'Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol' Review (The Spoiler-Free Early Edition!)

Doctor: A Christmas CarolOkay, so you're probably going to hate me for this: I've seen the "Doctor Who" Christmas Special.

"Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol" officially premieres Saturday night, December 25 — but thanks to the good people at BBC America, your friendly neighborhood Splash Page editor was able to get an early look at the next big "Doctor Who" event. And let me put it this way, fellow Whovians: you will not be disappointed with Matt Smith's latest adventure as The Eleventh Doctor.

The last thing I want to do is ruin any of the fun you'll have when the episode airs this weekend, but given how much I enjoyed it, I felt obligated to offer up a spoiler-free assessment of why "Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol" is one of my all-time favorite adventures with The Doctor — and why I suspect you'll feel the same way about it.

While the Christmas Special is filled with supremely talented actors in guest roles, it's clear right from the start that this episode isn't just a vehicle for getting familiar faces — and voices, in the case of opera diva Katherine Jenkins — a "Doctor Who" cameo. Matt Smith is the star of the show, and everything that won "Doctor Who" fans over to his particular take on The Doctor is not only on display in the episode, it's what propels the adventure from start to finish.

Yes, get ready for all the brilliantly manic, outer-monologue fun you love about the Eleventh Doctor, peppered with the sort of confident Time Lord swagger that sealed the deal way back in the climax of last season's premiere, "The Eleventh Hour."

Of course, that's not to say the guest stars in "A Christmas Carol" don't hold their own — quite the opposite, in fact.

The episode's plot gives "Harry Potter" actor Michael Gambon free reign to pull your emotions from one extreme to the other, and he does so masterfully. As we saw throughout the last season of "Doctor Who," it takes a strong actor to compete with Smith's frantic energy from scene to scene, and Gambon is not only up to the task but manages to push Smith to the next, wonderful level.

Going into the screening, I was worried that Katherine Jenkins' role in the story would come off a bit forced — that her considerable vocal talents (and beauty) would somehow be shoehorned into the plot. Head writer Steven Moffat erased all of those doubts, however, with an excellently crafted part for Jenkins that plays to her strengths without taking you out of the fantastic world he's created. In the end, it's hard to believe this is the opera diva's first major screen role.

On that note, Moffat's adventure is a perfectly paced romp that lives up to the hype both as a great "Doctor Who" tale and yes, the most Christmas-sy Christmas Special we've ever seen. However, it doesn't just take the classic "Christmas Carol" tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and lay it over the existing "Doctor Who" architecture. It finds a natural, clever way to echo the best parts of Charles Dickens' story in a uniquely "Doctor Who" adventure.

In the end, this is a "Doctor Who" story first and a spin on Dickens' tale second — and it ranks right up there among the best "Doctor Who" stories ever told.

"Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol" premieres Saturday, December 25, at 9 PM Eastern on BBC America.

Planning to check out "Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol"? Let us know what you think in the comment section or on Twitter! You can also follow me, Splash Page editor Rick Marshall, on Twitter!