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Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol

by on February 12, 2011
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“Who’s she?”

“Nobody important.”

“Nobody important? Blimey. That’s amazing. You know, in 900 years in time and space, I’ve never met anyone that wasn’t important before.”

Ever since it was revived in 2005, “Doctor Who” has aired a Christmas Day episode. It’s become a BBC staple. During the Russell T. Davies era, the specials were fun but nothing outstanding. David Tennant always brought his A-game, but last December marked the first time without Davies or Tennant.

The episode was called “A Christmas Carol,” but that is very misleading. The Charles Dickens tale has been overdone so many times it has actually caused more people to become Scrooge-ish. A mean man sees his disappointing past, his unnoticed present and dire future and suddenly becomes better. Showrunner Steven Moffat is not interested in telling that easy of a story … especially when there’s a time machine involved.

In order to save his friends and the lives of a very “Star Trek”-y ship, the Doctor (Matt Smith) must convince the cold Kazran Sardick (“Harry Potter’s” Michael Gambon) to use his weather machine to lessen the fog so the ship can land. However, Kazran is not interested in the lives of 400 people and refuses. The Doctor now needs to change the heart of this man so everyone can live.

The Doctor is very conscious of the Dickens story. (He actually helped inspire it back in Season 1). So he doesn’t just fall into the same traps but constantly surprises Kazran and the audience. Finally, there is a version of this story that is faithful in spirit but not in the plot details. The reveal of who every “ghost” shall be and how they will pull off the three different times is ingenious.

The episode is not just about being clever with the structure. It’s one of the more emotional episodes of the series. The former Christmas specials used that label as a chance to be more of a spectacle. This one embraced the joy and spirit in such a genuine way that this special now ranks as one of my holiday favorites along with “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “A Christmas Story.”

Smith’s Doctor gets to have more fun with what’s going on. Although the place looks like Victorian London, this is a different planet where the fog is thick enough for fish to appear like they’re flying. Smith is so ecstatic about seeing such a sight; everything has the potential for beauty. That’s why he wants to change Kazran instead of defeating him. With this tactic, there is the chance for adventure, love and a one-shark open sleigh. (You read me.)

Some of the best gags are for those who have been with the series for a while. (“You can go kiss her or you can go to your room and design a new type of screwdriver. Don’t make my mistakes.”) Yet the core of the story is a wonderful tale that everyone can enjoy.

Now this DVD and Blu-ray does just contain one episode of the show. Also, there’s a very good chance this episode will appear on the Season Six set next year. The quality is obviously not a question, it’s more about whether amount of content makes it worthwhile to pick this up.

There are only two bonus features and they’re both a lot of fun. One is the “Doctor Who Confidential,” a one-hour making-of, which is amazing. It shows every level of production, including how dynamic their table read was and a closer look at their awesome sets.

The other feature is a one-hour concert called “Doctor Who at the Proms.” It’s an orchestrial concert of Murray Gold’s score but the real fun is how interactive the night was. The stars were there, but so were all of the monsters of the fifth season walking up and down the aisles growling at little kids, some of which were wearing fezzes. Both of these will make any fan of the show incredibly giddy because of how much love is with this franchise and how rewarding it all can be.

Episode: 5 Yaps
Extras: 4.5 Yaps