Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Douglas Camfield
Doctor Who turns in its first Christmas Special and sets the bar fairly low.
“It’s a mad house! It’s all full of Arabs!”
I’ll just come out and admit it. I don’t really like this episode. Now, in this episode’s defense, so much of it is visual and the comedy doesn’t translate well to audio. The second half of the episode involves a chase between different Hollywood sets. Peter Purvis is a good narrator, but he just can’t convey the comic timing of the visuals. It also seems that this episode, as originally written by Nation, was severely underwritten. Script Editor Donald Tosh had to rewrite to get it up to the broad cast time necessary for the slot.
The Feast of Steven was the first Doctor Who episode to air on Christmas. As such, the story takes a break from Daleks and Mavic Chen to focus on a bit of frivolity. The TARDIS materializes in 1960s England and there are hijink with the police who are quite shocked to find people coming out of one of their police boxes. After getting back to The TARDIS, the characters materialize in an old saw mill with a woman being menaced. They rush to rescue her, only to find they are on a movie set, and are quickly chased by security. After a few more humorous scenes, The TARDIS crew escapes Hollywood, wish the viewers a Merry Christmas and the episode ends.
The tone of this episode is quite reminiscent of The Chase. The concept of materializing somewhere dangerous or fantastic, only to learn it is quite mundane brings back memories of Journey into Terror and the abandoned carnival. At least it wasn’t stretched to a full episode here. Along the way, the Doctor Who production team is able to poke some fun at Hollywod actors and directors.
In all, a fairly insubstantial episode, one that has driven fandom crazy at the prospect of working the story into cannon. Hartnell breaks the fourth wall, which is all in a bit of fun and really not a big deal. This is television, after all. It’s a nice gesture. However, as episodes go, it probably does work better as a one-off special than as part of the story that continues on either side of it. I don’t have a problem with the episode, per se, I just don’t enjoy it.