When I sit down to watch a Christmas special for most shows, I do so with great apprehension and the expectation of a truly awful episode. ‘Doctor Who’ is another matter entirely. The Christmas episode is usually among the best of the year, and this one does not disappoint.
This year’s ‘Doctor Who’ Christmas special is simply titled ‘A Christmas Carol’. It’s a take on the Dickens classic that’s been a long time coming. The episode stars the usual cast of Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill, as well as guest star Michael Gambon as the antagonist. I’m a big fan of Gambon for his work in ‘Layer Cake‘, the ‘Harry Potter’ series, and even the highly underrated ‘Toys’, so his presence in the episode is definitely welcome.
Gambon plays a man called Kazran Sardick who, to put it simply, controls whether or not a ship carrying 40,000 people crashes or lands. He’s not exactly a nice man, and doesn’t care whether they live or die. Amy and Rory just happen to be taking a honeymoon on that ship, and The Doctor is called in to assist.
The plot of the episode is similar to that of the classic tale, with The Doctor taking on the role of the ghosts of Christmas past and future, while Amy handles the role of the ghost of Christmas present. It’s a great way to combine time travel and Christmas, and there are plenty of surprising ideas in the episode.
When The Doctor goes back in time, for example, he goes back to a time that’s been videotaped by the man he’s haunting. Kazran watches the whole thing unfold, with new memories forming in his head as it happens. It’s really a brilliant twist.
The best comes at the end. Rather than taking the already old Kazran to see his future (dying sad and lonely as he expects), The Doctor brings a young Kazran to see what he’ll become. The experience alters the man’s future and ends up saving the lives of everyone on the ship.
Among all this is a complicated love story. Kazran ends up falling for a woman with only a few days left to live. She’s kept in a cryogenic chamber and is let out every Christmas Eve to spend the day with young Kazran and The Doctor.
The plot of the episode is complicated, as it often is with ‘Doctor Who’, but it’s truly a great episode. All this intrigue and drama plus Michael Gambon and – did I forget to mention? – flying sharks!
‘A Christmas Carol’ has me excited for Series 6 of the ‘Doctor Who’ reboot, which starts in the spring of 2011. It features the Ood, more River Song, Nazis, a new hat, a Wild West episode filmed in Utah and another written by fantasy author Neil Gaiman. I can’t wait!