This year's was a cracker (pun, as always, intended). Sure the pacing was off, Richard E. Grant and Sir Ian Mckellen were hideously underused and some of the CGI wasn't as good as it could have been. But it was a magical fairytale of an adventure, featuring a new monster that will terrify children for years to come and the return of a little-remembered classic series villain. The Great Intelligence, a disembodied Elder God who, to the best of my recollection last featured in a Patrick Troughton story where it tried taking over the London Underground - making this a prequel to that story. Best of all the new credits feature the Doctor's face, the lack of which has disappointed me since the 2005 revival.
As I mentioned earlier there was an ensemble cast this year – we saw the return of Madame Vastra, her wife Jenny Flint (showing that the 'gay agenda' didn't end with the departure of Russell T Davies, and felt very timely considering recent political shifting in favour of marriage equality) and Commander Strax – all last seen in the series 6 mid-series finale A Good Man Goes To War. Well on TV at least – they all appeared in the online prequel to the episode, which really should have been the first 5 minutes of the show in my opinion as it explained why The Doctor was in Victorian England.
Strax was particularly good at scene stealing, so much so I overlooked his apparently unexplained resurrection following his death in A Good Man. I'm hoping the three of them appear in future episodes as I always prefer it when The Doctor has multiple personalities to bounce off.
This one was a proper Who episode, even if the magic and fairytale nature were higher than a usual episode
This one was a proper Who episode, even if the magic and fairytale nature were higher than a usual episode. It bridges the previous series and sets up up series 7 very nicely. It was also the scariest episode in a while and must have left a lot of children very confused after The Snowman and The Snowdog taught them to love snowmen only the day before!
Another touch I liked was the references to Sherlock Holmes. By having the Doctor impersonate Holmes (who also remains a fictional character in his universe) and showing just how bad he is at deductive reasoning it should help underline the differences between the characters and hopefully quiet down the fans demanding a crossover with Sherlock. That said I still really, really want to see Benedict Cumberbatch as The Master some day.
Overall, I felt it was an extremely strong Christmas episode (my second favourite after 2010's A Christmas Carol inspired episode) and fills me with hope that next year's 50th anniversary run will be a good one!