It was a very Jenna Coleman Christmas as Victoria returned for a bumper-length special. Did it prove to be a festive delight or too much of a good thing?

Comfort and Joy is a very interesting episode to review. It’s not only the first Victoria Christmas special but also the longest Victoria episode to date. With double its usual run-time to play with, it often feels as if two different episodes are taking place at once – for better and for worse. One half of it is, for all intents and purposes, Series 2 Episode 9, dedicated to tying up the loose ends from this year’s finale. The other delves into the whimsical winter wonderland we had been promised in the trailers. The two certainly intertwine, and it’s magical when they do, but those expecting a full-blown snowy special may be a little disappointed. As it stands, Comfort and Joy is like a very rich Christmas dessert. It’s delightfully delicious, yet it leaves you feeling bloated by the end.

Indeed, the episode starts with a scene that couldn’t be any further away from Christmas. Opening on the red-hot deserts of West Africa, King Gezo sends a child – Sarah – as a “gift” to Victoria. However, the young queen doesn’t realise this at first. She knows she’s expecting something – “a baby elephant”, perhaps! – but a child? It comes as quite the surprise and promises to throw quite the spanner in the Royals’ festive works. Oh, and she’s pregnant again, too. Of course, she is. Will Victoria never learn? (She’s still got five children to go, so we guess not…!) This theme of uninvited guests is one that runs deep throughout the episode. Not everyone is considered welcome at the palace this Christmas – but by whom, and for why, is where the majority of the drama arises.

Victoria - Comfort and Joy - Tom Hughes as Albert with two of his children. - (c) Mammoth Screen
Victoria – Comfort and Joy – Tom Hughes as Albert with two of his children. – (c) Mammoth Screen
Victoria’s Enchanted Christmas

We tuned in expecting a very Victorian Christmas, so let’s focus on that first. It takes a while for the snow to start falling – 50 minutes, by our count – but when it does, Comfort and Joy is breathtaking. This is yet another spectacular feat of production, boasting expert directing and sublime cinematography. It’s the closest Victoria has ever felt to being a film, and we’d love to see it shown on the silver screen. As the palace slowly transforms into Albert’s dream Christmas, the extravagance builds and builds before your very eyes. This is the beginning of Christmas as we know it, and it’s handled with appropriate love and care. We even get some trivia lessons from Albert along the way. Honestly, it’s a thrill to just sit back and watch the characters skating along the ice, building snowmen, and generally enjoying the perks of the season.

Victoria Christmas 2017 - ITV - (c) Mammoth Studios
Victoria Christmas 2017 – ITV – (c) Mammoth Studios

There’s one person you simply won’t be able to take your eyes off of though. It comes as no real surprise to say that the star on top of the Victoria Christmas tree is Jenna Coleman herself. She’s utterly captivating in this special, lighting up the episode every time she’s on screen. From heated squabbles with her family to throwing shade at Lord Cumberland, to desperate panic when Albert goes under the ice – she truly puts in a crowning performance. Her smaller, quieter moments with young Sarah though especially shine and are amongst the episode’s most beautiful minutes. The poke-out-your-tongue scene, to name just one, was absolutely adorable. In a way, they are kindred spirits, and there are unmistakable parallels between the English queen and the African princess. Victoria sees something of herself in young Sarah – which makes it all the more heart-wrenching at the end when she has to let her go.

Forbidden Fruits

Comfort and Joy spends the other half of its run-time dealing with the fallout of Series 2’s finale. Thematically, these extra threads all seem to focus on things that can never be. Ernest and Harriet’s flirting almost reaches a climax (ahem), but the harsh reality cuts it short. Francatelli and Skerret are finally, blissfully together, but they have to keep their romance secret. And Wilhelmina is still pining for Lord Alfred, who himself is still mourning for the late Drummond. It’s Christmas though, so there comes a happy ending for them all. Ernest and Harriet confess their love and reach a mutual understanding. Francatelli and Skerrett just say sod it and get married anyway. And Alfred, in quite the surprising move, proposes to Wilhelmina all the same. “There’s more than one kind of love”, after all.

While these are dramatic, and definitely necessary additions to the story, they are infinitely less exciting than the scenes set in the snow. But that might be a consequence of our expectations. It will be intriguing to see how the episode holds up when watched again outside of the Christmas bubble. Honestly, our instinct tells us it will improve exponentially. Everything here was tried-and-true Victoria, and with the gift of hindsight, it all fit into place rather nicely. It just seemed like a lot to take in between 9-11pm on Christmas Day, and quite heavy for an audience feeling tired from all the turkey and the tipple. Viewed through more alert eyes, and with the foreknowledge of what to expect from it, Comfort and Joy could stand tall as one of the better Victoria episodes this year.

Merry Christmas, My Angel

In essence, then, the Victoria Christmas special ticked all the boxes that it needed to tick. With exemplary performances from not just Jenna, but the entire cast and an extra bit of festive magic sprinkled on top, it was a fitting end to ITV’s Christmas Day. It’s a bloated little round the edges and could have done with better streamlining – at least, for its intended time slot – but more Victoria is never a bad thing. This episode, for all its whimsy and wonder, gave us a lot to chew on. It may take a while to fully digest, but that won’t make it any less satisfying when it does. Perhaps our eyes were just bigger than our bellies at the prospect of a two-hour Victoria. Without a doubt, it filled us up at the time. But we’ve slept on it now – and in real Boxing Day fashion, we’re already eager to go back for seconds.

In the words of Prince Albert, “Christmas will always be a time of enchantment. We hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year. With the confirmation that Victoria Series 3 is already in the works, you can be sure there’s plenty more to look forward to in 2018…!

Victoria will return soon for a third exciting series. Stay tuned to Blogtor Who for more!

2 COMMENTS

  1. PBS cut many scenes from
    the last episode of Victoria. It was shown on American Television Feb 25 2018.
    Like the ending where Victoria and Albert give each other presents. Victoria sat for a painting for Albert they cut all
    the scenes for her sitting for the portrait. Albert designed a new crown for Victoria with Green stones all the scenes never shown.

  2. “It will be intriguing to see how the episode holds up when watched again outside of the Christmas bubble. Honestly, our instinct tells us it will improve exponentially.“

    Nope.
    Melodramatic treacle.

    And I LOVE this show and am currently binge watching it! (viewed on April 1st, 2021)

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