Episode: Doctor Who 2010 Christmas Special – “A Christmas Carol”
Original Air Date: December 25, 2010
Screencaps from marishna.
If you don’t like the present, just change the past.
With Amy, Rory, and 4,000 people trapped on spaceship about to crash into another planet, the Doctor takes some rather unorthodox steps to save everyone. The ship’s problem is that the planet below has a cloud belt that makes visibility impossible; thus, landing is equally impossible. There is, however, a machine on the planet that controls the cloud belt and could enable the ship to land, but it’s controlled by the Scrooge of our story, Mr. Sardick. Early on we see him denying a poor family the right to be with their cryogenically-frozen family member at Christmas. It seems that Sardick keeps a family member frozen as collateral for loans.
After Sardick rebuffs the Doctor and refuses to help the ship, the Doctor makes an attempt to use the controls himself. The problem there, though, is that they are perfectly isomorphic, perfectly attuned to Sardick’s brainwaves, and will only respond to his control. Without a plan, the Doctor storms out of Sardick’s house and then stumbles upon an idea. He decides to teach Sardick a lesson by playing off of Charles Dickens’s famous Christmas story.
The Doctor starts by making Sardick watch a video of himself filmed as a child. As the old miser watches, we see the first glimpse of the abuse Sardick suffered as a child from his father. Once the father leaves, who shows up in the video but the Doctor himself, having traveled back in time to visit the young Sardick. Together, the Doctor and young Kazran Sardick set out to discover the secrets of the “fish” that live in their cloud belt.
As the older Sardick watches on screen, he exclaims “That never happened!” but slowly it dawns on him that it did. The Doctor’s solution to Sardick’s self-centeredness is to change his past and make the old miser into a kind person. The Doctor bites off more than he can chew, however, when his plan to lure in one of the fish brings a shark instead. That’s right, a flying shark. We’re all doomed and it’s going to eat us.
Fortunately, the Doctor and Kazran subdue the shark, and then look for a way to get it back to the cloud belt before it dies. Enter the ice boxes, much like the one we saw before. In fact, exactly like that one since the Doctor decides to use it to transport the shark and allow the young lady inside a night out.
Seems the young lady, Abigail, also has a peculiar quality in that her singing can calm the fish. No sooner do the Doctor, Kazran, and Abigail board the TARDIS than the older Sardick remembers Abigail and a portrait of her appears in his study. They release the shark and the camera pans over the number on Abigail’s ice box. The Doctor questions her about it to which Abigail simply responds, “You’re a doctor? Are you one of mine?” Bum-bum-bummmm… foreshadowing.
As Abigail goes back into her ice box, Kazran forces the Doctor to make a promise that he’ll be back every Christmas. And so, that’s what happens, as the Doctor and Kazran revisit Abigail each Christmas Eve for a night of fun. And each time they visit her, the number on her ice box counts down.
Eventually, as Kazran gets older, Abigail begins to really notice him for the first time. A visit to Abigail’s family one Christmas allows Kazran to see how “the other half lives.” And at the end of the night, she kisses him and their feelings for each other are cemented into the elder Sardick’s memories.
However, not too long after this, Abigail confesses her terrible secret to Kazran, and as the night comes to an end. Kazran sadly closes Abigail’s ice box and tells the Doctor he doesn’t want him to come for Christmas again. Instead, Kazran begins to train with his father to use the cloud belt controls and closes himself off from emotion, still becoming the man who refuses to help the Doctor in the future.
Amy then appears in hologram form as the “Ghost of Christmas Present” and leads Sardick down to the ice boxes where holograms of the ship’s passengers sing Christmas carols in a desperate (and futile) attempt to alter the cloud belt. However, this doesn’t affect Sardick either. Confronted again with Abigail’s ice box, Sardick admits that Abigail told him about her illness, and that she only has one day left. “How do I choose what day?” Amy then brings Sardick as a hologram onto the ship, where the passengers continue to sing because they haven’t been told that it’s not going to save them.
The Doctor brings him back to the ice box chamber, where Sardick remonstrates the Doctor for giving him feelings for Abigail, but that circumstances have taken her away from him. “‘Better a broken heart than no heart.’ ‘Try it!'” Then the Doctor presents the “Ghost of Christmas Future” — Sardick himself, as he brings the childhood Kazran out of the TARDIS to see what his older self has become. Raising his hand as if to slap his younger self, Sardick realizes that he has become his father and finally agrees to help the Doctor.
One problem is that the controls no longer respond to Sardick. It seems the Doctor did so much to change Sardick’s past that his brainwaves are different and the computer no longer recognizes him. It becomes clear that there is only one solution to calm the clouds and allow the ship to land, and that’s waking up Abigail for one last time. Though against it at first, Sardick agrees, and a tearful reunion ensues between himself and Abigail, who lovingly chastises him for keeping her last day to himself for so long.
Of course, the plan works, and Abigail’s song saves the day. Abigail’s song also creates an unintended side effect as it starts to snow. The Doctor then takes the young Kazran back to his own time, and leaves Kazran Sardick and Abigail Pettigrew to spend their last day together.
Phenomenal episode, and probably one of the best Christmas specials for Doctor Who in years. The actors were all spectacular, though I expect nothing less from Michael Gambon, and Matt Smith has certainly proven himself as the Doctor in the last series. Katherine Jenkins was certainly a lovely surprise. I have to admit, at first when she was cast I thought, “another pop star?” However, she pulls off the role of Abigail brilliantly, bringing a warmth to the character along with those powerful vocals.
As for the story, Moffat certainly did an interesting take on Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, not just in terms of putting a new spin on the three ghosts, but also by doing something the Doctor doesn’t normally feel good about — changing a person’s past. However, the Doctor does it in a way that has a minimal effect.
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars