Monday, 27 December 2010


Doctor Who - A Christmas Carol. Newlywed couple Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) are aboard a Galaxy Class liner for their honeymoon. But the spaceship is about to crash and only the Doctor (Matt Smith) can save them and the passengers. Only if he succeeds in making a grouchy old rich man better.

[Spoiler and Chimney-Free review]

Each Christmas since 2005 the mandatorily lavish Doctor Who special is the highlight of BBC One's holiday programmes. Previously our favourite time lord saved the Earth from alien invasions, deadly Santa Claus robots, a space Titanic, Victorian era Cybermen and even Timothy Dalton as Ming the Merciless. No such extravaganza this year but Who supremo Steven Moffat's rather clever twist on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, a classic adapted a gazillion times. Even soap opera character icon Victor Newman got the Ebenezer Scrooge treatment in The Young and The Restless last week.

Directed by Toby Haynes, Moffat's own Christmas Carol opens with the intrusion of "Mr and Mrs Pond" on the command deck of their honeymoon spaceship and judging from their costumes the incoming catastrophy is rudely interrupting something. This hilarious pre-credits sequence clearly has the epic flare of past specials and the knack of Steven Moffat for adult comedy. Arthur Darvill's name is deservedly on the opening titles, but curiously not the two prestigious guest stars: acting royalty Sir Michael Gambon and singer Katherine Jenkins.

Michael Gambon plays a Scrooge-like character named like a Mission: Impossible villain, Kazran Sardick ("Good morning Doctor Phelps, this man is Kazran Sardick.") Of course Gambon is, as always, beyond brilliant. The same has been said of Sir Ian McKellen in the infamous Prisoner remake, which is not surprising as the two veteran thespians could move you just by chanting their shopping lists. And the first scenes with the grumpy old miser are great, with just the appropriate touch of "icy cool" humour and a contemporary political subtext.

Michael Gambon in a Doctor Who Xmas special is a safe bet for the show's bosses and a treat for viewers. But the choice of Katherine Jenkins for "her first major acting appearance" (1) is somewhat puzzling, especially when the episode goes BBC Proms sings Christmas for the shark of Jaws 38. Too bad we can't get more of the newlyweds instead and more true interaction of the Williamses with the Doctor. And too bad most of the work of production designer extraordinary Michael Pickwoad (Whitnail and I, Lost in Austen, The Prisoner 2009) is plunged in the dark.

The sled pulled by Bruce's cousin is the most cringy thing in the History of modern Doctor Who since a certain flying bus. And sorry, no thanks for all the fish... but stetsons are "cool". To end on a positive note please read the review of this Christmas Carol by the respected, erudite and talented blogger Frank Collins ( Frank is a specialist - among so many subjects - of Doctor Who, and the author of The Pandorica Opens, a book exploring series five (


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