Laurence Belcher playing the young Scrooge central character and the always outstanding Micheal Gambon , most famous for having a part of the Top Gear Gear test track named after him and possibly for being Dumbledor, the story unfolds in a setting you will recognize without being too jaded. Dame Katherine Jenkins fills out the cast nicely as the central pivot on which all turns, and she sings an entirely new song written by Who music boffin Murray Gold. Speaking of the music, it was as traditional as you can get and comforting to boot, the entire episode is about Hope, Charity and the milk of Human kindness. A good way to spend an hour and the first Doctor Who Christmas Special worthy of the name in quite some time.
Listen to Murray Gold's song as sung by Dame Katherine Jenkins.
And now if you don't want to have the story ruined, I recommend you look away now till after you've watched this excellent hour of telly.
Some of the best scenes worked well because of the very idea of what was happening. When for example the Doctor goes back to a 12 year old Karzan, you know it's a recording, but because it never happened before, it's happening Now and in the past and the old Karzan is flooded by new "old" memories he knows can't be real, and yet they are. The other really touching bit of acting is when Abigail kisses Karzan to let him him know just how she feels and to say good bye when she knows there will likely be no more Christmas Eves ever again. Time travelling love has been done before and this was among some of the best.
Some other outstanding lines from the ep include ... "it's either this, or go to a room and design a new kind of screwdriver. Don't make my mistakes!" , "You know what boys say in the face of danger, don't you? Mummy!", and of course the opening narration by Michael Gambon is very nice when he explains how we are Halfway through the darkness and why we humans have always celebrated that as a way to pat ourselves on the back for having made it. Tell me honestly how you can be left unmoved by "On every world, wherever people are, in the deepest part of the winter, at the exact mid-point, everybody stops and turns and hugs. As if to say, well done. Well done everyone.We're halfway out of the dark." . BTW Did you know Santa's real name is Jeff? I wonder if he's related to the moustachioed Geoff over at Top Gear?
Props wise, other wise known as marketing, we saw plenty of Fezes and bow-ties, because as we all know, Fezes are cool and bow-ties are just as canny. At one point there was even a Tom Baker Scarf moment, so the travel montages were not just filler, but well researched and designed to press buttons in fandom. The other refreshing aspect of the story is the clear decision to carry on from the long standing support of and continued participation of Doctor Who in the BBC Proms series, with operatic music as the style of choice. Murray Gold in the Who Confidential immediately after the ep, reveals the track used in the final cut recorded by Dame Katherine Jenkins was a rough demo that made most finished polished works by current pop stars look like the weak efforts they are. Doctor Who is promoting quality and genuine singing over the screeching of Simon Cowell acolytes who are depending entirely on good looks and self correcting recording tools. Extra tidbit Who fans, Galli Base mate Patrick tells me that in "Doctor Who Decalog 3: Consequences"? Steven Moffat had a story included in that collection of short stories, called "Continuity Errors." Yes, the story had Silvester McCoy's Doctor, but the plot of "A Christmas Carol" was taken wholesale from that tale, and dressed up for Christmas. With sharks.
Will I watch this again? Honestly????? Yes . if only to have the closed captioning for the on ship dialogue and to finally wrap my head around the the idea of time meddling in the very creation of a person's life choices and attitudes. Going as far back as the Daleks, the Doctor has had a hard time wiping out entire species and people if he thinks they can be reformed. The inner do-gooder in this Galifreyan has time and again got in the way of a perfectly justifiable execution or extinction. Tonight's reaction was no different viewed in the context off his long history of seeing the best in even the most vile of creatures and races across space and time.
As one of many bits of telly on offer this Christmas season, the DW Crimbo special succeeded as both a seasonal traditional programme heavily steeped in the music and meaning of the Holiday and as a sci fi story asking the sorts of questions we have come to expect from Doctor Who.
To watch the ep on the iPlayer or to read more about Doctor who