Saturday, 25 December 2010

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol (2010 Christmas Special)

The first Doctor Who Christmas special to feature Matt Smith in the role of the legendary Time Lord is here, and it's certainly festive enough. Amy and Rory are trapped on a ship along with 4,000 other people, and it's heading for disaster, caught in disruptive clouds surrounding a curiously steampunky planet. The Doctor heads down to the planet before the ship can crash in order to try to get the man who controls the clouds to help out, thus saving the ship and its passengers. Of course, that man is a dead ringer for Scrooge, and refuses to help at all. The Doctor cooks up a plan to re-enact Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and try to change Sardick (played by Michael Gambon)'s mind.

Along the way we meet the angelically-voiced opera singer Katherine Jenkins, who plays the equally sweet-voiced Abigail. From there it gets a bit complicated, and I'd imagine a fair few TVs around the country were shouted at. The special itself is absolutely beautiful to look at, with a sumptuous production and truly gorgeous effects, but it's easy to lose the plot a bit and just concentrate on the exemplary visuals at points.

I think part of the trouble is that you can already guess the ending to the story from about five minutes in, if that. Amy and Rory are barely even in the special, even though they're in mortal peril, and this is a shame as they'd just found their feet as characters by the end of series 5. The Doctor spends much of the episode going through the required motions of the classic Dickens tale with a whimsical SF/fantasy spin on it, and while Matt Smith is once again wonderful as the Doctor, this special just felt a bit lacking in the excitement department.

Where it excelled was the performance and character of Michael Gambon's Sardick, who must go through a very odd transformation as the episode unfolds. His portrayal of this difficult character is lovely to watch, and he really brings Katherine Jenkins' limited acting skills to your attention. As guest stars go, she does okay, and gets to sing a fair bit, but she's not the best actor in the world. She's not the worst, but her delivery does occasionally remind you she's first and foremost a vocalist and not a character actor.

There are some great ideas in the episode (the fish and all that came with them), but it's all a bit too surreal. However, it's perfectly festive and ideal Christmas viewing, even with its problems. Next year I hope that we can get back to specials on a par with The Christmas Invasion.

PS: I thought the inclusion of the 4th Doctor's scarf was great!!!

The series 6 trailer followed the credits, and we're given a glimpse of... Doctor Who in America. It just looks out of place. Good to see River Song back, and who does that other TARDIS belong to? Theory? River is the Rani. Anyway, it looks a bit too X-Files for me. I know there's a big Doctor Who audience in the US, but can't we just keep this *one* show as it is, and not turn it American? Please? The Doctor is as British as tea and scones.

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