Doctor Who Christmas Special Review: The Host Of Christmas Present

December 25, 2010 by  
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DOCTOR WHO – A CHRISTMAS CAROL: Saturday 25th December, BBC1, 6pm ALERT ME

“Are you father Christmas?” asks a very Dickensian urchin as Matt Smith emerges from a fireplace in an explosion of soot. “No I’m the doctor,” he replies. “And I haven’t seen Father Christmas – or Jeff as I call him – for weeks.” That’s right folks, our man is best mates with St Nick. On reflection it makes sense that he would be. There can’t be too many omniscient time-manipulating cult heroes about, so networking probably isn’t a problem, which is a good thing, because there’s no time for Facebook when the fate of a spaceship is hanging in the balance. As it happens, the only man who could save those poor souls was Kazran Sardick; evil capitalist, cold-hearted miser and all round bane of Sardicktown. Oh and Matt Smith of course, but first he needed to rescue the blackened soul of the wonderfully-named modern day Scrooge..

In recent years the Doctor Who Christmas Special ™ has risen to become the television event of the holiday period, and this year Steven Moffat has scored yet another coup by going one better in that relentless way of his. He really is entering ‘master storyteller’ territory at the minute. This is a wonderful – but very separate – slice of Doctor Who, which has a tender heart to match the wit that we have come to expect from the new series. Where did that extra gear come from? The Christmassyness of it all of course… Snow, the obligatory sleigh ride over the rooftops on Christmas Eve and if that wasn’t enough, everyone ended up wearing Santa hats at one point. It was a joy to see the Doctor and Christmas come together to form the perfect storm of feel-great family television.

I’m not going to get bogged down in plot details, for the following reasons. 1) Everyone knows the gist of Dickens’ Christmas Carol. This just had more flying sharks and less heart-breaking child death. 2) Even for this mercifully ring-fenced plot, (some of us needed working out paper and a scientific calculator to follow the climax of the last series) a summary could easily get out of hand. 3) Let’s face it, you’ve already seen it anyway and if you haven’t, report for iPlayer duty immediately.

The only criticism that could possibly be levelled at Moffat & Co is the charge of convolusion, but taking an audience right out and bringing them back again inside an hour is a difficult task, and griping about the way the finale slipped into place would be pedantic in the extreme. After all its not like there wasn’t plenty of other stuff to distract us… Katherine Jenkins put in a great shift as Kazran’s working class girl, Michael Gambon managed more warmth as a reformed bastard than he ever did as Dumbledore and Smith was effervescent as ever. There was a section where the timelord seemed to morph into Sherlock, Moffat’s other current muse, but the sense of fun which filled the whole thing was a marvel. That Marilyn Monroe business was one of many brilliant touches.

As good as David Tennant was (and he was..), Matt Smith has reinvented The Doctor this year. All the talk of him as being “too young” has slowly evaporated under the glow of his screen charisma and we have a new timelord who feels like an awesome cross between Oscar Wilde, a young Stephen Hawking and Russell Brand *he gushed*. It was probably this form which prompted Moffat to make A Christmas Carol Smith’s tour de force and leaving Rory and Miss Pond largely sidelined on their stricken vessel. Amy did well with her nominal appearances though. Could she want The Doctor more?! Don’t leave your drink alone with her for a second Matt..