A Christmas Carol is certainly the most Christmassy Christmas story so far in the marathon, which shouldn’t be a surprise given the title. Christmas-ness aside the story is a fun one, with some good use of time travel (though one that sort of breaks all the rules that The Doctor has been following his whole life…), a good sense of humour throughout and a pleasant, soppy ending. So a pretty good Christmas story then! Let’s take a closer look…
Amy and Rory are trapped on a crashing space liner, and the only way The Doctor can rescue them is to save the soul of a lonely old miser. But is Kazran Sardick, the richest man in Sardicktown, beyond redemption? And what is lurking in the fogs of Christmas Eve?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
“Oh dear, that didn’t turn out too well… Maybe I should go back and try again!” “For the love of God, stop rewriting my life!!” “… No.”
Kazran Sardick (Michael Gambon) is a good character in the most straight-up cartoony way possible. A ship with thousands of souls on it (including Amy and Rory) is trapped in a cloud belt that Sardick controls, but he refuses to let them land safely, happy to see them crash because the planet has an overpopulation problem as it is. The Doctor arrives to change his mind and finds it too difficult, but notices when the old miser hesitates and then stops himself from hitting a little child who just wanted to see his relative for Christmas (the woman in question being frozen as collateral until the family pay back a debt). The Doctor thinks it must be a case of an abusive father so begins playing an old home movie of Sardick and his father, and then goes back in time to appear in the film just seconds after having talked and warned Sardick in the present.
This is where things get a bit out-of-character, but in a good way so I’ll look the other way (it’s Christmas!). The Doctor begins influencing the child Sardick (Laurence Belcher) to be a better person, including getting a look at the fish and sharks that roam the clouds of the planet, and meeting the frozen woman we saw in the future, a woman named Abigail (Katherine Jenkins). The young Sardick promises to wake her every Christmas Eve alongside The Doctor in order to go on a fun adventure, which they do… For a while. Now an adult, Sardick (Danny Horn) is told by Abigail that she each time she comes out of cryo-sleep is another day before she dies, and she only has one left. The Sardick in the present, who up to this point had been getting nicer and nicer as these new memories were given to him, reverts to his old git self because of the crushing disappointment of his love dying and not being able to see her again beyond one time taught him that “life wasn’t fair”.
The Doctor finds out what happened and apologises, to which Sardick rightfully points out that the Time Lord had no right to rewrite his entire past, but soon The Doctor goes even further with the rules-of-time-breaking and brings Sardick’s child self to meet his current self, the shock on the child’s face looking scared at his present self sends the latter into a panic. Abigail is then released from her chamber for her last day, saying to the older Sardick that he “left it a bit late” before singing a rather beautiful song that, through some techno-babble, calms the clouds enough to let the ship land, and makes it snow to boot. Sardick breaks down and finally accepts becoming a nice person. The Doctor meets back up with Amy and Rory, and before they leave we see the older Sardick and Abigail having a great time riding a cart through the sky being pulled by a flying shark, a.k.a. a bog standard Christmas. It’s a nice, heart-warming ending to a fun story.
Wow, that’s a… CGI shark, alright…
Not a lot. The CG on the floating shark is looking a bit rough, but overall it’s a perfectly fun Christmas story. Even the child Sardick isn’t ruined by bad acting!
I’ve seen people upset at how The Doctor breaks his own rule of not messing about with time, and especially not having the same person meet himself, but, it’s Christmas, it’s best not to think about it too much…
This shot of the back of Amy and Rory’s heads is nearly as much as they actually appear in the story!
There isn’t a lot to speak of. A few call backs to some recent episodes, including Amy and Rory wearing costumes from the previous series for kinky purposes, but nothing directly connects to this. It’s just a standalone Christmas story.
Who doesn’t like a happy ending at Christmas?
A Christmas Carol is a good story in of itself, but it’s a great Christmas story. Festive, but still tells a story, lots of fun moments with an emotional ending, good acting all round… well, maybe Abigail is a bit flat, but she has lovely voice, so whatever. Basically if you just want a family Christmas-style episode of Doctor Who, this is among the best options.