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October 4, 2015

'Doctor Who' - 'A Christmas Carol' Recap

by Brad Trechak, posted Dec 27th 2010 9:15AM
'Dr. Who'['Doctor Who' - 'A Christmas Carol']

The very existence of a 'Doctor Who' Christmas special actually broadcasting on Christmas Day highlights the cultural differences between England and the United States. Would any of the major U.S. networks broadcast an episode of one of their original, scripted series on Christmas? Likely not.

The episode itself, written by 'Doctor Who' showrunner Steven Moffat, was a prime example of the right person in the right job. In anybody else's hands (looking at you, Mr. Davies), this masterful tale would have simply been fair at best.

The story was loosely based on Charles Dickens' classic of the same title and starred the usual cast of characters: the Doctor (Matt Smith), Amy Pond -- now Amy Williams (Karen Gillan) -- and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill). They were joined by Michael Gambon (of the 'Harry Potter' movies) as the Scrooge-like Kazran Sardick and opera singer Katherine Jenkins as Abigail Pettigrew.

It was nice having the opportunity to watch this episode at the same time as the Brits. The plot in brief (for those who didn't watch, shame on you): Amy and Rory were celebrating their honeymoon in the future on a luxury starship (wearing very familiar outfits) when things went wrong and they found themselves crashing into the hostile atmosphere of a human-occupied but alien planet. The Doctor had to negotiate with Sardick, who controlled the atmosphere, to allow the ship to land safely.

Moffat's expertly-woven story even made use of Jenkins' singing talent (which is probably why she was cast in the first place). If I had to compare, Moffat would be the modern equivalent of classic 'Doctor Who' scribe Robert Holmes. As he previously did during his reign on this show, he used time travel as a literary device. It was awesome when Sardick was watching old home movies of himself when the Doctor appeared in them and history was rewritten.

Very different from previous in-your-face Christmas specials, this one had no alien bad guys. Sardick did have to be convinced to step away from the Dark Side -- and there were some nail-biting moments involving a flying shark -- but mostly it was a diatribe on why people should be good rather than bad (which was the point of the original Dickens classic).

Despite the technology available, the society that existed in Sardicktown was proto-industrial -- mirroring the society of Dickens. Even Sardick's last name was reminiscent of the author. It's a wonder Dickens himself didn't appear in this Christmas special, but of course he already appeared on the show way back when during the Eccelston era.

'A Christmas Carol' had some nice subtle winks to previous events and incarnations of the program. In addition to Amy and Rory's outfits, there were also a familiar fez and a very familiar scarf from the Christmas montage in which Abigail was awoken from her cryogenic chamber each Christmas.

In short, this episode was fantastic. As with Matt Smith's introduction in 'The Eleventh Hour,' it's a good jumping-on point to introduce any non-fan friends to 'Doctor Who.' You only need to understand a minimal amount of what has happened before to get the plot. That is, unless your friends are the sort that cannot appreciate subtle, nuanced storytelling. In which case, just leave them to their 'American Idol.'

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Mike Moody

This was a great special that hit all the right notes. And yes, it was awesome to be able to watch a Doctor Who Christmas special on Christmas Day for the first time! I hope to make it a Christmas tradition for as long as the show lasts.

As far as the Davies vs. Moffat argument goes -- they're both amazing writers who have crafted hours and hours of brilliant TV. I guess it just comes down to taste. I'm a bigger fan of Moffat's more emotional and clever storytelling style, plus his rapid-fire dialogue is just so great. And, yeah, I loved David Tennant, but Matt Smith feels more like "my' Doctor.

Really looking forward to the new series. Hopefully we won't have a delay on those either. "Stetsons are cool."

December 27 2010 at 2:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I can only dream of how fun it would have been if David Tennant was still the Doctor

December 27 2010 at 11:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

While I would agree that Moffat writes very good individual scripts, Davies was far superior when it comes to the big picture. His 5 year story arc that included a set-up in Eccleston's first episode that paid off in the last moments of Tennant's final episode was amazing (not to mention the large-scale interweaving of the stories of three different companions).

The whole circularity and reboot business with the Pandorica (the Pandorica was created because The Doctor was going to destroy the universe, but the only reason the universe was almost destroyed was because The Doctor was trapped in the Pandorica) was nowhere near as good as the Dalek/Time Lord War that affected the events of 5 seasons.

December 27 2010 at 10:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Leroy's comment

You can't compare one season's arc to that of 5 seasons. Moffat's "Time War" arc could very well be that of The Silence.

December 27 2010 at 4:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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