Doctor Who- A Christmas Carol

Originally written half cut on brandy filled mince pies for ace tellywebsite Watch With Mothers

Come on people, let’s admit it: Doctor Who Christmas specials have always been a bit of a letdown; full of sound and fury but signifying nothing.

Nothing, that is, other than ‘ah, sod it. Nobody’ll be paying attention, they’ll all be drunk. Stick Jedward in it, they can play murderous, discordant alien elves who kill people by singing terrible cover versions of Wizzard hits.’

So, you can imagine how I felt when I read that this year’s special was titled ‘A Christmas Carol’. Good grief, I thought. Do we really need another version? I mean, the Muppets nailed it after all.

I also assumed it meant the episode would be set in London. Again.

Given that he had the whole vast spectrum of space and time to play with (not to mention a fairly generous budget) Russell T. Davies had a strange, almost unhealthy fascination with vandalising modern day London. In recent years it’s been threatened by a) a big spiky Sycorax warship (not to mention robot Santas), b) a giant spider queen lurking under the Thames barrier, c) an interstellar cruise ship on a collision course with Buckingham palace, d) a giant steampunk Cyberking and e) the planet Gallifrey materialising rather unexpectedly about four feet above everyone’s heads in ‘the End of Time’.

Thank goodness, then, that Steven Moffat decided to give the poor cockneys a break for once. I mean, Christmas isn’t about disasters (unless you live in Walford) – it’s about peace on human space colonies, goodwill to all humanoids. Oh, and flying sharks.

Christmas wouldn’t be the same without sharks.

Yes, the Moffster (or Moffo to his pals) decided to throw caution to the wind and create something different, something warmer, smaller-scale and, crucially, set on a human outpost 4,000 years in the future rather than, say, a council estate in Peckham.

The colony is ruled by a Scrooge-like character called Kazran Sardick, played wonderfully by the ratchet-faced Michael Gambon. Amy Pond and her new husband Rory are trapped on a crashing starship that’s being booted around the stratosphere by a strange crystalline cloud layer. Kazran has a device that controls the cloud layer. However, he won’t let the ship land – he’s happy to let 4,004 people die because, you know, we’ve all got to go sometime.

Also, he thinks there are too many people on the planet already. As immigration policies go, it’s pretty hardcore. I suspect Nick Griffin took quite a few notes while watching.

Cue the Doctor, who comes plummeting down Kazran’s chimney like a version of Santa in the latter stages of some kind of terminal wasting disease that makes your face look like a melted cliff. His attempts to threaten Kazran into letting the ship land fail quite quickly, probably because you couldn’t find the Eleventh Doctor’s dark side with a map and compass – he’s about as menacing as a three day old kitten.

Instead, he goes all Sherlock and decides to delve into Kazran’s past, inspired by the fact all of his chairs are turned away from a portrait of his stern looking father and the fact Kazran couldn’t bring himself to clobber a small child – not to mention the obvious Dickensian parallels.

“I despise Christmas”
“You shouldn’t. It’s very you.”
“Halfway out of the dark.”

It’s fairly clear from the outset that the Doctor will save the day. I mean, it’s the age old story, isn’t it? Man starts out mean, his childhood is rewritten by a time travelling eccentric, he befriends a flying shark, has a doomed romance with a frozen woman, becomes mean again, meets his younger self, is transformed by the healing power of love and finally agrees not to let 4,004 people die.

Rather than invoking large scale peril, e.g. the city of London being eaten by galactic space wolves, this festive Doctor Who plays like a delicate and almost poetic human drama, asking questions like: are children doomed to turn into their parents? Can people really change? And, more importantly, do the cloud-dwelling fish really like Katharine Jenkins singing to them or are they just stunned by her mighty vocal chords?

To be honest, the whole thing was almost too emotional at times. My tear ducts were welling up almost constantly as I watched a little boy struggle not to turn into his tyrannical father, fall in love for the first time and lose that love all within the space of about thirty minutes. It made the beginning of ‘Up’ look positively cheery, frankly.

Thankfully, there were plenty of funny moments to lighten the mood. One of my favourite bits saw the Doctor giving Karzac some ‘first kiss’ advice:

“Try and be all nervous and rubbish and a bit shaky.”
“Because you’re going to be like that anyway, you might as well make it part of the plan.”

All in all, this was without doubt the finest and most imaginative Doctor Who special since the series was revived in 2005. Steven Moffat took one of the most familiar Christmas stories and turned it on its head to create a heart-wrenching, humorous and thought-provoking fable that plays around the concepts of love, time, fate and the human condition rather than the ‘INSERT BIG CGI EXPLOSION HERE WOO’ button.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s a place in my heart for CGI, however it’s pleasing to see that budget put to good use for once. The glorious otherworldly Victorian-steampunk setting was a dream to look at and the ‘alien fish that can fly in fog’ concept was an inspired, enchanting touch (although I wasn’t too sure about the shark-drawn sleigh. Looked a bit hard to steer).

“I love other planets,” says the Doctor as he watches a shoal of silver fish circling a lantern.

So do we, particularly if it means 21st century London gets a year off being blown to smithereens. They’ve got enough to worry about what with that seasonal crimewave in Walford.


About Hilary Wardle
Hilary is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes for a wide range of websites, magazines and newspapers, including Buzzfeed, MSN, The Poke, Chortle, the Guardian and the Independent. She specialises in arts and entertainment, comedy, video games and viral content. Contact her at

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