It’s almost surprising to think that a Dr Who version of a Christmas Carol hasn’t been attempted before. The closest we’ve come to it in recent Christmas episodes was the slightly Dickensian poor houses in The Next Doctor, and that was right before a giant Cybermen construction started to go all Transformers on Victorian London. As it is, this Christmas Special is less a retelling of A Christmas Carol and more inspired by it.
When Amy and Rory’s honeymoon space cruise goes awry, it is up to the Doctor to convince a bitter old man to help save the doomed cruise ship before it crashes killing everyone aboard. Unfortunately, mere words are not enough to gain the help of Kazran played by the superb Michael Gambon, causing the Doctor to employ a little time travel to give the old tyrant a change of heart.
The trouble is, the Doctor isn’t actually the ghost of Christmas Past, and while the venture was overall successful, the story does take a dark turn when it’s discovered that Kazran’s father (and in turn Kazran himself) gives loans to people and holds their family members hostage in cryo storage until the loan is paid off. Whilst trying to save the life of a flying shark (yes, this story takes many a wild turn) the Doctor inadvertently opens the cryo chamber of a young woman, leading to an annual ritual of the Doctor returning to take Kazran and Abigail on a Christmas Eve romp through space and time.
The story takes yet another dark turn as Kasran and Abigail fall in love and she reveals that she is actually dying and has only one more day left. If Scrooge was known hording money, Kazran finds himself hording the years, unwilling to part with his true love and unable to choose when to spend his last day with her.
Since this is a Christmas special, naturally it all works out in the end, but you can’t help thinking what a bittersweet ending it is. This episode, as with the previous season, has pretty much made mince meat of the notion that the Doctor can’t cross his own time line. It also becomes apparent just how much the Doctor plays God, changing the course of Kazran’s entire life to suit his own needs. There is, however, plenty to chuckle at too. Loved the Doctor’s entrance down the chimney, and how funny were Amy and Rory’s outfits…
This isn’t to say the episode is without its plotholes for there are plenty. Why doesn’t the Doctor question the numbers counting down on Abigail’s cryo unit? He’s the smartest person in the universe! Could the Doctor have found a cure for her? Again, he’s the smartest person in the universe, with all of time and space at his disposal. Also, the Doctor was awfully callous about all the other people stuck frozen limbo.
That aside, this was yet another fantastic installment from Stephen Moffat. Matt Smith, as usual, was bouncing off the walls with energy. Opera singer Katherine Jenkins did a fine job as Abigail, but it was Michael Gambon, as the elder Kazran, who stole the show. He was the perfect foil to Smith’s quirky Doctor. His horror that he had essentially become his father is heartwrenching. Would liked to have seen more with Amy and Rory, but that would have been too much like trying to shoehorn them into the episode and this is after all, Kazran’s story.
Personally, I can’t wait for the next series to start airing. I don’t know about anyone else, but Spring seems too far away to me!