I'm not saying that this is the best Doctor Who Christmas Special, but I am saying it's my favorite one. Cripes, what would we do without cell phones or the Internet or BBC America? Matt Smith as the eleventh Doctor with his first festival episode, and I was all anticipate-y. Steven Moffat crafts a perfect tale inspired by Charles Dickens' classic A CHRISTMAS CAROL. The twists come plenty and frequently.
We first catch up to the Doctor's companions - the newlyweds Amy Pond and Rory Williams - on Christmas Eve as they honeymoon in a luxurious space liner carrying more than four thousand passengers. One of the best things about this episode is that things race along at a heady clip. It's not long at all before the space vessel goes all wonky, gets trapped within the peculiar cloud belt of a human-habitated planet. Amy Pond transmits a distress signal to the Doctor, who arrives and learns that salvation lies solely at the hands of the planet's most powerful man, Kazran Sardick (Michael Gambon, very terrific). Kazran Sardick, bitter and cruel and old, is not only a money lender so tight-fisted he takes his clients' family members as security deposits but he has literally tamed the sky. But he refuses to lift one finger to help even though the ship will crash in an hour's time. The desperate Doctor hits on a brainstorm. As Kazran Sardick himself cynically recounts: "On every world, wherever people are, in the deepest part of the winter, at the exact midpoint, everybody stops and turns and hugs as if to say: 'Well done. Well done, everyone. We're halfway out of the dark. Back on Earth, we call this Christmas... On this world the first settlers called it the Crystal Feast. You know what I call it? I call it expecting something for nothing!'" Bah! So you see where this is going.
I've missed Matt Smith and the boyish exuberance he injects in his role. The constant stream-of-consciousness patter, the dynamic energy, the mad flair, but with that bump of empathy... Smith is just about tied with Tom Baker as pound-for-pound my favorite Doctor. Just add to this Doctor's resume that he makes a brilliant nanny. This special is a wonderfully clever time travel story with bits of brilliant creativity and so elegantly staged. I just love the cause and effect of time travel. This special has got laughs, and yet it resonates on a really strong emotional level. Classical singer Katherine Jenkins, lovely and Welsh, makes her acting debut as Abigail Pettigrew, the frozen girl who breaks your heart. There are two things that bug me some. One is that Karen Gillan doesn't interact more with the Doctor, but given the plot it's understandable why. And it seems far-fetched to me that the Doctor doesn't suss out the ominous meaning of the counting down numbers. But it's a tiny quibble. Never mind. Quibbles don't mean diddly next to a moment as iconic as this episode's "sleigh ride." That sequence is awesomeness.
Can this Doctor redeem a heartless old man? And save his friends? Does a bear shi... I mean, of course, he does. The fun lies in watching how he goes about it. Kazran Sardick, a man grown old and bitter and yet halfway out of the dark, is salvageable. Pass that cup of yuletide cheer. It's got a bittersweet kick. This is Steven Moffat's best Doctor Who story yet.
The DVD also comes with two fantastic featurettes: the behind-the-scenes "Doctor Who Confidential" for this Christmas special (running 00:56:01 minutes long) and "Doctor Who at the Proms 2010," the very awesome Doctor Who concert staged at London's Royal Albert Hall back on July, 2010, featuring composer Murray Gold's musical score, with Ben Foster conducting, and with Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, and Matt Smith doing emcee work (00:57:16 minutes long).
on January 1, 2011
I am not someone who cries easily and during the David Tennant's time as the Doctor , I became tired of the emotional manipulation that I was meant to feel , but this epidode,genuinely touched me. I loved Matt Smith's performance as the Doctor. I could not keep from laughing at most of his antics but was equally moved by the bittersweet love story that we saw between Abigail and Kurzan.Of all the modern interpretations of a'Christmas Carol' I have seen , this one had the most heart.
on January 24, 2011
It's a rare occasion that I do a review, but I couldn't pass this one up. This Christmas special was simply brilliant. For me, it's hands down the best Christmas special to date. It's a truly magical Christmas fairytale-ish story, done in somewhat atypical Who-niverse fashion. I just loved it. I had no issues whatsoever with the characters, the casting, the story... it was all just brilliant. Even the "personal timeline" stuff didn't bother me in the slightest - it made for a compelling and somewhat awe inspiring storyline that I really enjoyed (and didn't expect!). And besides... yeah, the cardinal rule of not crossing personal timelines... rubbish, really. True Who fans can probably cite off the top of their heads a half dozen examples of when the Doctor blatantly violated that rule, going all the way back to the 3rd or 4th Doctor even. The way I looked at it was that this was not ordinary Doctor Who anyway... this was the Christmas special... and I thoroughly enjoyed the Who crew taking it a bit further than previous norms. It's the unexpected that makes this show so exciting, and I think Steven Moffat is doing an amazing job taking us there.
on July 28, 2011
Judge Michael Stailey, DVD Verdict-- If there were a feature film for this particular series' cast and crew, Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol would be it. Viewed by some as an annual standalone adventure and others as the first episode of the next series, recent Christmas tales have been rather hit or miss ("Runaway Bride" and "Voyage of the Damned" being the standouts). Where Russell T Davies gave us adventures on a sweeping epic scale, new showrunner Steven Moffat's best efforts are small intimate tales with mind-blowing implications. Whether it be cracks in our bedroom wall, statues that move when we're not looking, or face spiders who live in the deepest recesses of our cupboards, he knows exactly how to tap into the imagination of our inner 8-year-old to thrill or scare the bejeezus out of us.
On the surface, one might see Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol as yet another variation on Dickens' classic tale. And yet Steven is such a genius when it comes to playing with time, this episode is anything but. Using technology and storytelling in a way we've not seen in Doctor Who, our hero is able to take Kazran on a visual and psychological tour of his life, not only shining light on his many pitfalls but actually rewriting memories in the most subtle and effective of ways. It's an emotionally rich journey during which you will be hard pressed not to grow extremely invested in these characters.
I don't want to say too much, so as not to spoil the story's many beautiful moments. What I will share is how phenomenally well this cast works together. While Arthur and Karen are relegated to inconsequential narrative bookends, Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol gives Matt Smith a chance to really shine. You can actually see the wheels of the Doctor's mind spinning madly as he tries to figure things out, and his line reads are second to none. Then again, how can they not be when playing off someone like Michael Gambon. Alastair Sim (A Christmas Carol 1951) and Albert Finney (Scrooge) have long been regarded as definitive portrayals of Ebeneezer Scrooge, but I submit that Gambon can now share that adulation. There are more layers and nuance in this performance than can possibly be explored in 60 minutes. We must also give credit to Laurence Belcher and Danny Horn for absorbing some of Gabon's traits in playing younger versions of Kazran. Operatic nightingale Katherine Jenkins is lovely in her acting debut, but the best she can do is keep pace with her veteran co-stars, exuding an innocence the belies the wisdom of her voice.
Presented in 1.78:1 1080i, the image is as sharp and mesmerizing as its BBC America HD presentation. Yes, the high def purists are likely to spot their fair share of imperfections, so those looking for reference quality won't find it here. For the rest of us, the ambience of this tale, awash in a coat of chilly holiday blue, more than serves its story. The same can be said for the DTS-HD 5.1 audio, whose use of the surrounds envelopes us not only in Katherine Jenkins' flawless vocals and Murray Gold's rousing score, but the very world in which these characters inhabit.
Two bonus features are the icing on this holiday treat. The requisite Doctor Who Confidential documents the making of the special, in the grand detail we've come to expect from the production team. When David Attenborough decides to retire, I nominate these guys to pick up his torch. The other feature, Doctor Who at The Proms, has quickly become a favorite of mine. Given the exceptional work composers Murray Gold and Ben Foster have amassed on the revitalized series, seeing it performed by the entire BBC Symphony of Wales in front of a packed house of Whovians, and loaded with surprise appearances by characters and cast is a joy to behold. If you haven't seen the previous Proms concert, I highly recommend tracking it down.
My one gripe, and it pains me to say it: I'm concerned that it won't be included in the full series box set, as previous holiday episodes have been. Cash grab by the BBC? Perhaps, but Doctor Who fans will purchase it either way. And who knows, maybe it'll lure in uninitiated television fans looking for a taste of what the nerds can't stop talking about.
So to recap: Christmas + Steven Moffat + Matt Smith + Michael Gambon + Fish that swim in fog = Pure Wholiday Magic.
-Full review at dvdverdict.com
on February 8, 2012
...of both Doctor Who and A Christmas Carol I have to say I really enjoyed this version of the carol. Matt Smith was still kind of new to me when I watched this and this special REALLY helped make me more comfortable with his character.
Also, while Christmas Carol has been done, again and again and again, and many parts of this special were not that interesting I did find some of the choices made in the production to be 100% correct. For example, the Ghost of the Future was a very interesting twist that only time travel could make work. The bonus features, Confidential and Doctor Who at the Proms 2010, helps you feel like you got your money's worth.
Still, if you plan to buy the next season, all this is ON the Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series set, so you may wish to skip this unless you plan to buy it as a gift for somebody who is into Charles Dickens or somebody new to British Sci-fi. What better way to break them into Doctor Who than with a story they may already know?
on February 19, 2011
I'll start by saying that, yes, this Christmas Special is expertly written, skillfully acted, and interestingly played out. By far this is my favorite of all Doctor Who Christmas Specials. It takes fans on a journey very different from what is usual on the regular weekly programming. As not to give away the story to those who have yet to see the special, I'll simply say this; it does not so much show case the Doctor's ability to face and defeat truly evil and malevolent beings but more his way of being able to heal a person's past and warm their heart for the better. There are no Dalek or Cybermen, but rather the challenge of changing a cold man's heart.
Set in the style of "A Christmas Carol" Moffat uses some writing genius in his play on the story for the Doctor. He does not allow the original story of "A Christmas Carol" to overshadow the individuality of Doctor Who, but still keeps the theme present while leaving room for the hilarity that Matt Smith always seems to bring as the Doctor.
The actors also display a deep understanding and control of their rolls. Of course, with Michael Gambon on cast, it's difficult to go wrong. The characters were played to perfection and really brought to life. Not only this, but it is within this episode that Matt Smith shows he has truly "become" the Doctor. (But, in my opinion, I always thought he was pretty amazing.)
The special feature also blew me away. I had actually not known that Doctor Who at The Proms would be on the disc and was in for a pleasant surprise when if found it there. It's an enjoyable little extra and I love it every time I watch it.
The Doctor Who Confidential was also very interesting. It was roughly just under an hour and gave a lot of insight to filming, acting, and set creation. I was rather fascinated by it actually. It gave a lot of detail and was highly interesting. (Note: DO NOT WATCH CONFIDENTIAL BEFORE THE ACTUAL CHRISTMAS SPEICAL!)
The casing itself is pretty video store standard. Nothing especially high quality but no real issues with it as I bought this for entertainment value, not collection.
Overall, this is a great buy and really cheap too. I suggest just going for it and buying it now if you're interested, it's well worth it.
on February 10, 2012
I have only recently been indoctrinated into the wide and wondrous world of Doctor Who. but I'm a quick and avid study. I was astonished that this is the first time that anyone had attempted to use A Christmas Carol as the framework for one of The Doctor's Christmas specials.
A story that delves into the concept of the past, the present, and the future, and the impacts that one may have on the other, it seems so easily lent to the world of Doctor Who.
I was thoroughly entertained by this Christmas special, and the unique twist done to tell this version of The Christmas Carol.
Stephen Moffat's writing style certainly aids this story, and it's simple, honest sentimentality. And Matt Smith's charm and wit are infectious, to say the least.
I've personally used this version of The Christmas Carol to indoctrinate other members of my family into the world of Doctor Who.
The Doctor Who Proms on this disc are also a delight. The music of this series is just astonishing, and seeing them performed live is amazing.
I won't spend a lot of time dissecting the episode; other reviews have done that for you. But I will say that I think "A Christmas Carol" is an episode that gets better with repeat viewings. As I write this, we're about 2 months out from Christmas 2010, and I've just watched the show for the fourth time. Naturally, it plays much better around the holiday itself, but I was pleasantly surprised to find I enjoyed it "out of season" as well. Yes, [Minor spoilers ahead] the shark is still kind of silly, and the story is probably a bit too ambitious for its own good. But it's also very beautiful to watch, gorgeously filmed and the actors pull off their parts with conviction. I expect that all but the most jaded of Doctor Who fans will make this a part of their annual holiday viewing.
Now, more about the Blu-ray disc itself. The show has been filming in the HD format for the past two years, and looks amazing. One expects them to spend more time and money on the Christmas episode, and it really shows here. One reviewer complained that the episode was "too dark" in places, and I can't disagree. But the lighter moments really sparkle. Katherine Jenkins is a beautiful woman in ANY definition, but looks simply incredible in "A Christmas Carol."
The other real treat on the disc, though, is the "Doctor Who at the Proms 2010." As you probably know, the Proms feature the show's music played live at the Royal Albert Hall, along with giant screen projecting scenes from the series and live actors interacting with the audience. I can only imagine the thrill of seeing this event in person, but just watching it at home is still very fulfilling. An extended tribute to the previous Doctor, David Tennant, is the emotional highpoint of the show. Matt Smith and Karen Gillan also make appearances.
Lastly, there's the "cut-down" version of Doctor Who Confidential, the behind-the-scenes program for the Christmas special. I've always found the Confidential shows to be fun and imformative, although I don't understand why BBC video never puts the full hour-long programs on these discs.
Lastly, there's a rumor that although "A Christmas Carol" will be included in the Series 6 box set, the Proms special will NOT. As I said, at this point, this is a RUMOR. In the meantime, I have chosen not to wait and see. And if you're really a Doctor Who fan, you'll support each new release (in my opinion, anyway). And the Christmas special is absolutely worth owning. When you add the bonus materials and the HD presentation, I say "Why wait?"
on March 11, 2011
It took a while for me to become a fan of Matt Smith as the third "new" Dr. Who. If you want a good start on appreciation of his Doctor, this is a good one to start with. It is a fine retelling of Dickens Christmas Carol, but with a Dr. Who twist. Michael Gambon (Dumbledore from Harry Potter) is fantastic as the Scrooge type, Kazran Sardick. And Katherine Jenkins has one of the most beautiful singing voices I have ever heard.
An all around excellent entertainment.
on February 16, 2011
So, can you believe Matt Smith can measure up to Sir Michael Gambon?! I'm not going to repeat all the praises you've heard from other 5 stars reviewers, ( great Doctor's update on the Dickens story, great Katherine Jenkins, cutely absurd monsters of the day, I won't spoil the surprise!)
It's Matt Smith's acting, it is outstanding, what could have been "just another" Christmas Carol becomes a great piece of television. He is bringing balance to the powerful acting of the older, more experienced actor, together they are stellar!
Matt Smith is growing as the 11th Doctor with each episode, for him to stand up and hold the episode with an actor of Sir Gambon's caliber is a new feat!!!
Delightful, lighthearted, great acting, how about a Christmas classic?!