Matt watches the Christmas specials #6: A Christmas Carol

28 Dec

A Christmas Carol

Title: A Christmas Carol
Written by: Steven Moffat

Year: 2010

It’s Christmas! I despise Christmas! I love new planets… Father Christmas. Santa Claus. Or, as I’ve always known him, Jeff. There isn’t any lottery! I’m the ghost of Christmas past…

A Christmas Carol has the best beginning of all the Christmas specials – no contest. Starting off with a view of a stormy planet we are suddenly greeted by a spaceship plummeting toward the world below and a gorgeous interior set of glossy white walls and shiny black surfaces. Sparks fly and alarm bells ring as the captain of the ship orders a status report before declaring Christmas is cancelled. But don’t fret! Amy and Rory burst onto the scene clad in police uniform and Roman Centurion garb with a device to call the Doctor and before we know it that little blue box is flying alongside the spaceship… “COME ALONG POND…” Best. Opening. Ever. Ladies and gentlemen, hold on to your fezzes.

Keep the faith

Kazran Sardick (played brilliantly by Michael Gambon who you should know, unless you are a hermitplays Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films 3-7) is an old Christmas-hating miser who has lost the ability to empathise with human suffering. Sound familiar? The problem is, he’s also the only person who can part the clouds in the skies above and allow the Ponds (and the rest of the crashing spaceship’s occupants) to land. Lucky thing our favourite Timelord is on hand…

A Christmas Carol, which draws its plot from its other namesake, is (as you’d expect) not an entirely regular story. Focusing more on its characters than the stakes, Moffat presents viewers with a tale of tragic love and loneliness, spangled with humour and joy throughout a young, adult and older Kazran’s life (played by Laurence Belcher, Danny Horn and Gambon respectively): a real Christmas caper indeed.

Kazran and Abigail

Guest stars Katherine Jenkins, who plays Abigail (in her first screen acting role), and Michael Gambon are excellently utilized here, with Moffat giving Matt Smith’s Doctor plenty of opportunity for his signature slapstick style and razor-sharp wit. Jenkins in particular really shines in scenes with Danny Horn and, being an opera singer (as many readers will no doubt already know), she does get to showcase her singing talent in this episode. While it is perhaps a bit forced, it does add to the generally Christmassy feeling and therefore just manages to escape becoming a cheap gimmick. Though Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill (who has a newly instated, and long overdue, title credit) are in this episode, apart from a few short scenes they are not very involved; The few scenes they are both in however, are a delight.

Doctor and Kazran in Santa hats

Laurence Belcher also adds to a long legacy of talented child actors to star in Moffat-penned episodes and has some brilliant scenes with Matt Smith in the first half of the episode that will have even the most cynical viewer crack a wry smile. Smith himself is dazzling in this story and clearly builds on the hugely successful persona he cultivated for his Doctor in Series 5 to add a touch more mystery and depth. The scene in which he calmly rests in an armchair and whispers “Tonight… I’m a ghost of Christmas past” in particular is magical.

Toby Haynes takes the helm on direction – and beautifully directed it is too – for his third episode in a row, the previous two parter of Series 5 The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang also being directed by him, and the entire episode is better for it. Scenes move fluidly and interesting angles and camera movement help to keep the magic intact throughout. *Haynes would go on to direct Series 6 opening two-parter story The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon, two episodes that were also flawlessly shot. As usual, Murray Gold’s soundtrack to this episode is perfectly crafted and sets the tone without becoming intrusive or over the top.

"Guys!"

Favourite moment: The Doctor, Kazran and Abigail are at a party with Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe. Somehow, the Doctor has managed to accidentally propose to Marilyn and needs to make a quick getaway. However, Kazran and Abigail are… busy, in a manner of speaking, forcing the Doctor to face the problem on his own. “Fine…” sulks the Timelord, who promptly leaves the poolside shouting nonchalantly “Marilyn… Get your coat!”

A Christmas Carol is a whimsical ride through Christmas joy and tradition. Stephen Moffat brings us an unforgettable pastiche of a well-known classic that uses the original but doesn’t tarnish it.I admit: on first viewing I wasn’t as fond of this story as I am now. But there’s no denying: Its got everything; an old redeemable miser, a sleigh ride in the snow, a magical ending and to top it off… Santa Claus is real and the Doctor is mates with him and Einstein. Top notch Who.

9/10

Next review: My belated verdict on The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe.

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One Response to “Matt watches the Christmas specials #6: A Christmas Carol”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Doctor Who – The best Christmas special? (Vote! And read!) « gravityshmavity - December 19, 2012

    […] A Christmas Carol (2010) – 9/10 […]

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