anxiously await the next season/series, perhaps the Doctor Who production team believes that we are so starving for the Doctor that we will accept sub par stories during what would otherwise be down time.
I think RTD has done a good job over all and reviving the Doctor Who franchise, though I definitely don’t think that the 2007 Christmas special reflects the best of RTD’s vision for Doctor Who. I just think that it would be far too easy to lean on Tennant’s performance to try and pull off cardboard heroics of generic plots. You might be able to get away with this from time to time but it is not sustainable in the long run and not the same kind of story quality that drew us back to the Doctor a few years ago.
I can lived with a Voyage of the Darned on occasion, even just enjoy it as a cheesy popcorn adventure, but I do expect more from series four and hope that “specials” they will be producing in lieu of a hiatus from the show in 2009 will have a quality to them that will stand alone rather than just trying to tide us over to series five. I don’t think any of these specials (Christmas or otherwise) should just be stories that tied as over like a cheap appetizer- they should be made to stand alone as a quality feature that meets and maybe even occasionally exceeds what we have come to expect from the best of the TV series.