Let’s be fair – Santa, stripped of all his promise of toys and red-and-white clad jolliness is a bit weird.
I say this as a man very much-enamoured of Christmas and its many and varied feel good trappings, who rightly regards Santa Claus as a fairly good guy who loves scorned and bullied red-nose reindeers, delivers toys to kids across the world as no cost and whose “belly … like a bowl full of jelly” is a reminder to enjoy the good times with none of the guilt.
But look at a little more closely and you see a man with zero regard for privacy or the sanctity of the home, who effectively enslaves elves to build his gifts and who is apparently immortal, making you wonder exactly what kind of deal with the devil he’s done?
That might be what was going through the mind of writer and illustrator Adam Hargreaves, son of Mr Men creator Roger, when he gave Dr. Tenth (my favourite doctor of all time, played by the fabulous David Tennant) robotic enemies that take the form of Santa Clauses (yes, there are multiple, Virginia, sorry), snowmen and even a bauble-shooting Christmas tree.
Rather happily for a rather fraught Christmas outing, one of the most-loved, and poorly-treated companions of all time Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), is along for hot chocolate-spilling ride, with both Doctor and Donna captured in all their cartoon-caricatured glory by Adam Hargreaves.
What sets off this whirlwind of Doctor and Donna stalking Christmas villainy?
Why the search for a tree of course, something of which the TARDIS is noticeably bereft and which it clearly needs if only to soften all of those sometimes-harsh Gallifreyan decorating choices.
Naturally, as it the way with Doctor Who where intention is rarely met with complimentary execution, their search for a tree is waylaid by the aforementioned robotic impostors and the Doctor and Donna have to work hard to not only escape but to hold tight to the hot chocolate which Donna is determined to hold onto, imprisonment by alien bad guys be damned.
That they end up with a tree, and even a visit from the real Santa Claus is a lovely heartwarming end to things, but the ride there does get a little hairy at times, again as befits any Doctor Who adventure where complications are almost a given.
Dr. Tenth Christmas Surprise! is a delight on just about every level.
The artwork is characteristically endearing and cute, the Christmas-themed story is taut and beautifully-executed with just enough menace and comedic hilarity in equal measure, and Dr Tenth and Donna feel like they’re characters, just a tad more two-dimensional than normal.
If you’re feeling even a little down this Christmas, and let’s face it the stress and busyness can get to even the most festive of us all, sitting down with the child-like wonderful of Dr. Tenth Christmas Surprise! will warm your heart and make you smile in ways you didn’t even know you needed.
This will be especially the case if, like me, you tolerated Matt Smith as Dr. Eleventh and Peter Capaldi as Dr Twelfth and wished the golden years of Dr Tenth and Donna could make a quirkily-upbeat return.
Well, for at least the short but highly-enjoyable time it will take you to read Dr. Tenth Christmas Surprise! your wish will be granted, as will your need for a playfully-tense battle between robotic Christmas icons, the Doctor and a rather robust cup of hot chocolate that might just be the emboldening elixir we all need this Christmas.