‘Doctor Who’ Review: ‘A Christmas Carol’

Episode Title: “A Christmas Carol”

Written By: Steven Moffat

Story: Amy and Rory’s honeymoon on a cosmic cruise ship is cut short by catastrophe (of course), and The Doctor is tasked with saving the day — but first he has to warm the heart of a cruel miser. It’s the night before Christmas, and it will take all the Time Lord’s cleverness to produce a holiday miracle in this holiday-themed “Doctor Who” adventure.

The Who, What, and How: Our early review of “Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol” managed to cover the actor’s impressive performances in the Christmas Special, but now that we don’t need to worry about spoilers (much), we can dive a little deeper into plot points.

As any Whovian worth his TARDIS replica knows, it’s always a fascinating adventure when The Doctor is tasked with saving Christmas. This time around, The Eleventh Doctor plays fast and loose with time travel in an attempt to make mean miser Kazran Sardick (Michael Gambon) a nicer guy — and make him amenable to freeing Amy and Rory’s space cruiser from its impending, uncontrollable, and explosive date with the planet below.

One thing worth noting about the episode is its distinct lack of Amy and Rory, however. To be honest, their absence isn’t really felt due to the great performances by Michael Gambon and Katherine Jenkins, but what we do see of The Doctor’s companions makes great use of our time with them. The exchange between The Doctor, Amy, and later, Rory, regarding the direness of their situation is especially fun, and serves as a nice reminder of the character dynamic that we can look forward to seeing next season.

As I mentioned in my early review, writer Steven Moffat’s clever use of Charles Dickens’ classic “Christmas Carol” manages to offer both an homage and a uniquely “Doctor Who” spin on the well-known story of Ebeneezer Scrooge. The brilliant difference is that Moffat makes The Doctor an active participant in Sardick’s past, present, and future rather than just a guide. The device allows Matt Smith to run the full gamut of quirks, swagger, and outer monologue that make the character his own — beginning with a funny, terrifying, and for a time, terribly sad adventure with the young Sardick and a flying shark.

And that is another area in which the Christmas Special truly proves itself. The fantastic world Moffat has created for the episode is filled with fish who swim through the sky and songs that control the clouds, and the series’ willingness to embrace modern CGI makes it all possible. Make no mistake: this is good CGI at play here, not the shoddy green-screening we often see in sci-fi television. It’s clear that BBC set the bar high for “Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol,” and then gave it the attention and resources necessary to live up those lofty expectations.

Final Word: “Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol” is easily one of the best episodes of the series’ modern era, and offers a great showcase for the talents of star Matt Smith while also managing to feel like the special, once-a-year event it is. It’s populated with just the right amount of humor, drama, scares, and sentimental reverence for the classic story that inspired its narrative. While I’m not sure it’s the best jumping-on point for new audiences (I could be wrong about this, so by all means let me know if this was your first “Doctor Who” viewing), it’s a story that will remind fans why the modern era of “Doctor Who” is so, well… to paraphrase Smith’s predecessor, brilliant.

From special effects to story line to the actors themselves, “Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol” fires on all cylinders and is as close to a perfect “Doctor Who” story as we’ve seen in a while.

Let us know what you thought of “Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol” in the comment section or on Twitter! You can also follow me, Splash Page editor Rick Marshall, on Twitter!