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Saturday, 25 December 2010

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol


A gaming podcast I was listening to a couple of weeks ago made some passing jibe about how all American '80s sitcoms had to have a Christmas episode that was some riff on Dickens' A Christmas Carol - because they were so bereft of originality.

This off-hand comment only heightened my fears for the Doctor Who Christmas Special - unimaginatively entitled 'A Christmas Carol' - and after my disappointment with Stephen Moffat's first year as The Doctor's showrunner I was beginning to think that this festive one-off could easily be the nail in Who fandom's coffin for me, the straw that broke the very forgiving camel's back.

Thus I settled down to watch the episode at 6pm on Christmas Day with much trepidation - I'd even toyed with the idea of not watching it all, seeing what the reviews said then watching on Sky+ when we got home.

An hour later I was grinning like a loon, with a slight trace of dampness at the corner of my eye and delighted to proclaim that not only did The Doctor save Christmas - as always - but this was also the Christmas that saved The Doctor, for me!

It was a simple plot - that openly declared its homage to Dickens' classic as The Doctor used it as his inspiration for his machinations - after a spaceship (on which Rory and Amy were honeymooning) heading towards a crash landing on a cloudy, pseudo-steampunky world where the wicked and heartless moneylender Kazran Sardick (Michael Gambon) controlled the one device that could possibly help bring the ship in for a safe landing.

Kazran, naturally (or there wouldn't have been much of a story), wanted nothing to do with The Doctor and the crashing ship and so The Doctor took a journey back through the old miser's life to find out why he was the way he was and change him for the better.

It was a surprisingly lovely, sweet story - with an engaging, but heart-breaking - romantic subplot with Abigail (opera star Katherine Jenkins), who could only be taken out of deep freeze once a year on Christmas Eve - with only the slightest of flaws: the fact that The Doctor totally overlooked the dials on the front of Abigail's deep freeze ominously counting down as he and young Kazran (Laurence Belcher) popped back year-after-year.

It would be easy also to ridicule some of the special effects - particularly the flying shark when it was attached to the carriage - but Who has a tradition dating back to its earliest days of overstretching itself when it comes to special effects, and the half-baked green screening simply reminded me of the Pertwee/Baker era when the BBC technicians were getting to grips with CSO.

Even the casting of Katherine Jenkins, in her first acting role, was spot on and totally relevant to the story -as her character was required to sing beautifully - unlike the pointless, stunt-casting of Kylie in the dire Voyage Of The Damned, which I'd feared this might have been following.

I do think the routine that The Doctor pulled on Kazran sets a dangerous precedent though - I mean what's to stop him running the Christmas Carol schtick on Davros, The Master or any other villain he runs into next?

A Christmas Carol was flawed - slightly - but also genuinely festive, truly emotional (without resorting to the heavy-handed RTD era soap operatics) and visually entertaining (if you could look past the occasionally wonky effects) and I hope an indication of the level of the fun we can look forward to when the show returns for its two half-seasons next year.

My fanboyish love of the show may have wavered these past 12 months, but A Christmas Carol hit all the right notes for me and has pulled me back on board, slightly more reserved, less dewy eyed, but certainly back on target and looking forward to 2011.


2 comments:

  1. I'm not much of a WHOvian, since the Tom Baker denouement, but I did like the Christmas Carol, with the same concern you raised.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Might be worth your while sticking with this new incarnation as much of it - at least tries - to hark back to the "good, old days" (even pre-Tom Baker era), and you might find yourself lured in by the show's quirky, British charm... ;)

    ReplyDelete

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