A Christmas Carol ★★★

Dickensian fun with Matt Smith, Michael Gambon, Katherine Jenkins – and a flying shark

Xmas 2010

Story 213

Advertisement

Christmas Special 2010

‘We’re halfway out of the dark” – Kazran Sardick

Storyline
Honeymooners Amy and Rory are trapped on a space liner, on a collision course with the planet Ember. Much of the world below is owned by Kazran Sardick, a heartless miser who refuses to help the Doctor. The Time Lord goes back into Kazran’s boyhood to try to make him a better person. As a young man, Kazran falls for Abigail, a woman kept in cryogenic suspension. The Doctor takes him to visit her every Christmas Eve, but they are unaware that she is dying. The older Kazran is unswayed until he meets himself as a boy and is united with Abigail for her last day of life.

First UK transmission
Christmas Day 2010

Production
July to August, October 2010. At Mir Steel, Newport; Coal Exchange, Cardiff Bay; Wrinstone House, Wenvoe; Johnsey Estates, Pontypool; Upper Boat Studios

Cast
The Doctor – Matt Smith
Kazran/Elliot Sardick – Michael Gambon
Abigail Pettigrew – Katherine Jenkins
Amy Pond – Karen Gillan
Rory Williams – Arthur Darvill
Young Kazran – Laurence Belcher
Adult Kazran – Danny Horn
Pilot – Leo Bill
Captain – Pooky Quesnel
Co-pilot – Micah Balfour
Old Benjamin – Steve North
Boy & Benjamin – Bailey Pepper
Servant – Tim Plester
Eric – Nick Malinowski
Isabella – Laura Rogers
Old Isabella – Meg Wynn-Owen

Crew
Writer – Steven Moffat
Director – Toby Haynes
Producer – Sanne Wohlenberg
Music – Murray Gold
Production designer – Michael Pickwoad
Executive producers – Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger, Beth Willis

RT review by Patrick Mulkern
Well, they all stressed that it was going to be a “very Christmassy” Christmas special: Matt Smith in RT… director Toby Haynes at the season finale preview in June 2010… Arthur Darvill when I interviewed him in November 2010… even Katherine Jenkins…

I’d met her earlier that summer at the wedding of my friends Richard and Mandy Marson, when she was hot-foot from the Doctor Who set. Perhaps there was still some Sardicktown stardust about her because, miraculously, La Jenkins was the only lady guest whose high heels didn’t sink into the sodden church lawn. And she was besieged by questions. “Who are you playing?” “I can’t say.” “Are you an alien?” “I can’t say.” “Do you have a purple face and yellow spots?” (My question.) “I can’t say!” She’s good at secrets is Katherine.

A Christmas Carol is indeed a “very Christmassy” special – the first for Steven Moffat and Matt Smith. An undisguised steal from Dickens, in this time-jumping, occasionally dark tale, the Doctor acts as a ghost of Christmas past to the Great Gambon’s Scrooge-like Kazran Sardick. There is of course snow, a “sleigh ride” and, bizarrely, fish. Cute fog-borne tiddlers and a gigantic gnashing mummy shark. Plus, La Jenkins gets to sing twice: the final soothing, soaring carol penned by Murray Gold is quite beautiful.

Moffat’s Christmas Carol is no turkey, that’s for sure, a marked improvement on recent Who specials, but gets a stingy three out of five from me. Why not five? Points docked for a noisy unintelligible start, an awkward co-incidence and a few moments of “Eh? How did they do that?” Also I’m an inveterate miser unswayed by seasonal goodwill.

Smith is as ever wonderful, entering the fray à la Santa (descending a chimney). His and Karen Gillan’s names are joined in the title sequence by Arthur Darvill – yay! – cementing his position at the programme’s core. However, Amy and Rory, role-playing again as kissagram cop and centurion, are tangential to the plot, and it’s a surprise not to see Jenkins’s and Michael Gambon’s names up in lights.

You’d never guess this is the mezzo’s acting debut, while the latter is probably the best Doctor Who we never had. Imagine, for a moment, if the Great Gambon had taken over from the Great Baker c1979… Honorable mentions for the younger Kazrans: cute kid Laurence Belcher and Danny Horn, a pretty face fresh from drama school. It’s a hard swallow that either might age into hangdog Gambon. For all his gifts, he was never a looker.

Advertisement

Steven Moffat tells his first yuletide tale with brio and sprinkles it with stardust.