Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Doctor Who vs The Librarians - AKA How not to Deal with Santa

One of the annual festive traditions is watching the Dr Who Christmas special, but in 2014 the eponymous time traveller had competition in the form of US fantasy history adventure series The Librarians. 

Santa: Bruce Campbell vs Nick Frost

Nick Frost channels the late Sir Dicky Attenborough while Bruce Campbell channels Norse God Odin
Both shows picked capable comic actors for the role of Santa.  Bruce Campbell was The Librarians sophisticated Saint Nick, a gestalt mortal avatar capable of switching between all his various incarnations throughout history, each with their own individual powers.  Santa delivering all his dialogue in the third person was a great touch, how else would a mortal "possessed" by a mythical construct with God like powers refer to himself.

Nick Frost's bearded fat man was merely a comic foil to Peter Capaldi's dark hero, an anachronistic mnemonic to remind you that you were still in the dream and still being facehugged by a Dream Spider.  Irritatingly his dialogue didn't help much in trying to work out what the heck was going on, being confusing and

Story: Timey Wimey Dreamy Weamy vs Globe Trotting Extravaganza

The essential aim of the Dr Who Christmas Special was to revitalise the association between the Doctor and Clara.  It didn't reveal anything new other than the Dream Spider which was a fairly lack lustre and pedestrian knock-off of a facehugger (they even resorted to referencing "Alien" in the dialogue... maybe it was a legal requirement?).  There was no real peril and frankly the inception dream within a dream was overplayed too heavily in my opinion and the idea that the shared dream space appeared to ignore it's victims relative times and locations made it even more hard to follow.  In the end the show gave up trying to make sense of itself and put it all down to timey wimey wibbly wobbly nonsense.  A reoccurring feature of New Who which I'd rather like to see the back of thank you very much.

The Librarians on the other hand had to deal with the possibility of Santa being assassinated and its global spiritual ramifications.  There were several moments of mild peril for all the cast (despite the low budget plane effects) and the subtext of everyone getting their Christmas wish whether they wanted it or not was a nice touch.  Despite the extremely low budget the action trotted the globe from America to London to Canada to the Arctic Circle with a bit of multi-faith mental projection to the China, and the Middle East to illustrate Santas gift to everyone.

Santa's Ride: Chocolate Box vs Citroen Box Van

Of course Santa gets nowhere without his Sleigh and both shows covered it in different ways.  Dr Who had a full blown digital sleigh and reindeer complete with central locking nose flash.  The Librarians went down a more interesting route of having Santa's sleigh stolen and replaced with a small red french farmers van.  The real sleigh makes a later appearance as a self powered sans reindeer rocket ride capable of busting into a cargo plane.

Ridic-YULE-ssness: Mental vs Mythical

To be honest you have to buy into the huge helping of cheese that goes along with the premise of The Librarians as a low budget, light hearted, family orientated adventure show.  It's not trying to scare you, just take you on a theme park ride in the same vein as Indiana Jones and National Treasure but without the Nazis or dark occult overtones.  It manages to get away with a lot thanks to it's visual jokes, excellent dialogue and lots of running about.  I left the show feeling good about the characters, good about humanity and warmth towardsmy fellow man (and woman)

Sadly I feel Doctor Who is struggling to keep up these days, overburdened as it is by the weight of public expectation thanks to it's "National Treasure" status and the absolute lack of decent writing talent.  In fact it's forgotten exactly what made it good in the first place, snappy dialogue and a lot of being chased about.  I left the show feeling cheated and dissapointed, like when you're left with just the unpopular toffee fingers at the bottom of the Quality Street tin.

Where this special Christmas themed episode is concerned, I'm afraid I have to give it to the newcomer... The Librarians and Santa's Midnight Run.

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