Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Review: A Christmas Carol by Jayne Gudkov
“A Christmas Carol” - the 2010 Doctor Who Christmas Special – a review
By Jayne Gudkov
A poor family who “just wanted one day” to enjoy Christmas with an ailing relative and who enjoyed Christmas even though they were poor – check.
A curmudgeonly old rich guy who had no time for Christmas and those who celebrated it – check.
Victorian outfits – check.
Delving into the curmudgeon's past to see why he was the crabby bastard that he was – check.
At it's root, it's a love story – CHECK!
All those plot points of the classic Dickens story, “A Christmas Carol”, were there and then some, in this year's Doctor Who Christmas special, which shared its name with Mr. Dickens' classic.
Some things that I am sure that Dickens never thought of were a planet with a foggy/crystalline atmosphere where fish and sharks swam and got down to Christmas tunes, even with his having met the Doctor in a previous incarnation.
I laughed, I cried, I thought that it was cool that we over here in America actually got to see the Christmas special actually on Christmas, like our fellow British fans.
After a long day of traveling to see a friend in the hospital and back again (with a stop for some Chinese food thrown in) this very Christmas Day, I sat down to watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special and, I have to say that “A Christmas Carol” might just be Stephen Moffat's best story since “Blink”.
All in all it was, in some ways, a typical Doctor Who Christmas special. The story started with a crisis and ended with snow, but this was different. I didn't cry when Astrid gave her life to save the few left alive on the Titanic, I didn't cry when Torchwood blew up the Sycorax at the end of “The Christmas Invasion”. I came close to bawling in “The Next Doctor” when the Doctor recreated what had happened to Jackson Lake at the hands of the Cybermen and I remained totally dry eyed during “The Runaway Bride” (which I think may have been the weakest of the 5 Christmas specials story wise – effects wise it was great – with the TARDIS chase scene) but I did cry twice during “A Christmas Carol” and if you didn't you're either a guy or just not human.
I am not going to go into a total recap of the episode – you've seen it and you can recap it for your own self.
To see the look of amazement on Abigail's face as she stood in the TARDIS doorway and seeing her standing at the end of the story singing into the broken half of the Sonic screwdriver while looking lovingly into the eyes of the older Kazran, knowing that it was her last day of life. Katherine Jenkins, in her television acting debut, was incredible. While I am sure she has wowed audiences with her amazing voice in an opera setting, pulling it off in a TV show is totally different. And pulling in Michael Gambon in, as far as I know, in his first post “Harry Potter” role, total genius, he was amazing as both the older Kazaran and Kazaran's bitch slappin' father, not to mention the young man who played the youngest Kazaran.
The cynical side of me looks at the guest stars in these specials and think that the BBC, as well as Moffat (and Russell T Davies before him), pander to their American audience a bit too much... and I am American!
While we had no clue who Catherine Tate or David Morrisey was, we knew Michael Gambon and Kylie Minogue and their little stop in California for the Doctor's duet with “Frank” and his heading off to Vegas with “Marilyn” for a quickie wedding was, if I am being honest, a bit much. I get it, but I like Doctor Who for it's British-ness, if you will. That and it kind of didn't make sense – do Time Lords not know how to kiss????? (“How do you breathe?” - come on!!!!)
I took a bit of a poll at The Traveller's Rest in New London and the general consensus from the people there was that the episode deserved an 8 out of 10.
I know that a lot of the fans out there have had a hard time in this, the 5th season (series), since the return of the Doctor - what with the change in show runners, a change from an amazingly popular Doctor (Tennant) and the previous year's run being not quite a real season due to Tennant's commitments to the Royal Shakespeare Company.
On top of that, Amy has taken quite a beating from fans as well. While I don't find her as annoying my British counterparts, I think both Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill did nicely in their limited appearances in this episode.
Just a bit of trivia as I close, in the preview for Season 6 – which starts its adventures right here in the good old USA - we learn that Stetsons are "cool"... and they are. I own one in real life, a genuine, blue fitted in Texas, Stetson, but the original Stetson factory, where they made more classic fedoras as well as cowboy hats, was right here in Philadelphia, where I am writing this review. So yeah Stetsons are cool, that's right mo fo – Stetsons are cool!!!!