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TV: Doctor Who \ A Christmas Carol \ BBC One

December 26, 2010

There’s an agreement silently reached between TV people and audiences alike at Christmas time. Everyone accepts that in striving to tick all sorts of boxes marked “Christmas”, TV producers will inevitably find the box labelled ‘ultimate satisfaction’ remains empty.

Maybe it doesn’t really matter at Christmas time. Maybe it’s fine to have a bit of a romp. To have lots of music. To have loads of scenes with flakes of snow falling to the ground. To have candles flickering in nearly every shot. Cries of “Merry Christmas” are fine in a programme broadcast on Christmas Day. And they are, in a way. Everyone knows what they’re getting into on Christmas Day. That’s the deal.

Katherine Jenkins’ role in this Doctor Who special wasn’t anywhere near as nauseating as I thought it might be. 24 hours after I watched, I’m almost prepared to forgive her for ‘musical interludes’ at various points during the story too.

As it happened, I rather liked the idea of a Doctor Who-esque Scrooge taking ‘securities’ for his loans. I really liked the imaginative fish who swam in the fog. Sardick seemed like a desperately vulnerable character. The young Sardick seemed cute. So too the twenty-something incarnation. When him, the Doctor and Katherine Jenkins were all in the TARDIS I feared for the very fabric of time and space. So many pretty people all in one shot. And the cityscape visualisations weren’t too shabby either.

But I balked at the sight of Amy Pond in ‘that’ outfit. Was it a cynical nod to the ‘Dads’ on Christmas Day? Dads starved of sex. Dads at the beck and call of their stressed wives. Dads desperate for a moment of respectable escapism? Or was it a case of equally desperate TV producers nodding and smiling and going ‘oh, this will be so funny’.

Before you start posing the question ‘who the hell do you think you are?’, I’ll jump in with a hefty dose of reality. I know. I’m being too harsh. Too dismissive. Too bitchy.

The minute by minute reality of this particular Doctor Who episode was that I ‘quite’ enjoyed it. It was an interesting idea, with quite a lot of invention, a lot of relentless dialogue, way too much music and suitably amounts of typically Moffatt imagination. Everything was pretty good except for the extended period of time given over to establishing what was going on during the Christmas past sequence. I’m just not a big fan of pantomime. That’s a personal thing.

I’m just sick of snow and candles and desperate tie-ins with Christmas. Give me a cracking story totally divorced from what’s going on in my particular day. Take me away from Christmas on Christmas Day. Thrill me. Scare me. Threaten me with me jeopardy.

Mind you. At least it wasn’t like that Kylie episode. Now that really was bad.

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One Comment
  1. The Kylie Xmas special WAS truly awful. This was pretty good. Actually, better than that – very good.

    It was funny and whimsical and Christmassy, with a tragic love story underpinning rather than overwhelming it. It left me with a smile on my face – and that’s what should happen at Christmas, right? – and some genuine laughs. Matt Smith does both spoken and physical comedy brilliantly. His “go and kiss her” pep talk to Kazran was brilliant, as well as weaving a little footnote about the birth of the sonic screwdriver into the Doctor’s own history.

    As for Amy (and Rory’s) costume, well, I took it as just a quick gag to allow the otherwise sidelined companions to make a big entrance – as well as it being a gag which only adults would understand. (“Honeymoon suite?”)

    I know some have been complaining that the Xmas special was light, fluffy and relatively meaningless – but I think that misses the point. Xmas episodes are supposed to be light, fluffy and meaningless – they are a different beast to “normal” episodes, not least because a large part of the audience are not regular viewers of the show. Xmas specials have to be accessible to the new as well as acceptable to the fans. It’s a fine balance, and I think Moffat pulled this off nicely.

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