Production Code 2011 Comic Relief special Okay, kids, this is where it gets complicated
Dates March 18, 2011

With Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill
Written by Steven Moffat Directed by Richard Senior
Executive Producers: Steven Moffat, Piers Wagner, Beth Willis

Synopsis: The TARDIS has materialised inside itself, because of a problem with Amy's skirt.


The Husband, the Skirt and the Glass Floor by Tom Berwick 5/10/12

I was a little worried when I heard that Doctor Who was doing a special mini-story for Comic Relief. Obviously, the show has made charity skits in the past, but this in itself didn't reassure me. The skits in the past had mostly been for Children in Need, which is a whole different matter: Children in Need is easy to get right.

It's easy to get Children in Need right because Children in Need is dire television in the first place. Really, it's awful. It's the cast of EastEnders doing song-and-dance routines and newsreaders performing the Time-Warp. Yes, it's all in a good cause, but the kindest word I can think of for it is "silly". That's why I've never seen any point in slagging off Dimensions in Time. Yes it's dreadful, but it's Children in Need dreadful (after all, it's another example of the cast of EastEnders messing about).

The more recent visits to Children in Need were much better; so much better in fact that they felt wasted there. But they were still easier to do than Comic Relief because they had no need to be funny. The 2005 special didn't even try to be funny, and, while there was humour in Time Crash, it would still have worked if there hadn't been. Being on Children in Need was also the reason why it got away with David Tennant telling Peter Davison that he was "My Doctor". It really wasn't the tenth Doctor saying it to the fifth.

Of course, Doctor Who has sort of done Comic Relief before, but that also didn't reassure me. The Curse of Fatal Death was superb, but it wasn't a proper Doctor Who story at all. It was a piss-take, a parody. A piss-take in the best spirit, of course, laughing with the show rather than at it, but a piss-take all the same. It was one of the few televisual highlights of the long hiatus, but was something the revived series couldn't use as a template.

I did, however, have two big things that reassured me. Firstly, Steven Moffat, an accomplished comedy writer whose stuff had me laughing like a drain long before I learned that he even liked Doctor Who. Try Overkill, his episode of Dawn French's anthology series Murder Most Horrid, and then compare it with any other episode in that series. It's just better. My second source of reassurance was the TARDIS crew. I'd already seen that Matt, Karen and Arthur could do comedy: Arthur's comic timing in particular being one of the reasons I'd been so relived about Rory's death only being temporary.

Still, none of that would have mattered if the story had been wrong. In short, what was needed was a quality mini-story, one that managed to be funny without being silly or descending into parody. What was essential was that it be proper Doctor Who with jokes. And that was precisely what we got.

The first episode, Space, sets up the problem in the correct manner. We settle in with a little character-based comedy, the Doctor trying to avoid what he fears will be a heart-to-heart with Amy before the plot properly gets started. When it does indeed get started, it proves to be just right. The idea of potential disaster coming because a guy was distracted by the view up a girl's skirt is exactly the right sort of way to start. Let's face it, guys get distracted by the view up girl's skirts on a regular basis, which is what the talk about Amy's driving instructor was all about. But, at the same time, it's funny. It's funny in Doctor Who because, while entirely plausible, it's a laughably trivial cause of a potential disaster.

The second episode, Time, is even better. This is not only Doctor Who doing comedy that works for Comic Relief, but Doctor Who doing it in a way that only Doctor Who can. Time paradoxes have the potential to be funny. There are lots of little predestination paradox jokes here, with Rory, from his point of view, getting slapped, and then causing himself to get slapped after the slap. As for Amy fancying herself... well, a beautiful girl could well have that effect on herself. Rory was right not to have a problem with it. It's just a shame it can't happen in reality.

Okay, by its nature, some things had to be rushed. There was no explanation given as to why the TARDIS exterior slipped forward in time, but then there didn't need to be. For one thing, all that mattered was that it had: now deal with it. Also, there was humour to be had from the lack of an explanation, with future Amy trying to explain something when she herself didn't understand it and was just repeating what she'd heard herself saying a minute earlier. As for the Wibbly lever, I'm sure that's just what the Doctor calls it.

Overall, the charity special I'd most feared turned out to be the best yet. Plausible, funny and definitely proper Doctor Who. Brilliant stuff.