Sunday, 26 December 2010

What the Dickens? Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol

And so it came to pass that Steven (The Moff) Moffat did make the most Christmassy Doctor Who ever…and he was not ashamed one bit.

Moffat’s A Christmas Carol is a gloriously bonkers, clever, weird, hilarious, magical and sweetly sentimental affair that instantly adds itself to the collection of best interpretations of Dickens classic - my personal favourite still being the Muppets untouchable 1992 film.

We are all familiar with the basics of this timeless tale so I won’t go in to any great detail of the plot. Suffice to say The Doctor takes on the role of ghost of Christmas past by attempting to change the ways of a miserly old Scrooge-like figure (Michael Gambon) in order to save four thousand people (including Amy and Rory) on a doomed ship about to crash in to a planet. A planet that looks a lot like a Victorian steampunk London. Along the way we get fish in fog, scary sharks, frozen people, Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra, a beautiful welsh singer who actually can act, and lots and lots of Moffat’s favourite timey wimey cleverness all bound together in to a tender love story and classic moral fable.

Look, I don’t care what anyone says, Matt Smith as The Doctor is just so damn good. He owns the role completely. Doubters be gone. His impishly eccentric yet also playfully subtle childlike/old man portrayal is pure genius. Somehow he never seems to take it too far as I felt Tennant sometimes could. And as for Katherine Jenkins as Abigail… Well, the term angelic doesn’t quite do her justice. I’ve never really seen much of her before apart from in brief interviews and photos. Of course she is incredibly beautiful and when I did see her in interviews she always came across as a genuine and sweet natured person. And thankfully that comes across on screen in her acting. And then some. Sure, she wasn’t exactly being stretched in the acting stakes here, but what she had to do as Abigail she did incredibly well. A lovely and luminous presence. And so what of Michael Gambon? Well, what can you say? The man is a legend and is, of course, brilliant in every scene.

The behind the camera team are on top form here as well. Major kudos must go to director Toby Haynes and to the design, art direction and photography - all wonderfully evocative and atmospheric - especially the design and execution of the Victorian steam punk city. Also, added kudos too to Murray Gold for his sterling musical work. The really quite beautiful end song he wrote and that Katherine sang (see YouTube clip above) was so goose pimple-raising good it deserves to be released by the BBC, ideally for charity.

Anyway, I absolutely loved A Christmas Carol. Sure, you can pick holes in the plot and ask questions of logic and science. And almost none of it will likely add up. But then that’s kind of missing the point. For this is a fable, a tall tale with a distinct moral at its core. It’s not about logic or science, it’s about emotion and magic, just like Dickens timeless classic. This is a Christmas fairy tale that perfectly captures the spirit of the original story and also of new Who, making it by far the best of all the Doctor’s Christmas specials. Only the hardest of hearts could fail to be warmed. Bravo! 4.5 (out of 5)

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