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Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol (2010)
Director: Toby Haynes

review by J.C. Hartley

Jikes! Now as much a part of the TV festivities as re-runs of Morecambe & Wise, the first Christmas in the Tardis was used to introduce David Tennant, and was a cracking good yarn, now the writers are committed to churn them out, loaded with guest stars. Can a musical number, featuring a host of news readers in sequins with the ladies showing their tits, be far away?

Eventually I intend to write my definitive article on the re-launch of Doctor Who, to be entitled 'The Russell T. Davies Masterplan'. Davies of course has left the Doctor in the hands of excellent writer and script-editor Stephen Moffat (Sherlock), while Davies prepares to make spin-off Torchwood huge in the 'States. Moffat, from his writing duties on Who, has shown a darker instinct which plays well with some of the shadows at the heart of the Doctor's mythos, but there's little enough of that on display in this adaptation of Dickens' classic - although there is some, obviously.

The good Doctor's companions Amy (Karen Gillan, first victim in Outcast) and Rory are on a space liner enjoying their honeymoon. Best joke of the show, the pair rush onto the bridge, Amy in her kiss-o-gram policewoman's outfit, Rory in his centurion's armour from the last series' finale, the captain says "Why are you dressed like that?" both look sheepish and Rory says "Well, we are on our honeymoon." The liner runs into a space storm in the turbulent atmosphere of a planet. The Doctor discovers that the planet's weather system is artificially controlled by an old miser, Kazran played by Michael Gambon. Kazran rules the planet's population, holding their relatives in cryogenic storage as security on their debts. The Doctor realises that Kazran's mindset is the result of his upbringing, and proceeds to change his mind using the techniques used by the ghosts in Dickens' A Christmas Carol. In the process a beautiful girl, Abigail (opera singer Katherine Jenkins), is thawed out over a period of Christmases and the younger Kazran falls in love with her.

Of course nothing is quite so simple, Abigail is in deep freeze because she is dying, and there is something to be said about quality of life and making sacrifices. The Doctor becomes engaged to Marilyn Monroe, and the attractive blonde lady sings. This was okay but it determinedly strode down the sentimental furrow first ploughed by Davies. Matt Smith is a better Doctor than Tennant, funnier and more watchable, despite the fact he has developed his own array of little tics to play the part, as did his predecessor. But this was a show more designed as a family get-together around the telly at Christmas, and with 10 million viewers, just behind the screaming and slaughter of EastEnders, who can say the BBC nay?

The best part of the production was the trailer for the new series. Doctor Who in the USA? No wonder writers and producers moan about the budget. I guess there'll be a Torchwood hook-up. Cynicism aside, the trailer looked dark and disturbing, which would be a good thing, but like James Bond montages the clips are often better than the whole thing. We shall see. I've watched Doctor Who since 1963, so I'm not about to stop.

DVD extras are the Doctor Who Confidential Christmas Special 2010, the usual behind-the-scenes malarkey, and Doctor Who at the Proms 2010, cue letter 'Dear Sir, I, and many of my friends and neighbours, deplore the process of dumbing-down, nowhere is this more apparent....' etc.

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol



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