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& TIME."


















It's the deepest part of winter, the exact midpoint, Christmas Eve – halfway out of the dark. Amy and Rory are trapped on

a space liner that's plummeting through banks of thick icy fog to the surface of the planet below.


Only one man has the power to save them; only one man HAS a machine CAPABLE OF clearING the fog and letTING them land.

That man is Kazran Sardick, a rich but lonely old miser who rules Sardicktown with a sky-mast of iron.


The Doctor's only chance of rescuing

the ship's passengers is to save Kazran's soul and show him that life is worth living. For this he needs to go back,

way back, to when Kazran was a boy with a life full of promise.


But can the Doctor

put a song in Kazran's heart and love inTO his life, in time for Christmas? Can he bring him out of the dark?

Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010


E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.








Doctor Who has finally become a fairy tale.


Quite where the transformation began, I’m not sure, although it undoubtedly picked up pace earlier this year as the Matt Smith era began. It’s not to say that once the series was hard science fiction; there’s been the occasional episode of a more scientifically realistic bent, but at heart this is a show about a man who flies around in a police box. It’s always leaned more heavily towards fantasy than sci-fi. Still, A Christmas Carol, more so even than The Big Bang, is Doctor Who as fairy tale. No matter how much time we spend on a starship bridge with copious lens flair.


A Christmas Carol - the original, I mean - is a work of absolute genius. These days we can’t help but see it as a slightly twee period piece, but it was, at the time, a severe look at contemporary society. Over the years, the various retellings have lost much of that (although I still hold that the Muppets’ version is the definitive screen adaptation, and I have no shame in keeping to that).  Yet the basic concept of a man being shown the error of his ways through glimpses of his own past and future, will always be profoundly affecting. In fact, the story could be stretched further - its themes could hold just as well throughout the year, not only at Christmas.


Im showing it to you right now. So what do you think? Is this who you want to become, Kazran?


So it’s perhaps unsurprising to find Charles Dickens classic story forming the basis for this latest festive Doctor Who special. It is, after all, a time-travel story - one of the earliest to have made a popular impact. Dickens himself has already stepped into the Doctor’s world, and, for me, The Unquiet Dead remained the one to beat, even though it wasn’t actually a Christmas special. In spite of the fact that it is mere window dressing, and that the story could be told just as well in the modern day, there’s something indisputably Christmassy about the Victorian era. Yet, because it’s just window dressing, there’s no reason it can’t be shifted to another planet altogether.


Part of the success of this episode is the beautiful, tangible world that it conjures up. With effects that can match the imagination, we are presented with an eerily picturesque mist-shrouded globe, upon which sits the steampunk-styled Sardicktown. While we don’t learn much about the planet - I didn’t even catch a name - that’s not a problem, because for the purposes of this story, the town is all that we need to know. Add to it shoals of floating, MirrorMask-invoking fish, and not even a pseudo-scientific explan-ation about crystalline harmonics can spoil the magic. Even the Doctor is told to shut up when he tries to explain it away. This is a series that’s now unafraid to revel in its own absurdity, and can now happily show us a bizarre twist on a Santa’s sleigh ride, with a tweed-clad Time Lord tugging the reigns of a flying shark to pull his carriage.



None of this would stand up, of course, were it not for strong enough performances to help us suspend our disbelief for an hour. Fortunately, we have some of the greatest perform-ances in the show’s recent history. It almost goes without saying that Michael Gambon is excellent as both Kazran and Elliott Sardick, providing electrifying performances whenever hes on screen. Yet both younger Kazrans acquit themselves brilliantly too. Danny Horn puts in a beautifully sympathetic turn as a young man dealing with the pain of growing up, while Laurence Belcher is simply gold in his every moment as the youngest Kazran.



Katherine Jenkins, being best known as a singer and not an actor, has inevitably come under a great deal of scrutiny for her performance here, and, although she couldn’t hope to measure up to the legend that is Gambon, I feel that she deals very well indeed with her first screen role, imbuing what could have been a two-dimensional character with some genuine likeability. Yes, she sings, and I see nothing wrong with that. This wasn’t something shoe-horned in to warrant her casting, but an intrinsic part of the story, and if you’re going to have someone sing to the sharks, why not get one of the most beautiful voices in the country to do it?


Now your past is going to change. That means your memories will change too. Bit scary...


It’s Matt Smith, though, who dominates proceedings, even stealing scenes from Gambon. Smith owns every scene that he’s in, effortlessly becoming both the most childlike, and yet at the same time most powerful and commanding Doctor that we’ve ever seen. He makes it somehow entirely believable, even palatable, that this young-seeming man is in fact a vastly powerful being who, inspired by an old Christmas novel, takes it upon himself to rewrite an old man’s entire life story. Had he not imbued the role with such geniality and humour, he could have become quite terrifying.


Inevitably, some scenes fall flatter than others. Although it’s necessary to see the lives at risk aboard the ship, in order to develop some immediacy and threat to the proceedings, each time we were taken away from Sardicktown I was desperate to get back. It’s also a shame that, for me, the time-hopping trips to Christmas Eves past never quite lives up to its potential. I had become so enamoured with this spellbinding world that I didn’t want to jet off on side trips, however important they may be to the characters’ ongoing development.


Nobody comes.


There is one scene that encapsulates this story for me: the Doctor plays a projection of Kazran’s childhood to the astonished old man’s eyes. Failing to provoke the reaction he desires, the Doctor enters his TARDIS, and steps inside the film as it plays, entering the old man’s treasured memories. A stunning bit of writing, direction and acting, this is what Doctor Who can be at its best: magical.


Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2010


Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.


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