Downton and the Doctor: Christmas Specials 2015

As I mentioned previously, I love how my favourite UK shows like to do special Christmas episodes. They’re a nice break in the long wait between seasons. I had even hoped that maybe it would be a “trifecta” this year with Sherlock also having a holiday special, but alas “The Abominable Bride” is not airing until next week. Another sad thing is that this is the last Downton Abbey special, since it’s the last episode of the series (and by “series”, I don’t mean British lingo for “season”, but it’s the last episode of the show … ever!)

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Downton Abbey

As usual, a lot of things are still left unanswered leading up to the special episode. Since it’s the grand finale, there’s some need to tie up loose ends. First, we get to find out whether Edith gets to be happy — and whether her happiness is as a single mom or if Bertie’s going to come back into the picture. Then there’s Mary and Henry (who just got married in the main season finale) and how they’re doing. There’s the conflict between Violet and Cora over changes to the hospital, and then there’s the whole mess between Isobel, Lord Merton and his family. Downstairs, there’s Anna and her difficult pregnancy, Barrow and his job search, Molesley becoming a teacher, and Carson and Mrs. Hughes’s wedded bliss. This last season has seen a lot of change on a show that already moves through plot-lines at a surprisingly rapid pace. I won’t spoil anyone on how things end, but just say that most things wrap up in pleasing ways that will be satisfying to faithful fans (no purgatory or cuts to black here!). While many characters talk about the topic of change and how times have changed (especially since the beginning of the show), it’s nice to see all our favourite characters — even the ghost of Sibyl makes an appearance! (Just kidding … It’s not that kind of show.) As you might expect, there are a number of “goodbye” scenes which act as proxy for our own farewells from the cast and the show saying goodbye to its audience. Surprisingly, my favourite element of the finale has little to do with the main story but it’s how far Spratt has come from being a character that annoyed me so much, to one I actually enjoy — they could probably do a Spratt-Denker spin-off, where we get to see them try to prank or set-up each other each week — it’s a little bit like the Coyote and the Road Runner. As much as I will miss the show, this was a nice send-off, so it feels like closure. I can imagine that the characters at Downton Abbey will continue to live their lives while we in the real world move on and live ours.

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Doctor Who – The Husbands of River Song

Now, obviously any time River Song makes an appearance on Doctor Who we are in for a treat. Usually the Christmas specials are a crazy romp that’s even more tongue-in-cheek than your regular episode. With the recent death of Clara Oswald, we might have expected to meet (even if it’s just a hint like how we first met Clara) of the new companion, but I didn’t catch whiff of that in this episode. Essentially, the Doctor ends up in a Christmas town — another one of those colonies in the far future which act like “olde tyme” Earth. There’s a mild case of mistaken identity as he responds to a man looking for a “surgeon” and is taken to a flying saucer where he is supposed to save the king in red — a cyborg called the Hydroflax. As the title of the episode gives away, the queen is none other than River herself and there is some humour in the fact that she does not recognize the Doctor (and doesn’t realize that he’s her husband) in his new body. Eventually, what follows is the typical Doctor Who chase scene where they try to get away from the monster, but it’s all for fun and profit as River tries to sell a priceless diamond that is in her husband’s head — I know! As much as I love the attitude inherent in the banter between River and the Doctor (and Alex Kingston is nothing but amazing in the role), I can’t say I really follow what they’re saying all the time. Also, as much as I’ve enjoyed some of Peter Capaldi’s version of the Doctor, I didn’t love the interaction between him and River Song as much as I liked Matt Smith’s. Anyway, the episode is another piece in the River Song mythology that we fans just eat up. River Song is (of course I’m not the first to suggest this) another great spin-off idea for a new series. After a season that was up and down for me, this special was a fun snack but hardly a Christmas feast.

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