I was more excited by the trailer for the upcoming series of Doctor Who more than I was the actual special itself, but don’t hold that against the special: both were incredible. Seeing as I’m reviewing the special, and not the trailer (that’ll come later), I suppose I should tell you that I enjoyed “A Christmas Carol” more than I have almost any other special that has aired since the series restarted in 2005. “The Christmas Invasion,” while introducing David Tennant, had an incredibly weak story, while “The Runaway Bride” was on about the same level. “Voyage of the Damned” would have been quite good if then-showrunner Russell T. Davies hadn’t tried to shove allegory down our throats. “The Next Doctor,” was honestly a bore (despite the giant Cyberman), and “The End of Time, Part 1” was alright, though only completed by the New Year’s special.
Was “A Christmas Carol” perfect? No way. Some parts were absolutely silly, and others were absolutely incoherent. But, from start to finish, Steven Moffat created what can be easily called one of the Doctor’s best Christmas specials. I’m quite pleased that this one aired in the U.S. on the same day as it did in Britain, simply because I would have felt cheated that millions of people would have seen the entire episode days before I did.
Like I said, the story was so frenetically paced that some details became incoherent (Did the portrait change on the wall, or was that another portrait? How exactly does singing calm both the clouds and the fish?), but those details were mostly unimportant compared to the emotional heart of the story. Michael Gambon was absolutely amazing in the central role of Kazran Sardick, the grouchy and tortured old man who went quite quickly from a two-dimensional Scrooge to a deeply wounded, deep character. (And how about that last revelation about how the Doctor was being the Ghost of Christmas Future? Great, great moment.)
Rory and Amy were, however, criminally underused in the story, though their brief and scattered appearances did cause for some heavy laughs (their costumes, for example, were scandalously riotous — I can see the BBC getting some complaints come Monday!). Of course, the real delight of the episode was the Doctor, who has become even more delightfully frantic over the break. It was so great to see him back in action after seven long months, and I’m sure everyone else was with my in hanging on his every frantic, illegible word.
Overall, “A Christmas Carol” was right on par with all of last year’s episodes, leaving me with bright hopes for that ever-more-brilliant looking series six, which is coming this spring. B