A Christmas Carol – A Review

12 Blogs of Christmas: #1

I have never watched an episode of Doctor Who “live” on Christmas Day because I am always enjoying myself relaxing with both mine and in-law’s families. That is true not only for the five Christmas specials of the new era (Christmas Invasion, Runaway Bride, Voyage of the Damned, The Next Doctor, or End of Time Part One) but also for 1965’s Feast of Steven, for which I was about five year’s away from being born in time for. And so it came to pass (to coin a Christmas-y phrase) that, being suitably fueled by much alcohol and rich foods at about 11pm last night, I switched on the Sky+ planner to see what Steven Moffat could do with his first festive Who. I was not to be disappointed.

If the stated theme of series five/31/Fnarg had been to re-invent Doctor Who as a fairy tale, then there was no sign of that abating with the first installment of six/32/whatever. A beautifully realised colony world was the setting for the story: a kind of Dickensian / steampunk / Christmas mashup that was charismatically brought to life by some clever cinematography and fantastic sets. And on this world the focus of the story was Kazran Sardick, who effectively played the Scrooge character in a post-modern version of A Christmas Carol. You could hardly go wrong with Michael Gambon in the role and the opening scenes between him and Matt Smith were captivating.

Plot-wise, we saw echoes of Voyage of the Damned as a space ship was on a crash course with the planet, except this time the Doctor was off the vessel as he tried to save it. Chuck in the aforementioned Dickens classic, a bit of a clever love story and a splash of Finding Nemo and you could be excused in thinking that this was going to be a horrible mess. And of course, it would be very easy to dissect the plot a little too much, which had a couple of moments of techno-babble that served to stop the viewer being distracted by lingering on awkward questions. For example, “Why doesn’t he materialise the TARDIS on the stricken ship and save the day from there?”. However, anyone with fears that this would all get in the way of a bloody good story, clearly haven’t paid much attention to the Moff’s previous endeavours.

Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill were reduced to bit parts for the most of the story, so much so, it made me wonder why Karen had been involved in so much of the pre-publicity but, in truth, this was not their story, it was Matt’s. In his first Christmas outing I would assume that this would have been the first time that some people had seen him in the role and from the moment he entered (via the chimney) to the final scene he cannot have failed to impress. Also impressing were special effects team. The fish and sharks that swam around with the cast were beautifully realised, even the spaceship and the cityscapes were jaw-droppingly good (anyone flicking over half way through could have been forgiven for thinking that they had stumbled on the Christmas Day movie by mistake). The shark-led sleigh ride was a challenge too far though, and an unnecessary one at that, as the illusion was broken.

So, with a nice complicated little plot, world-class acting and impressive effects it was hardly surprising that the other details also stood up to a second viewing in the cold light of Boxing Day this morning. When I heard that the soundtrack for the episode was to get its own CD release in the New Year, I did wonder quite how much value was being placed on the music. I had been cynical that the merchandising team were just rubbing it in a bit. However, having seen how integral the music was not just to the show but to the plot as well, and also hearing the remarkable quality of Katherine Jenkins vocals, then my cynicism was soon washed away. If this is any indication of what is to come in 2011 then we might be in for one of Who’s greatest years, although, in the only negative aspect of my Christmas 2010 experience, my recording did manage to cut itself off before the end of the Coming Soon trailer that left me scowling at the telly and not quite knowing what that future holds.

    • Fazzinchi
    • December 27th, 2010

    I recorded the repeat on BBC HD tonight and managed to catch a recording of the whole thing after all.

    • Adam Stone
    • December 27th, 2010

    My recording also ended early, but even earlier than yours did. Mine ended with the Doctor building a snowman and Amy and Rory approaching him!

  1. January 4th, 2011

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