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Doctor Who Recap: ‘A Christmas Carol’

Show: Doctor Who

Episode Title: A Christmas carol

Air Date: December 25th, 2010

Network: BBC America

It’s up to the Doctor to save Rory, Amy and four thousand other souls in this extremely clever story based on Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol”.

Warning: Spoilers ahead…

Moffat’s run has been hit or miss with me thus far (let the comments pour in on that one), and this story was definitely a hit. There have been so many variations and adaptations of the classic ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Dickens that you probably think there is nothing new that can be done or added – and you’d be wrong.

Heck, I was.

I remember seeing the trailer for the Jim Carey / Robert Zemeckis creepy Santa style (ala Polar Express) animated version last year (I think) and thinking – again? Really? Hasn’t that story been done to death and back again?

Then along comes Moffat.

I am a fan of the man, don’t get me wrong. Loved Coupling, loved Jekyl, even loved Sherlock. His episode of Doctor Who, ‘Blink’, is a damned fine piece of work and should be on the watch list of each and every one of you reading this. But his take on the Doctor as show runner hasn’t thrilled me so much as I’ve gone up and down like a roller-coaster ride from episode to episode. And I didn’t care for the climax story arc wrap-up with the whole Pandorica/Big Bang reboot thing (sorry if that just spoiled something for you) despot the most clever use of time travel on Doctor Who to date.

But I am a Who fan, have been for a long time. I’m not going to give up or anything. So I went into the Christmas Special this year with an open mind.

By the way – before I get too far into this (and yes, I know I’m already well into where I should be talking about the episode – COME ON PEOPLE – YOU KNOW I’M LONG WINDED!), I would like to say kudos to the BBC and BBC America for airing the Christmas special ‘in real time’, as it were – on the same day in Britain and America. That is awesome and amazing and I love you for doing that. One thing that has always bugged me is the delay in airing episodes over here. I am aware that they are trying to work out the details so they can air the regular series episodes in the same way, which again is awesome. They recognize that the piracy of the series is due mostly to the fact that fans over here don’t want to wait six months or a year to see the show, and they want to fix that. Love em for that.

Back to the episode. A Christmas Carol begins with a ship having troubles (apparently with massive amounts of lens flares constantly blinding the crew!!) and looking like they’re going to crash. Onto the bridge rushes Amy Pond, back in her kiss-o-gram police officer outfit followed quickly by new hubby Rory wearing a Roman soldier’s outfit. Apparently, they’re on their honeymoon (and ‘fresh’ from the honeymoon suite).


Pond sees that the ship is in dire straits and does what anyone who travels with a TimeLord who has his own TARDIS would do in a similar situation – she calls the Doctor.

“Come along, Pond…”

Turns out, the clouds of this world contain fish that swim through the air and a device on the planet used to ‘tame’ those clouds, is preventing the ship from landing safely. The owner of said machine is an Ebenezer named Kazran Sardick who uses his control of the skies to rule the planet with an iron fist.

Played masterfully by Michael Gambon, famous for his role as Dumbledore following the death of the original actor to play the part Richard Harris, Kazran Sardick is a true Scrooge and, as they say in the episode, halfway into darkness. When we first meet him, he has a lady frozen in a box, her family huddled together and requesting that she be let out for one night, Christmas. Apparently, he and his father before him, lend people money but take a family member and freeze them as collateral. They have a whole room full of such people. Of course, he refuses to release the woman even for a night.

The Doctor arrives via chimney, saying something like, “Ah, yes, Blimey, sorry – Christmas Eve on a rooftop, saw a chimney – my whole brain just went – what the hell?” and tries to manipulate the machine that keeps the skies (and fish) in check only to learn that Kazran is the only one who can use the machine as it is isomorphic and tied to him and him alone.

“Oh, you fibber. Isomorphic! There’s no such thing.”

After spending a brief amount of time with the man, the Doctor decides that he needs an attitude adjustment and lights upon the idea of A Christmas Carol as inspiration. Using the TARDIS, he travels back in time and becomes the babysitter for a very young Kazran, meets the lady in the ice box and begins a yearly Christmas adventure designed to teach the boy to become a better man.

Back in the present (or the future, depending on your point of view), old Kazran is stunned to find his past and memories changing as his younger self and the Doctor have their yearly adventures. Unfortunately, the change doesn’t manifest itself the way the Doctor intended and he finds that old Kazran still will not save the ship in the skies above due to something that the lady in ice told him long ago, something he refuses to share with the Doctor.

The Doctor has to try something different to get through to him…

This episode was really great and a lot of fun. The fish flying through the sky were superbly done and very whimsical (well, the small ones – the big shark was pretty scary!). I am almost afraid that they may have blown the majority of their sfx budget for the season on this one episode – ouch! The bit with the sonic screwdriver (Shark eats it, it gets broken into two pieces, one inside the shark making noise, the other in their hands trying to repair itself) reminded me more of Captain Hook with the alligator than it did of any Dickens tale – but maybe that was the point.

Moffat, to my mind, was attempting to create a faery tale world – I mean, where else are you going to find fish that swim through the clouds? He tells the tale well – possibly the best he’s done so far. Amy and Rory are relegated to the background for most of the episode, which is fine as it gives Kazran and the lady in the ice time to shine.

The use of time travel is again quite different and amusing with the Doctor bouncing back and forth with a precision that he does not normally show a talent for. His apparent marriage (that cottage was never official!) to a ‘Marilyn’ in Hollywood in ’56 was also quite amusing.

I am still not sold on Smith as the Doctor, but he did a damned better job with this episode and it went a long way towards convincing me that he just might have the chops for this after all.

Bonus: Check out the trailer for the upcoming season. Doctor who comes to America. And he wears a cowboy hat – why? Cuz cowboy hat’s are cool.

About Patrick Hester (527 Articles)
Patrick Hester is a writer, blogger, podcasting dude, Denver transplant and all around Functional Nerd. Don't hate him cuz he has a cool hat.

5 Comments on Doctor Who Recap: ‘A Christmas Carol’

  1. I was worried the show was jumping the shark.

  2. Re: Isomorphic


    The Doctor can be a BS artist when he wants to be, or perhaps he was thinking Karzan was.


    After all, he encountered isomorphic controls on the Master’s laser screwdriver a couple of seasons back, as I recall.


    Overall, this and the previous season definitely give a Faerie sort of feel to Doctor Who. This is the sort of Doctor who would not feel out of place posing as Merlin. 

    And Given the 7th Doctor Episode Battlefield…hmmm…

  3. Judging by the number of uses on SF messageboards everywhere, I think the “this show has jumped the shark” comments jumped their own shark at approx. 19:01 GMT December 25th.

  4. Wow. What’s the opposite of jumping the shark? Because that’s what this Christmas episode did–in fact, that’s what the whole Matt Smith incarnation is doing. I am a huge Classic Who fan (absolutely love Tom Baker, of course, love Troughton). I never thought the “New Who” has ever came close to the classic stuff (I don’t like Eccleston much; I really like Tennant’s frenetic portrayal of the Doctor, but not many of the storylines). But I’ve totally been into the show since Smith took over. The whimsy and joy is finally back in full force in this show! Talk about regeneration!

    P.S. I loved Sherlock, too (after expecting to hate the modern setting for the Sacred Canon). More, please. And mo’ Moffat!! HUZZAH!!!!

  5. I thought it was wonderfully whimsical and silly and loved this one. 🙂

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