Monday, August 25, 2014

Doctor Who--"A Christmas Carol"

Ever since Doctor Who was revived in 2005, there have been threats the annual Christmas special was going to be an homage to Charles dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Every year, I brace for it. Sight unseen, I generally think such homage are done way too often without anything interesting added to the mix. Ditto for It’s a Wonderful Life stories. Steven Moffat finally did it this year. I was not expecting much, even though I have much faith in the Moff. I should have had much more faith. “A Christmas Carol” was touchingly terrific.

Amy and Rory, on their honeymoon, find themselves and 4,000 other passengers on a cruise ship that is crashing. In order to save them, the Doctor must find a way to eliminate a mysterious fog that ias being controlled by a bitter, lonely rich man. The problem is the man does not care because there is no benefit for him in saving them. The Doctor has an hour to convince him otherwise. To do so, the Doctor plays the Ghost of Christmas Past. He travels back to the man’s brutally abusive childhood to discover the source of his pain.

The old man is played by Dumbledore himself, Michael Gambon. I am not a Harry Potter fan, so I will have to confess this is my first experience with Gambon. He plays a futuristic Scrooge well without overshadowing matt Smith’s eleventh Doctor. It is impressive how Gambon bounces between evil than hopeful and back again to evil without hamming it up. Russell T. Davies would have had the guy chewing more scenery than an army of William Shatners.

The episode it as times hilarious, with the Doctor at his manic best, and heartbreaking. The root of Scrooge’s pain is the loss of his true love. You might think such a plot device risks turning corny, but in Moffat’s hands, it is the most poignant I have experienced in a long time. It helps his true love is played by opera singer Katherine Jenkins., who provides a haunting aria over the climax as the Doctor completely changes scrooge’s attitude.

There are some cheap special effects, duch as a giant shark that roams through the mansion, that are painful examples of the BBC’s tight budget, but no matter. The show utilizes what it has on hand asnd does so beautifully in this case. If Christmas makes you melancholy for loved ones who have left you, “A Christmas Carol” might even elicit some tears. Christmas can be a very tough time for some.

The trailer for season six was included after the credits. It looks more intense than usual. Perhaps we will find out soon who forced the Doctor to reset the universe in the fifth season finale. April is going to be a long wait. Until then, “A Christmas Carol” is a lovely way to tide us over.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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