As the tradition of the Doctor Who Christmas special has now become the Doctor Who New Years special, we no longer get a visit from the Doctor on Christmas Day. Thankfully, the fan series Doctor Who Velocity is on hand, providing us our Christmassy Doctor Who fix, with a brand new episode – The Vashta Nerada Return.
Please note, this review contains spoilers for the episode!
As Gloria reminds us at the start of the episode, Christmas has a ‘comforting reliability’, and so does Doctor Who Velocity. Despite being a fan-made series, Doctor Who Velocity offers the same drama, excitement and creative storytelling as Doctor Who along with its own unique charm.
This episode – the fifth in the series – focusses on Gloria Apiary, played by Jen Potcher. Mother figures traditionally have a certain likability in Doctor Who, and Gloria’s love of Christmas and love for her son make her instantly relatable and likeable. Gloria is the mother of Kevin Apiary, the protagonist for several previous stories. Kevin gets a brief appearance and the previous story is hinted at, just enough to entice the viewer to find out more, without making them feel excluded for not knowing the history of the show.
In the story, the Doctor visits Gloria for the holidays, but after she leaves, Gloria ends up trapped inside the ‘perfect world’ of a Christmas film. It’s up to the Doctor to Doctor to save her and stop the Vashta Nerada.
I love the premise of a character being trapped inside a Christmas film. As a big lover of Christmas and an avid viewer of cheesy Christmas films, the idea of being stuck inside one is both intriguing and terrifying. Brett Dayne’s performance as the brilliantly named Noel Sleigh Kringle really adds to this, with his permanent perfect smile becoming incredibly sinister.
However, I have to admit that the Vashta Nerada’s involvement was a little confusing. Although we’ve only briefly seen them before in two episodes (Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead) and a Big Finish audio, the creatures have become a popular favourite. Despite this, I can’t help feeling that the episode would have benefited from creating a new alien threat that traps people digitally, as the short length of the episode didn’t allow for much of an explanation of how they trapped Gloria in the film and their connection to the robot. Having said that, the robot itself was very well imagined. The effects on the face in particular look very realistic and incredibly scary.
We’ve previously expressed how much we love Krytal Moore’s fresh take on the Doctor, and this episode is a real treat, with the Doctor in full festive mode. While Doctor Who Christmas specials have hinted at the Doctor’s love – or in the Twelfth Doctor’s case, disdain – for Christmas, here we get to see a Doctor revelling in the Christmas spirit, with a Christmas jumper, hat and festive treats from across the universe.
Overall, the episode is an interesting story with lots to enjoy and should be a staple on any Whovian’s Christmas viewing list.