Steven Moffat is many things but one thing he is, in particular, is a writer of romantic comedies. The much-discussed sexism that runs through his work is the sexism that rests on a notion of men and women being intrinsically different but in mutually funny ways from which can spring glib generalities and plot-driving misunderstandings. Moffat’s fascination with people with unusual minds, puzzle plots and with SF/F fiction helps distinguish him from the similar writers such as Richard Curtis. Yet, like Curtis he knows how to play with romantic comedy both subverting it and affirming the genre at the same time.
In the 2016 Christmas Special, Moffat lays out a gentle Richard Curtis-like romantic comedy but about superheroes and alien brain parasites. No puzzles and an evil invasion plot from the bad guys that echoed both Watchmen and the Aliens of London episode from series 1 of the reboot. A wise choice that made for a funny and light episode.
The episode was not a deconstruction of the superhero genre but played the tropes simply and straight but also at a relatively shallow level. Primarily a play on the Clark Kent/Lois Lane, secret identity, romance angle but with an added play on romantic comedy trope of the woman who somehow can’t see the man she actually is looking for is standing right next to her.
Capaldi has fun in a double act with Matt Lucas as Nardole who we last saw in Christmas 2015 being decapitated by a cyborg.
I’d hoped that we’d get some twist on the sinister-German character (Dr Sim played by actual German actor Aleksandar Jovanovic) but while nicely acted the role was purely for the purpose of rolling out the cliche. Yes, probably intended to be an ironic nod but 2016 is not a good year to roll out British casual euro-stereotypes.