It’s that time of year when the BBC taunts us, titillates us with a brand new Doctor Who adventure only to leave us out in the cold for four more months. The Doctor finally returns after being gone for almost six months to start back up again for one night. Christmas for the past few years has meant one thing, a Doctor Who special. Last year we saw David Tennant as he prepared his leave in the two parter The End of Time. The prior holiday special saw the Cybermen return in a special called The Next Doctor, which made fans wonder if the Doctor was going to regenerate or not. Going further back Voyage of the Damned which costarred Kylie Monogue was a rather intense episode that took place on the space Titantic. But we go one more season farther back and we meet Donna Noble in the Runaway Bride in which we see the Doctor’s malicious side. But the tradition started in 2005 with The Christmas Invasion which sparked the first official appearance of Tennant.
First things first I want to point out that I am not holding anything back in my review.I screencapped some nice shots from the episode which is airing at this exact moment on BBC America, as well as several huge spoilers. Now that we are one season into the new fella Mr. Matt Smith we are treated to our very first special with this young bow tie loving, fez wearing Doctor. And we are here to cover you nice and neatly.
First things first let’s put the plot synopsis right here in the beginning, get a feel for what happens. Thanks to our friends at Wikipedia. I love Wiki just because of how easy it is to sum things up in times like this. Alright scratch that Wiki just has one sentence on the episode and that doesn’t do this any justice.
Let’s see….oh yeah the episode starts on a space ship that is starting to crash and the pilots cannot for the life of them see anything because of a giant cloud belt. Oh boy, we begin to wonder well why should we care about these people, none of them are main characters but then the door opens and out steps Amelia Pond (Karen Gillian) in her cut little police girl uniform. Turns out for those of you who missed last season her and her boyfriend Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) got married and are on their honeymoon. Yep, Rory steps out into the very same room dressed as a Roman Centurion. They must have real kinky sex. Amy begins freaking out because she is not sure whether or not the Doctor (Matt Smith) will show up to save them.
Of course the Doctor can’t just TARDIS onto the ship and save the two, nah that would be too easy. So he lands on what appears to be a planet that resembles the city from Final Fantasy VII. And it is complete with it’s own Mako Reactor. We learn that there is a misery old man by the name of Kazaran Sardick (Michael Gambon). This man is the living spitting image of Scrooge in this episode. Of course we are greeted with a family who is begging for the man to release the sister of the mother just for Christmas, it turns out that people are used as collateral for loans. He refuses and that is when the Doctor enters via a chimney.
Of course Kazaran gets all angry when the Doctor starts talking to him and stuff like that and gets him thrown out but not before he attempts to hit the little kid which brings the Doctor back. This all gets super intense when the Doctor himself discovers why Kazaran didn’t hit the kid. OOOO. It turns out Kazaran is the only person on the planet who can save Rory and Amy as well as the 4000 other people on that ship. In order to get Kazaran to save them he has to pull some Charles Dickens on Kazaran’s ass.
The Doctor concocts a plan similar to what happened in Dicken’s classic novel A Christmas Carol but in the hopes of it working. The Doctor leaves a projector playing in Kazaran’s chambers while he goes back to a young Kazaran and finds out some important stuff. Young Kazaran just wants to see the magic flying fishies. Of course the Doctor being well the Doctor helps him out.
A giant flying shark comes into the picture and eats the Sonic Screwdriver and scares young Kazaran. Meanwhile older Kazaran is remembering these “new” memories. This begins to raise the question of is what the Doctor doing morally reasonable? But that is for later discussion.
By “stunning” the shark they nearly killed it. Shame though as young Kazaran feels awful about what happened and wants to save it even though it just attempted to eat them. This leads the Doctor to saying we need something with life support in order to save this bloody shark. They go into what appears to be the opposite of Hitler’s oven–a giant freezer–and there they meet Abagail. The woman who was frozen at the beginning, her family wanted her to be free on X-Mas. Of course with her help they get the shark back to it’s rightful place…the sky. As Kazaran and the Doctor put her back Kazaran says that the Doctor will be back next year and every following year.
This sets up a long block of time in the episode where the Doctor and Kazaran and Abigail go on adventures together through time on Christmas Eve. Of course this is all to save Amy and the others by changing Kazaran. It gets to the point where we find out that Abigail has been lying of sorts to a young adult version of Kazaran. After finding out the truth he tells the Doctor he is too old. Thus setting him off in a miserly path towards where he was at the beginning only with new memories.
This is when he is visited by the ghost of Christmas present aka a hologram of Amy Pond telling him about the people that are about to die and he doesn’t care at at all. This is sad because there are people out there like that. Pond leads him into a room full of people singing “Silent Night” and it turns out it is the people on the ship singing for their lives. Pond brings a hologram of Kazaran onto the ship to show him what’s going on and one can’t help but feel an intense emotion nearing this scene.
Here is a man, who is willing to let over 4000 people die just because he doesn’t care about his fellow brothers and sisters. The fact that Pond tries to reach out via the Doctor and in this light fails just like the Doctor did. Of course this is in keeping with Dickens classic novel that the first two ghosts didn’t really do much to Scrooge but it wasn’t until the Ghost of Christmas Future comes into the picture.
The Doctor shows up as Future and guess what, he brings a young Kazaran to see what the future holds for him. It’s haunting and powerful but Kazaran in his old age realizes what he needs to do. Of course the machine his father built doesn’t respond to him, this is classic Doctor Who, so they must concoct a new way to save the ship. The only way is to wake up Abigail for her last day alive and hope that her voice can bring safety to the people aboard the ship. Of course this works and Kazaran changes for the better but even still.
And now on to my comments section here. I loved this episode. I felt it was the strongest special for the holiday if you exclude last year’s The End of Time because that was two parts. Granted this one had a darker and different feel to it. The look gave me the vibe that it was shot in front of a screen the whole time due to the backdrops but that didn’t bother me in the least. There was a lot of CG in the episode but while it may have looked a bit off it still was better than some American movies out there.
Now I have to take my hat and tip it to Steven Moffat who wrote this episode. While it may or may not be a Who-vian take on Dickens classic it was well worked out that it stood out from all the different parodies and other word for word verbatim version of the classic. Moffat has developed a style when writing Who episodes that are reflected in the dialogue. His episodes tend to have a bit more humor in them while it maintains the feel that you get from previous episodes. It’s like he is a sponge and he soaks up every little detail around the season and just works that in like a child working at a factory sewing sweaters.
A lot of the one liners were priceless especially the one pretaining to the Psychic Paper carried by the Doctor. You know what line I am talking about, yeah it was pretty damn clever. Sure this episode could be trashy and awful because of that Christmas vibe you get from it but in all and all it feels like a Doctor Who episode that took place on Christmas. Still it manages to give that positive and warming feeling that you get from the ending of a Who episode. You feel as if you learn many many things and Moffat achieves that in the writing of this episode.
The many themes that Moffat weaves into the episode, about love, loss, growing up, how people can change, good and evil being more of a perspective stuff like that are what the holiday season is about, well maybe not as much. I felt that everything about this episode was just right. The mood, the coloring, the acting. Man did Gambon deliver a good role after sucking as Dumbledore. But the point I am trying to make is this. If this is a preview for what Doctor Who will be like in Season 6, the second with Matt Smith, then I am really really excited. Keep in mind the third episode of the new season is written by sci-fi scribe himself Neil Gaiman. I’ll leave you with this. Have a happy holiday.