Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol Review

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What’s It About?

The Doctor has left Amy and Rory on honeymoon in a luxury cruise liner. Unfortunately it’s about to crash on a planet in the middle of it’s Festive period. Only Kazran Sardick can save the 4003 people in the ship, but he’s no sense of compassion. Can The Doctor change Kazran’s character in time? …

Review It

I still find it incredible that part of my Christmas now involves sitting down to a new episode of Doctor Who. This really has become a family tradition across the UK now which is fantastic. For the past five years, we’ve had Earth being invaded or troubled by crashing star-liners on Christmas day – usually in the present and once in the past. All were fun and each had a Christmas element to them but nothing says Christmas like Dickens and A Christmas Carol. Rather than skirt the issue, Steven Moffat has the Doctor deliberately recreate that tale by putting him exactly the right setting and situation for it!

The plot is both outlandish and warming at the same time. With Amy and Rory (along with 4,001 other people) hurtling towards the planet, the Doctor meets the only man who can help – played by Michael Gambon. This fellow embodies the spirit of Scrooge like no other – taking family members as security for loans and refusing to use his atmospheric controlling device to save doomed souls. Not out of evil intent, but simply because he doesn’t care a jot. Ultimately, the Doctor determines to play the Ghosts and visits the past to re-write Sardick’s Christmas experiences and hopefully soften him up. Along the way, we meet Abigail (played by Katherine Jenkins) – one of the frozen people who has a voice that can soothe monsters and atmospheres alike. While this conceit may sound far fetched, if anyone’s voice could – it’s definitely Ms Jenkins’.

For me, the joy of this episode is that the Doctor’s plan doesn’t quite work for him and in fact he leaves Sardick bitter and resentful for an entirely different reason. This is a brilliant twist and for a moment, it seems we’re not going to get a happy ending. The resolution is truly tear-jerking. I had a lump in my throat as Abigail came through and Matt Smith’s expression as he leans on the TARDIS at the end captures the bitter-sweet climax perfectly for me.

There are moments of great joy throughout this episode and quite a few more instantly-quotable lines are interspersed with the almost-pantomime compassion-less cries of “I despise Christmas!”. None of these seem out of place, however and I mean no ill of the script or acting in that comment.

And the niggles?

It worked for the story (and I doubt anything else would have!), but I’m a tad dubious about a Victorian styled space colony. Honestly that’s a minor issue though, particularly at Christmas. And it definitely worked better than (say) a giant Cyber-Mech in Victorian England would have …

I’d have liked to have seen more of Amy’s police uniform, I mean Amy and Rory but frankly, the episode would have seemed crowded by any more appearances than they made. This was Sardick and Abigail’s story.

In summary:

A Most Christmasy adventure that breaks from the ritual “another year another invasion” approach that had become the norm. While I’m not overly sure of the “Victorian England in Space” element, this did not detract from the story. Watching this in front of a roaring fire with a belly full of food and beer … yeah – Christmas it was. Thumbs up and roll on next series!

Rate It: 4 / 5.
Dry Slaps: 0
Reviewer: WedgeDoc

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3 comments

  1. I loved the “ghost of christmas future” twist, and Rory is really starting to grow on me as well. the whole thing was just wonderful for me.

  2. I have to agree. This was funny and whimsical and just so Christmassy with a tragic love story underpinning rather than overwhelming it.

    Moffat has a talent for telling incredibly complex stories in such a simple way. The whole notion of the Doctor going back in time to rewrite Kazran’s memories could have gotten the casual viewer all tied up in knots, but Moffat makes it work so easily that you almost don’t notice it.

    I know some have been complaining that the Xmas special was light, fluffy and relatively meaningless – but I think they miss the point. Xmas episodes are supposed to be light, fluffy and meaningless – we can leave the serious stuff for the next series proper. For now, I’m just so cheered that this episode brought a big smile to my face. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? 🙂

    http://slouchingtowardsthatcham.com/2010/12/26/doctor-who-2010-christmas-special-a-christmas-carol-review/

  3. Sakyamuni /

    Loved this but could have done without some of the cheesier bits. Like Boom Town I love it when Doctor Who does character stories. Michael Gambon was outstanding, almost outclassing a very strong cast. The scenes on the ship were tight too

    Oh and the direction in this one was astounding. The simple montage of the Doctor set up the projector, leaving in the TARDIS & then appearing on the projection. Well impressed with not just the concept but the execution.

    “and Rory is really starting to grow on me”

    Really Redhead has it taken that long. He was by far the highlight of the last series for me. Arthur Darvill’s comedy timing is spot on and he’s cute too.

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