Steven Moffat (Sherlock) once again proved his worth as a creator in Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol. Instead of trying to recreate the original work by Charles Dickens, Moffat pays homage to Dickens and then creates a distinctively new story with higher stakes. Yes, it’s got the old scrooge, in this case Kazran Sardick (Michael Gambon, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2), and a Tiny Tim character, swapped out to be the gorgeous Abigail (singing sensation Katherine Jenkins). However, in this story, more than a man’s soul is on the line. The Doctor (Matt Smith), always “avoiding” the chance to alter history, must work to save an entire civilization on the brink of crashing into Sardick’s planet. And, he’s got to change Sardick in order to do it. Karen Gillian and Arthur Darvill also star as Doctor Who’s newlywed companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams. This is a 110-minute epic carol, now on Blu-ray with exceptional special features, will surely be remembered as one of the best Doctor Who Christmas Specials of the new Who era.
A Christmas Carol starts off with a ship careening out of control, carrying an entire population of humans. Amy, dressed in her Pilot police outfit, and Rory, dressed in Roman attire from the Season 5 finale, have their honeymoon interrupted to try and save the day. Needless to say, the Doctor arrives just tardy enough to have Amy sweat before yelling for joy at his appearance. The space liner needs to make a crash landing in Sardicktown, run by the miser Kazran Sardick. Unfortunately, there’s a mysterious cloud belt that only he controls. Without his permission, flying through the clouds would leave the ship ripped to shreds.
Once Sardick is introduced, you start to see the remnants of Dickens arise. It’s Christmas Eve. Gambon delivers a weighty narration worthy of the theatre stage before telling us why Christmas is such a waste of time. He’s the richest man in town, which can be expected since Sardicktown is so obviously named after his family. His father tamed the clouds and became an infamous celebrity. Now, Kazran does favors for people and puts a family member in stasis as collateral. He’s cold to a fault, but he does have one weakness. Kazran is not a child abuser. The Doctor spots this momentary frailty and decides to exploit it. He queues up the Dickens story and states that he will play the role of the Ghost of Christmas Past.
Now, Moffat has a chance to flex his muscle. With Gambon already delivering such a poignant performance in his role as a Who Scrooge, viewers are left wondering what the Doctor will do to change Kazran. You’d expect him to take Kazran in the Tardis and journey together on a trip through memory lane. Been there. Done that. Moffat shakes his head, “Nuh-uh.” Instead, the Doctor jumps back in time to talk to the younger Kazran in an effort to change the Kazran of the present. This makes the story immediately different from other time travel tales as well. The story seamlessly shifts between past and present as the older Kazran discovers “new” memories, while the Doctor helps the younger Kazran to create those moments in time.
These moments between past and present are skillfully interweaved. The Doctor may open a door, initiating a new moment in time. Immediately, it registers as a memory in the present Kazran’s mind and he’ll respond to it by – perhaps – finding a keepsake that wasn’t there before or seeing different objects appear in the room.
Katherine Jenkins does a wonderful job as both a tragic princess, locked in ice, and a singer who magically creates a warm fuzzy feeling inside you every time she sings. This was her first acting performance and it was a joy to watch.
Humor is not lacking in this 2-hour special. The Doctor matches wits with children, showing off his more playful and somewhat childish side. Also, Kazran makes some of the most humorous taunts in diabolical villain fashion. It’s great to see Gambon in this role as he shows off so many different emotions. He’s evil, compassionate, reflective, sympathetic, callous, introverted and loving all at the same time. It creates a great dynamic for the Doctor to fight with.
Once again, BBC gives viewers an awesome home video release with Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol on Blu-ray. There are only two special features, however it includes both the entire Doctor Who Confidential on the episode and the entire Doctor Who at the PROMS 2010. The PROMS 2010 is masterfully cut, giving viewers a nice mix of a theatre and theatrical movie. For fans of Season 5, it’s a nice way to recap the season, while enjoying the music and orchestral accompaniment to Who. As always, the Confidential is about as in-depth as you can go into an episode. The Confidential dissects the Christmas Special, from the table read and interviews to footage of the actors working on set. They’ve also done a great job of cutting between the table read, the final cut seen in the special and different takes and camera angles that did not make it into the final version. It’s an amazing watch that can be replayed over and over. The special features are also all in High Definition 1080i, which is much appreciated.
Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol now joins my list of films to watch during the Holiday Season. I’d even watch the PROMS over and over. This is easily one of my favorite Who episodes, and I can tell you that there are quite a lot of favorites. This is one for the collection.
- Doctor Who Confidential
- Doctor Who at the Proms 2010