^Same Handman. He’s a really stellar performer, and I’m afraid that the writing has never matched the calibre of his talents.
Personally, I didn’t like this year’s Christmas special at all.
It was full of the types of bizarre, convoluted choices that Moffat seems to indulge in… (1) What was the purpose of having “fake” versions of the companions come back through Testimony? It just seemed dramatically unsatisfying, especially considering Bill didn’t actually die! (2) Furthermore, the First Doctor was more or less just used for jokes about how the show has progressed but not much more… (3) Returning to Rusty, that Dalek from that all right episode at the beginning of Capaldi’s run seems like a weird detour. (4) What was the purpose of connecting The Captain to the Brigadier? I understand fan service, but really, this comes out of nowhere… and the character hasn’t been regularly on-air since the 70s. (5) Lastly, the ending for the WW1 soldier seemed to come out of absolutely nowhere; I don’t recall them even acknowledging that it was Christmastime beforehand.
That being said, I really liked the first two seasons of Moffat’s run (Series 5 and 6). They felt fresh with a whimsy, fairy tale aspect that the previous seasons lacked. They were also grounded with a set of characters: Rory, Amy, and River that we actually gave a damn about.
But it seems like after that, he dabbled far too much into fan service and convoluted time travel shenanigans. Doctor Who seems to have gotten so muddled in its own continuity that I don’t dare think what it might be like for a first time viewer to try the series out now. What, for example, would a new viewer think about the Brigadier reference in this episode? It’s just a weird, unnecessary callback. More crucially, ll the fake-out regenerations in the past few seasons just undermine dramatic tension; we don’t want to be hyper-aware of the fact that the Doctor can always regenerate himself out of trouble. This, of course, doesn’t mean there aren’t occasional gems… Heaven Sent is extraordinary, but, for every one of those, you have a Robin Hood episode.
Overall, these problems would have been more acceptable if you had better characters to latch onto. Bill was great, but Clara certainly was not. Say what you want (I think Jenna Coleman is a fine performer), but her character has a different personality each season! It’s hard to get emotionally involved, and, indeed I didn’t when she showed up (ala Amy Pond) in Capaldi’s swansong.
I think The End of Time, The Time of the Doctor, and, certainly, The Parting of the Ways were all superior to this.