Doctor Who - Christmas Carol

Sunday, 30 January 2011 12:27

It’s the deepest part of winter, just past the midpoint that is the Winter Solstice... we find ourselves at a distant Christmas Eve. Amy and Rory are trapped on a stricken space liner, spicing up their honeymoon with some role-playing. Their vessel has a major problem, though - it’s plummeting through banks of thick icy fog to the surface of the planet below them.

Only one man has the power to save them; only one man is in possession of a machine that can clear the fog and let them land safely. That man is Kazran Sardick, a rich but lonely old miser who rules Sardicktown with a sky-mast of iron. The Doctor’s only chance of rescuing the ship’s four thousand passengers is to save Kazran’s soul and show him that life is worth living.

Doctor Who - A Christmas Carol on Blu-ray and DVDFor this he needs to go back, way back, to when Kazran was a boy with a life full of promise. But can the Doctor put a song in Kazran’s heart and love in his life, in time for Christmas? Can he bring him out of the dark?

Starring alongside Matt Smith as the Doctor, Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, and Arthur Darvill as Rory Williams, “A Christmas Carol” also stars singing uberbabe Katherine Jenkins, in her first acting role, and British acting icon Michael Gambon.

Also included in the DVD and Blu-raypackage is the “Doctor Who Confidential Christmas Special 2010” – the full 56 minute version, rather than the cheating cut-down versions that have tended to be released in the past.

However, the big bonus on this release is the inclusion of 2010’s “Doctor Who At The Proms”, an hour’s worth of action from this prestige event, which includes guest appearances, audience business (with Matt Smith in character enlisting the help of a bemused kid), and fantastic clip sequences to accompany the orchestrations – the highlight of which is the one on regenerations, where we get to see all the Doctors from across the ages. There’s also some behind-the-scenes footage, but the highlight is the Tigger-style introductions from bouncy Karen Gillan – an adrenalin-engorged collection that simply brings a smile to your face.

And for those who require such things, subtitles are available on all parts of the release (“Confidential” and “Proms” included).

So, that’s the what and how on this special episode, but in the end the big question is whether it was actually any good?  Certainly debate over at the Cult TV Forums on the subject is a little sparse, which is strange as previously yuletide adventures have usually promoted some sort of a reaction.  Is it a case that familiarity had bred contempt?

Much as the stories in Matt Smith's opening season have been clever and inventive, and Ms Pond being the delight she is, to my eyes there is something that just hasn't gelled. It's like watching the Tara King Avengers episodes; you just KNOW there are some brilliant plots, some terrific guest stars, and so forth, but there just seemed to be something not quite right.

Matt Smith's performance is Troughton through-and-through, after the production team decided to skip casting a 'Hartnell-a-like'. My favourite era of the original series, then; so what's the issue here? Are others having the same crisis of conscience? Dare we say anything at all negative, just in case it's enough to make the Beeb decide to axe the series?

The nearest analogy I can think of is seeing an original band from your youth having replaced their lead singer. The song's are more or less the same, but there's an intangible element missing. This was very much the case with “A Christmas Carol” – it had a reliable source on which to base a homage, and spin it off in its own direction. It had a cast putting in brilliant performances, with Katherine Jenkins a revelation – perhaps a new companion in the making? The precedent is there with the Xmas Special casting of Catherine Tate, who then got her own run of episodes with the good Doctor.

But in the end it was a case of “ho-hum”. Was it just too fantastical, too far away from our own definition of reality?  Maybe it’s time for more Earth-based adventures, mirroring the Jon Pertwee early era, where our Time Lord couldn’t get away from Earth, imprisoned here, unable to dash off from the threats coming towards us?

That era took its lead from Quatermass, and with the current socio-political climate in the World, there are very real fears that could be wound up into the show’s storylines. Indeed, as Pertwee has often been quoted as saying: “There's nothing more alarming than coming home and finding a Yeti sitting on your loo in Tooting Bec.”

So, how about it, Mr Moffat? Opening Scene... Int. Tooting Bec. Lavatory?

Doctor Who - A Christmas Carol is out now from 2 Entertain, with a main feature running time of 60 minutes apprix, a ‘PG’ certificate, and a RRP of £13.27 for the DVD and £16.33 for the Blu-ray edition, or get either for less at www.culttvstore.com

 

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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