Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Review of Doctor Who's 5x14: "A Christmas Carol"

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Toby Haynes

Kazran: “Think about it, Doctor – one last day with your beloved. What day would you choose?”
Abigail: “Christmas. Christmas Day. Look at you, you're so old now. I think you waited a bit too long, didn't you?”

Last year, there wasn’t a whole lot for the Doctor to be cheerful about with the Master inciting chaos and the end of his tenth incarnation abound but this year, we’ve got a special that’s little bit cheerier by comparison but still laced with plentiful of emotional content and poignancy.

When Steven Moffat brazenly decided to called this Christmas special, “A Christmas Carol”, it would’ve be almost a cop out for it not to be a timey-wimey version of the Charles Dickens classic. And before naysayers get a word in, the show waited until now to spoof it and to be honest, it’s actually a decent effort.

Michael Gambon might have been the kindly Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films but as Kazran and Elliot Sardick in different parts of the episode, he’s not a very nice fellow at all and at point, even the Doctor commented on how difficult Elliot himself was to love, given his contentment with using human leverage for those unfortunate enough to borrow money off him.

But even a miserly character has to have a spark of humanity and it seemed that the episode found a good way of getting it out of Kazran. The Doctor’s become even more of an idol for children in this incarnation and having him imprint himself throughout Kazran’s life was a genius twist.

As a boy, all Kazran wanted to do was to see the fish in the fog of his home planet and thanks to the Doctor, he got a couple of memories involving sharks along the way. The genius part was having Abigail’s voice play a big role in the story – it being the thing that calmed the shark and stopped the Doctor and Kazran being eaten by it as well.

It’s also Abigail that’s the humanity that Kazran is rejuvenated with as well. Through Elliot’s coarse treatment, Kazran became a nightmare in Sardicktown and with Abigail and the yearly Christmas visits that the Doctor and Kazran bestow on her, it’s wonderful to watch Kazran soften as a character.

I know the obviousness of Kazran’s affections for Abigail are overly telegraphed but it’s really hard not to fall in love with the pair as Kazran became a handsome young man and Abigail got the chance to see her family for one Christmas meal before another year revealed that she hadn’t long left to live.

Surprisingly enough, I had little reservations when I heard that Katherine Jenkins was cast as Abigail. This might have been her first acting gig but throughout the whole thing, she doesn’t put a foot wrong and Abigail is so damn lovely, it’s actually hard to find single fault with Katherine Jenkins at all.

And for the singing – well, I’ve never bought a CD from Katherine Jenkins but this episode is making me change my mind. The choice of music she had for soothing the whale and also becoming the solution to the Doctor’s other problem of the episode worked brilliantly in my opinion, that it actually sucks a lot that Abigail probably died shortly after her last trip with the older Kazran in this episode.

I did like that throughout the episode, Kazran softened more and more but it was also neat that when both Amy and Rory didn’t succeed, the Doctor managed to use Kazran as a boy in order to get the old man to have a heart and save the spaceship from crashing into Sardicktown after all.

The ship plot of the episode was vital for the Doctor’s whole mission – prevent over 4000 deaths by sparking the humanity back into a miserly old man but if the episode has only one thing that doesn’t work in it’s favour, it’s actually Amy and Rory.

They’re not in any way awful in the episode but it’s kind of disappointing that for a Christmas episode that had all regular crew members, that the newly married Ponds weren’t as utilised as they could’ve been. Okay, Amy tried her hand at appealing to Kazran’s better nature but Rory was incredibly underused and that’s the only thing about the episode that I would’ve changed.

However as underused as they were, I did find the last moment between the Doctor and Amy at the end of the episode to be rather telling. Amy looked sort of suspicious of the Doctor and he did of her too. Now that’s definitely one way of getting me excited for the upcoming season in 2011.

Also in “A Christmas Carol”

Arthur Darvill’s name were added to the opening credits but (and taking a different route for a Christmas special) Katherine Jenkins and Michael Gambon’s weren’t.

Amy: “I’ve sent for help.”
Captain: “Who the hell are you?"
Amy: "Look, there's a friend of mine and he'll come."
Captain: "And what are you wearing?”

For this episode again, Amy was in her policewoman outfit and Rory was a Centurion. Apparently they lost their luggage.

The Doctor (to Kazran): “Christmas Eve on a rooftop, saw a chimney. My whole brain just went 'what the hell'.”

The Doctor: “Merry Christmas, Mr Sardick.”
Kazran: “I despise Christmas.”
The Doctor: "You shouldn't. It's very you."

For a town/planet like Sardicktown that’s also rather Victorian-like, is it really shocking that there wouldn’t be anything like the lottery?

Amy: “Are you lying?”
The Doctor: “Yes I am.”
Amy: “Don’t treat me like I’m an idiot.”
Rory: “Is he lying?”
Amy: “No, no, no.”

Kazran: “Who are you?”
The Doctor: “Tonight I’m the ghost of Christmas past.”

Even I got a little shocked in this episode when I saw Kazran being hit by his father and the fact that Kazran came close twice to smacking children himself – one of them being a past him.

Kazran: “There’s a shark in my bedroom?”
The Doctor: “Oh fine, focus on that.”

Abigail (re the TARDIS): “This is amazing.”
The Doctor: “Nah, this is transport. I keep amazing out here.”

The Doctor finally told a lie to the psychic paper that didn’t work; he got married to Marilyn Monroe and half his sonic screwdriver got swallowed by a shark. Oh, and we saw a fez again.

Kazran: “When girls are crying, are you supposed to talk to them?”
The Doctor: “I have absolutely no idea.”

Amy (to Kazran): “You didn’t think it was over, did you? I’m the ghost of Christmas present.”

There’s a CD soundtrack for “A Christmas Carol” coming out in February 2011. I also noticed that silence appeared a lot during Abigail’s song.

Amy: “Time can be rewritten.”
Kazran: “You tell the Doctor. Tell him from me, people can’t.”

Kazran: “Everybody has to die.”
Amy: “Not tonight.”
Kazran: "Tonight's as good as any night. How do you choose?"

There was a trailer for Season Six at the end of this episode showing us a future Doctor, Amy being put in an interesting predicament, Ood, creepy dolls, a surrounded Rory and River in the nip. Spring can’t come fast enough.

Amy: “He did it, the Doctor did it.”
Rory: “Yeah, he gets all the credit, which is actually fair enough when you think about it.”

Amy (re Abigail/Kazran): "It'll be their last day together, won't it?"
The Doctor: "Everything's gotta end sometime, otherwise nothing would ever get started."

Chronology: No idea. We don’t know what time or planet we were actually on and nothing time wise has been specified since “The Big Bang”.

As Christmas specials go, “A Christmas Carol” definitely leaves you with the imagery of a shark being an interesting substitute for a reindeer but as a special, it holds up nicely, does a reasonably clever take on a classic and left me anticipating 2011 all the more.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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