I think, on first viewing, I would rate it the fourth best Xmas special, behind last year's "Xmas Carol," "Xmas Invasion" and "The Next Doctor." Definitely ahead of "Voyage of the Damned" and "Runaway Bride" (and The End of Time, if you count them as Xmas episodes and not just the end of Tennant era).
Liked the kids, liked Bill Bailey, liked the new monsters (if you want to call them that, liked the special guests at the end (not really a surprise).
Too Schmaltzy for my taste. and the Doctor was a little too wacky.
And, I don't know if I read the hype incorrectly, but I thought for sure we were supposed to be getting Old School Cybermen. I kept waiting and waiting for them. Were they on the ship at the beginning of the episode and i just missed them?
I think its the weakest one. The last five minutes help it, but you look at all the amazing stuff in the Christmas episodes from the birth of the 10th Doctor above London to the Tardis chase for Donna to the Titanic almost destroying London to the death of 10 and birth of 11th as well as the shark sleigh ride, this one really had nothing memorable. I liked Mag and the kids, but it felt like they tried to do a weird Narina/LOTR/Star Wars combo that just felt there was no real heart.
That said, I think the cheat at the end was the apology for having a rather sad ending to Christmas Caorl. Yet, Christmas Carol seemed to stand by that statement of enjoy the days you have with people thats what part of Christmas is about. I think that has been Moffat's problem with the last year. A cop out ending maybe the new Moffat.
The Wee Baby Sheamus.
Twitter: @realjoecarfley its a bit more toned down there. A bit.
I read the reports and the Jeff Probst blog on the Entertainment Weekly site, and a few people there raise an interesting point. Russell has a slight advantage over any of these folks in that they never saw him play the game.