Following his threat in the last episode, Abner Brown now seems determined to stop Tatchester Cathedral celebrating its Thousandth Christmas Midnight Service. He gains nothing from doing this, but since he seems fated not to have the Box of Delights it’s one way of getting a measure of revenge. Later, he decides to flood the dungeons when it’s clear he’s lost completely – which is the final sign that his grip on reality has gone.
He dispatches two creatures of the night (both created very nicely with traditional animation and mixed well into the picture) to prevent anybody getting to Tatchester – by road, rail or air.
Abner and Cole Hawlings face off. It’s at this point that Abner realises he’ll never possess the Box and so he decides to take everybody with him (by flooding the dungeons). Hawlings and Kay manage to escape and find Peter, Caroline Louisa and the Bishop along the way.
It has to be said, it’s a mystery why Cole Hawlings allowed himself to stay locked up for so long. He was able to create a key from nothing more than a piece of card and a stub of pencil, not to mention turning his hat into a motorboat – so maybe he just liked the underground ambiance?
Abner Brown’s final moments (as he sinks beneath the cold, dark water) is nicely shot and accompanied by a musical sting from Roger Limb that sounds not unlike the music he composed for Revelation of the Daleks the following year.
So, all’s well that ends well. Thanks to Herne the Hunter and the old lady everybody gets to the Cathedral in time for the service. After the adventure, this gives us time to catch our breaths – and it’s suitably Chrissmassy. It’s even more impressive when you realise that the service was shot during the day and at the height of summer, with black paper over the windows to hide the sunlight!
Not everybody is in favour of the ending, but it’s as good a way as any to conclude the story and bring Kay back to reality.
Thirty years on, The Box of Delights is still as enjoyable as ever. Whilst the production does occasionally overreach (particularly with the CSO effects) so much is right (the animation, the music and especially the actors) that it seems churlish to complain. It’s always a Christmas treat.