Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Doctor Who Christmas Special + 2011 Preview

A dozen years ago, I never thought I would be a fan of Doctor Who. I was never into the show. I watched a few episodes with my husband, who's been a fan since the '80s, but I just didn't get into it.

When the BBC revived the series in 2005, I sat by my husband to watch. We didn't have cable, so here was something new to see, even if it was a show that I didn't give a hoot about. If you're wondering how we were watching without cable, a friend of Tim's was sending him DVDs of the episodes that he downloaded. Never fear, we purchase all the legal DVDs when they are released; we just don't want to wait a year to see the show.

After watching a few episodes, in particular the two-part story of "The Empty Child and "The Doctor Dances," I was pretty well hooked. When Christopher Eccleston regenerated into David Tennant, that's when I really started considering myself a fan. I still hate to say the words, but I'll type them here: I love Doctor Who.

The new Who anyway. I'm still not inclined to sit and watch Doctors 1-7. No offense to William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker or Sylvester McCoy - I'm just not that into you.

It's somewhat of a tradition for the BBC to air a Doctor Who story on Christmas Day, and even though BBC America aired the Special on the 25th, we still don't have cable. So, Christmas Day found us searching for someplace online to watch Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol. No luck. We did find it the next day, and I have mixed feelings about it. It was a good story, with great use of the potential of time travel.

In the story, a space cruise ship is about to crash on a distant planet colonized by Earth in the far future. A crotchety old man controls the device that keeps the planet's frozen skies clear. At the point our story begins, the skies are not clear, and that's why the ship is about to crash. The old man refuses to use his device to clear the way and save the 4,000+ passengers and crew. It's up to the Doctor (#11, Matt Smith) to change his mind.

The Doctor has a personal stake in all this; his current companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams are on their honeymoon aboard that very ship. One of the story's shortcomings, I think, was that we never really felt any tension that the ship was actually going to crash. I didn't quite understand why the ship couldn't change course, why or how they got caught in the atmosphere(did they not request clearance to land?), and so I wasn't quite buying all that. The scenes on the bridge didn't always ring true. Amy and Rory send the Doctor a distress signal, which shows up on the ship's instruments. But it's not really a proper distress signal, I wouldn't think. They use a huge old-fashioned looking mobile phone device to talk to the Doctor at one point, but any mobile phone will work to call the TARDIS anymore. Well, at least mobiles that the Doctor has zapped with his Sonic Screwdriver. Near the beginning, in response to the distress signal ostensibly, the Doctor puts a message up on the ship's screen that says, "Come along, Pond," but how can they come along? The ship is completely out of control. That's why I never felt any sense of urgency, I think.

The story on the planet is more compelling. When the Doctor shows up (down the chimney on Christmas Eve), the crotchety old man, Kazran Sardik (the great British actor Michael Gambon) is Scroogely refusing a Christmas wish for a poor family. The Doctor tells Sardik what's happening, then locates the sky controller device and tries to operate it himself. It's isomorphic, though, and will only work for Sardik. The Doctor notices a few details that make him realize that Sardik's attitude began in childhood, so he goes back in time to make Sardik a better person. Through the magic of the TARDIS, old Sardik watches it all play out in front of him, and we see him reacting to what's happening and to his changes in memory.

The Doctor seems to be succeeding, then something happens that turns Sardik bitter again. Finally, he has one last chance to save the ship, but it threatens the life of Abigail, the young woman Sardik fell in love with during the Doctor's visits.

Overall, I thought it was a well-done take on the Dickens' classic.


The episode shows us a countdown to Abigail's last day, but doesn't explain what the countdown means until near the end. Her family, the ones who were begging to see her for Christmas at the start of the episode, seems to think she's only cryogenically preserved because she's the collateral on a loan. Do they not know the truth? What's wrong with her that she seems perfectly healthy every time we see her? Why doesn't the Doctor check in all of time and space and bring her a cure? It's all very vague and it makes the ending unsatisfying for me.


Now, we wait.

The next few episodes, the first half of the 2011 Season, are supposed to air in the Spring. Here's a preview:

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