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Monday, 25 December 2006 - Reviewed by Adam Leslie

I've always been a champion of Russell T. Davies. While there have been a few elements that have mildly irked me - the over-reliance on earth locations being the main one - I've always defended him against the "sack him now!!" brigade. He put in huge amounts of effort and love into bringing Doctor Who back to the screen, and has provided the country with good quality Saturday teatime entertainment time and again.

My loyalty is slipping, perhaps. Last year we were given a Christmas Special; this year I felt like it was more of a Christmas Ordinary.

Averageness is not something I necessarily object to per se - we all have off-days, not everything can be cream of the crop. What I didn't like about this Christmas special, though, was that it felt like Russell Davies by numbers, it felt like a repeat. It worried me that, at a time when RTD should have been dazzling us with newer and greater things, he was so clearly saying, "well, it worked last year..."

Wouldn't Christmas have been the perfect time to have finally lifted off from the surface of the earth and have seen magical worlds of wonder? But no, more 2006 London ordinariness. Yet another mouthy Cockney (Rose Tyler Extra Strength; or a terrifying concoction of Rose and Jackie) whose plans with a somewhat hapless black boyfriend are shattered by the arrival of the Doctor. Those robots Santas, who last year were so creepy in their fleeting role, now just feel reheated and too much autons/cybermen/clockwork robots. The killer Christmas trees again (the baubles are bombs this time? Did a 10-year-old write this?). A big ugly alien with a big ugly spaceship floating above London. Yet more running and screaming as a casualty-free massacre erupts in the city streets (don't these people get tired of running and screaming? And the little girl with practically minutes to escape the marauding laser was sadly laughable.) A very familiar-feeling final confrontation in a very familiar-feeling underground lair. At least we were spared BBC News 24 on this occasion.

As for the ending... well, the Doctor has always had dodgy taste in women, as we know often preferring whiny airheads over proper companionship, but Doc 10 going all gooey-eyed over Donna's refusal to join him in the TARDIS was a low moment, even by his standards. I was half expecting him to say, "Donna, would you like to... ah, uh, never mind". Now, that would have made up for a lot.

So, what of the rest of the episode? David Tennant was good as ever, Catherine Tate had some moments (I'm not a fan of her show, but she was okay in this), and the spider costume was impressive. But it was all dramatically redundant - The Doctor saved the day by knocking some robots out with his sonic screwdriver, pocketing their remote-control bombs and using them against the baddie. Yes, it was as easy as that. There was never a real feeling of peril to any of it. Even The Doctor's rage as he flooded out the spider's nest - while nicely acted - felt like yet another box checked. Oh, and we mustn't forget to mention how great humans are.

So, it was okay. No big crime. Except... I just hope this isn't RTD out of ideas. Does he have anything else in him? Could he do a Castrovalva or a Warrior's Gate or an Enlightenment, or example? I'm beginning to see the template now; it's beginning to be a bit too obvious how the magician does his tricks.