When I learned that BBC America would be showing the newest Doctor Who Christmas special, A Christmas Carol, on Christmas day as the BBC does across the pond, I was ecstatic! It's been awhile since I've seen anything fresh from the Who crew and I was glad to see this aired on the only day it really deserves to be seen.
The story opens with newlyweds Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) about to literally crash into a planet with 4,001 other souls aboard a spaceliner. Amy dials up her good friend, the Doctor (Matt Smith), and asks him to save them....again. The Doctor arrives on the planet that Amy, Rory, and a whole lot of other people are about to crash into and asks the planet's literal controller of the clouds, the miserly and heartless Kazran Sardick (Michael Gambon), to part the clouds enough for the spaceliner to regain control of itself and safely land. The clouds are ice-filled and heavy enough that fish can actually swim through them. They are also affecting the spaceliner's controls.
Of course, Sardick, being the cruel man that he is, refuses to part the clouds, thus ensuring the death of all aboard the vessel. As luck would have it, it also happens to be Christmas, which gives the Doctor the perfect chance to change Sardick's heart by playing the Ghost of Christmas past from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
The Doctor travels back in time and attempts to change Sardick as a child, revealing new childhood memories to the elder Sardick via old videos of himself and the Doctor as they spend each past Christmas Eve together. Their adventures go from wild (unleashing a shark in young Sardick's home) to humorous (the Doctor marries Marilyn Monroe). The Doctor also convinces young Sardick to let out one person from his father's cryogenic chamber (where he keeps family members of people who owe him money until their debt is paid) to spend the evening with them. That person is the lovely Abigail (Katherine Jenkins), who becomes romantically involved with Sardick as he matures into a young man.
It appears to be smooth sailing from here on out until Abigail reveals a terrible secret about herself, crushing Sardick's heart and all but sealing the fate of Amy, Rory, and their fellow travellers.
At this point, the Doctor uses Amy as the Ghost of Christmas Present in an attempt to once again change Sardick. When that fails, the Doctor takes on the moniker of the Ghost of Christmas Future in one of the more emotional moments of the show.
I won't reveal the outcome of the episode, but any real fan of Doctor Who probably already knows that the ending is as happy as a child on Christmas morning sitting by the tree.
While the episode is very good, parts of it are just too sugary sweet for my tastes. Also, if I wanted to nitpick, I could point out that the Doctor probably could have saved the crashing vessel plenty of other ways instead of the way he did it. Of course, if he'd picked one of the many other ways to save the ship, there wouldn't have been a story to watch and for that, I can't complain.
Matt Smith does a brilliant job as the Doctor as always. He's quickly becoming one of my favorite incarnations of the Time Lord. Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill have rather limited roles this time around, but inject plenty of humor with their bit parts here. Michael Gambon's portrayal of Sardick is excellent throughout, but truly shines in the final minutes of the special. Katherine Jenkins has a very crucial role here, but it is also a very small role. She's most famous for her singing, which is highlighted in this episode.
Oh, and for any red-blooded American male fan of Doctor Who, we get to see Amy Pond in her police outfit again!
Overall, a fairly good entry into the Doctor Who canon. I've always seen the Christmas specials as a bit of lighthearted fun for the most part, so I didn't go into this expecting a whole lot. I do believe that the ending was a bit unbelievable, but we are dealing with the Doctor and a planet where fish swim in the clouds.
Recommended to Who fans and anyone who enjoys a light science fiction romp.
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