Review: Doctor Who 2010 Christmas Special "A Christmas Carol"
Monday, December 27, 2010 - 13:22
Amy Pond: “ Time can be re-written....”
Kazran Sardick: “People can’t!!”
On a distant Earth Colony at some unspecified point in the future, a spaceship hurtles out of control into thick fog belts enshrouding the planet. While newlyweds Amy and Rory attend to the crew and passengers aboard the stricken ship, The Doctor visits Kazran Sardick whose isomorphic controlled machine is the only thing that can allow the ship to land safely - but Kazran is a miser, whose soul has long since turned to ice. He cares little for life’s pleasures. A businessman whose father founded Sardicktown and built the machine - keeping at bay the Fish that swim high above in the turbulent atmosphere. A banker who keeps people frozen in cryogenic suspension as “security,” ensuring he gets back the money he lends - meaning many of the colonists are poor, forever unable to pay back what they owe.
Failing to appeal to Kazran’s cruel unsympathetic nature, The Doctor decides the only way he can ensure Kazran’s cooperation in saving over 4,000 passengers and his companions, is to change the man’s very timeline. So taking inspiration from his favorite Victorian author, The Doctor embarks on his Christmas Carol by becoming Kazran’s Ghost of Christmas Past. He meets a young Kazran who is terrified of his brutal father and a girl called Abagail Petigrew, whose fragile life is inextricably interlinked with young Kazran’s destiny.
Earlier this year, Steven Moffat made it clear that this year’s Who Christmas Special would be the most “Christmassy” Special ever - and boy is he right! I have to say right now, forget the dross that RTD served up – okay with the exception of "The Christmas Invasion" – this was the real deal! In a story that had many of Steven’s trademarks, great characterization, pacing and genuine plot (not padding), it also included another "timey wimey" plot line which was just as clever as witnessed in "The Big Bang" episode. Kazran slowly realizes he has had two distinct lives - further emphasizing the “time can be rewritten” concept established in his first season as head writer. The concept will carry on with much more darker tones in the 2011 series - but more on that later.
The three regulars (Arthur Davril as Rory makes it to the opening screen credits) are on fine form. Although time wise, Amy and Rory are often relegated to the sub-plot aboard the strickened spaceship – with a near welcome return of the kinky police girl’s suit and roman outfit - best left to the imagination what when on in the Honeymoon Suite! Matt Smith gives another superb performance further cementing his interpretation of the Time Lord. Standing up to older Sardick’s cruelty when he attempts to strike a kid in his study and later playing cupid to Young Kazran’s evolving romance with Abagail. Leading to the realization of the mistake he’s made later on when his "timey-wimey" plan nearly goes astray. I particularly loved the Santa scene as he falls down Sardick’s chimney into his study, later claiming he met Saint Nicholas or as he knows him - Jeff! It seems the Eleventh’s Doctor’s trademark for adlibbing the truth is becoming as much as the Tenth’s saying “I’m so Sorry.”
It is in young Kazran’s bedroom we get the first encounter with the story’s monster, the shark. One of our newspapers reported the presence of an air swimming shark back in the summer, which I thought was a little bit of a red herring (hardly). The idea of a planet where fish can swim in the air was realized brilliantly by "The Mill." In fact, there were a lot of ace special effects in this story – from the pseudo Victorian realization of the colony, a realistic looking spaceship and a scene with the Doctor, Abagail and young Kazran flying around in a rickshaw above the city pulled by the shark. By time the credits close, you’ll actually feel very sorry for this shark! Kudos to Moffat for breaking the Spielberg curse to this most maligned fish!
Of course, apart from Matt, Arthur and Karen, we had two big stars this year. Michael Gambon – yeah Dumbledore himself as Kazran Sardick - playing the role of the mizer whose icy heart slowly begins to melt with perfection. His opening narration as we descend into the foggy streets of Sardicktown festooned with Christmas decorations, an old Earth tradition heralding the rise out of the Winter Solstice with Christmas trees, pies and Silent Night playing in the background, superbly sets the scene before we get to see how cruel this man is. Furthermore, as the story unfolds, we see the reason for his nature is directly due to The Doctor’s attempt to make him a better man.
What about Katherine Jenkins as Abagail? For those of you who may not know who she is, Katherine is one of the UK’s premier Opera singers and her vocal talents are put to good use for this story. Yes, that’s right, we have singing - and forget the “Devil You Know” scenes in Daleks in Manhattan; here the singing is integral to the plot and the story’s resolution with a specially composed Carol sung by her. As the Doctor attempts to harmonize the ice crystals to disperse the fog clouds to allow the ship to land - is wonderful stuff; even her ode to the shark gets a big thumbs up! Considering this was the first time she’s had an acting role in a major series, the Welsh beauty does a brilliant job. Kudos also to including a young Kazran - continuing the Moffat use of re-envisioning Who as much a children’s fantasy series as a science fiction one.
Summing up, I have to say this Special was an absolute joy - and, in many parts, it made me cry so much I went through three hankies with tears! If you haven’t seen it, you’ll be in for a treat!
And now, the future - because, we also saw the first glimpses of the 2011 series (Preview Trailer: Doctor Who: Season 6) and I think its going to be fantastic! Want some breadcrumbs? Okay – OOD! RIVER SONG IN 1960’S USA adorned with strange markings! Monument Valley! Amy’s got the same skin problem! A sinister doll’s house. A NASA astronaut standing in someone's living room! Men in Black! A junkyard alien planet and a mysterious link to the Troughton classic War Games....and what was that in the last scene?? Could it be that the Greys from the X-Files are paying a visit??!! And who or what are the Silence and how does Amy ensure she keeps The Doctor alive? Find out when the first half of season six debuts in April!
Wishing you all a good Christmas and New Year! Darren.