“A Christmas Carol”
With Amy and Rory trapped on a spaceship that’s about to crash onto a colonized world, the Doctor must convince the rich old miser who controls the planet’s artificial cloud-system to help him or his friends will die. Aided by a beautiful woman frozen in suspended animation, and a giant flying shark, the Doctor will bring together past, present and future just in time to save Christmas.
The story’s title draws an obvious comparison to the Dickens tale, about three spirits visiting Ebeneezer Scrooge and teaching him the meaning of Christmas and humanity while showing him various eras of his own life.
Luckily, the episode itself only borrows the initial premise, while thankfully staying away from a straight sci-fi adaption.
Unlike previous Christmas specials, which usually revolve around the Doctor’s sense of loneliness and isolation, this one features his two constant companions, Amy and Rory (who is now listed in the opening credits, good for him). The Doctor’s whole motivation in the story is to rescue the pair. This gives the Doctor free-range to try and help someone else deal with their inner turmoil, which is a much more enjoyably heroic trait.
Matt Smith’s Doctor feels a little more defined here than he did last season. I think writer and actor have a better idea of where they want to take the Eleventh Doctor this time around, with Smith exhibiting an actual personality to go along with all his quirky traits. Also, it helps that Amy isn’t around to overshadow him.
I thought Smith was a bit thin at times last season, in comparison with some of the past Doctors. But here, he is in full swing, ranging from geeky nerd to suave party-goer (My new favorite Doctor-quote is “Marilyn, get your coat!”). I hope this Doctor is the one we see return for Season 6.
As with a lot of Steven Moffat’s stories, this one revolves around children, with the kind of fairy tale feeling you get from something like Peter Pan. The character of Kazran, in his pajamas, running around with the Doctor, brings to mind “The Girl in the Fireplace” and “The Eleventh Hour.” We’ve seen this kind of story done before, with the Doctor traveling along someone’s history. But to be fair, this one does have a different slant on it. Here the Doctor is deliberately trying to alter someone’s life, which calls to mind Steven Moffat’s own short story “Continuity Errors.”
Kazran, the rich old miser, played by Michael Gambon (Dumbledore II from Harry Potter) was a suitably cranky character, but the kind you love to hate. He got so many great lines in the episode, and the opening scene with him was hilarious. And the character of Abygail was just as enchanting and lovable as you’d want her to be.
Remarkably, the episode is able to take all the different characters, and give them equal importance and time, without overshadowing anyone. Amy and Rory don’t have a lot to do, but that’s fair, since we just saw a bunch of them, and we are about to see a lot more.
The story of Kazran is an interesting one. As I said above, Steven Moffat wrote a short Doctor Who story way back in the 90′s called “Continuity Errors” (set in the planet-sized Library from “Silence in the Library) about the Doctor coming up against a bitter librarian who refuses to lend him an important book. Just like this story, the Doctor goes back and changes bits of her history to make her a nicer person. But here, things are a little tougher, as Kazran says in one of the best exchanges, “Time can be rewritten… People can’t.”
All the various Kazran’s did a great job, especially considering that he is essentially the villain of the story. You come to understand and feel for him.
Abygail’s character is just as engaging, if a little less defined. She’s more of a plot device than a character. But in the end, it works out. I’m glad we didn’t have to deal with the fallout of the situation. At times, Doctor Who has focused a little too much on the sadness of a situation. But here, we get the opposing argument, that sadness and happiness go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. I think that’s a hallmark of Moffat’s stories, and of his series so far.
Kazran and Abygail’s story was bittersweet, but perfect for both Christmas and Doctor Who. The whole tone, from the steampunkish setting, to various tricks with time travel, and Amy and Rory on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, make this probably the most diverse Christmas special yet. Even though Kazran tries to “put away childish things” when it comes to the Doctor and Christmas, I’m glad we don’t have to.
Bring on Season 6!
A COMIC BOOK BLOG RATING
|Visually stunning, with a much more define personality for the Doctor||Familiar premise for the show.|