The new(ish) BBC tradition of airing a Christmas themed Doctor Who episode has now arrived in the U.S. For the first time, BBC-A is showing the special on the same day as BBC-1. I was a bit unsure about the 'Christmas Carol' theme- it's been done to death- but as usual, the Doctor Who staff pulls off a wonderfully paced and acted episode
A starship cruiseliner descends into an icy looking atmosphere; by the reaction of the crew, this is not planned. A signal is detected from the honeymoon suite- a distress signal. Amy and Rory come out, dressed as the Hot Cop and the Centurion (that's an interesting game…) They've sent for the Doctor, and he arrives. Christmas is saved!
Or is it?
The Doctor drops down the chimney of one Kazran Sardick, a cruel man who controls the ice clouds around the planet. There's apparently a huge overpopulation problem on this planet, and there are people who sell themselves into cryogenic storage to free up space (and reduce debt). Sardick has the cloud controls keyed to respond only to him; the Doctor is unable to use them.
As Sardick has the latest round of the indebted kicked out of his quarters, he is struck by a rock thrown by a young boy… but though he's obviously cruel, he does not hit the boy. The Doctor notices, and promptly deduces quite a bit of Sardick's past.
The Doctor heads outside to update Amy in orbit, and encounters fish that can swim through fog. People seem afraid of them, but the Doctor doesn't seem to see the threat. He hears a song- a carol- and comes up with an idea.
He breaks back into Sardicks house and shows him a movie of his past; this upsets Sardick, so the Doctor leaves and reappears in the movie of the past. The Doctor befriends the young Sardkick, and the older Sardick begins to remember as the past is rewritten. The Doctor and young Sardick go fishing, and land a flying shark that has conveniently consumed the sonic screwdriver. Or half of it, anyway.
The shark lay dying, but young Kazran shows compassion and wants to save it. He decides to put the shark in a cryotank. To do so, they free one of the surplus population in the frozen debtors prison in the basement. She sings to the shark, who has awakened and is terrorizing the Doctor and Kazran. She charms the shark, though the Doctor pooh-poohs the effect of the music, it's pretty effective. Her name is Abigail, and together, the three of them bring the shark back to the sky.
Back in the present, Sardick is changing along with the events that are changing in the past. He's taken to wearing bow ties, and a portrait of Abigail has appeared on the wall. As the Doctor visits every Christmas Eve, he thaws Abigail and the three of them go for another adventure. Kazran ages and falls for Abigail, but an ominous counter is ticking down on her personal frigidaire.
After one Christmas eve, where the Doctor nearly gets engaged to Marilyn Monroe, Kazran demands that the visits stop after Abigail whispers something to him. The Doctor gives him the broken sonic screwdriver to summon him with. Over the years, Kazran nearly summons the Doctor on a couple of occasions, but coldness overtakes his heart and he closes his life to his childhood friend.
Amy (and Rory) appear to Sardick in a hologram. She brings the passengers of the cruise liner down into the freezer in holographic form to sing Silent Night to him-- to sing for their lives. Kazran tells Amy the awful truth that Abigail had revealed to him years earlier. She was sick, and their Christmas eve outings drained her until she had only one day left--- naturally, he blames the Doctor. He is unmotivated to do anything to save the cruise ship until the Doctor shows him the future. But he doesn't show Old Kazran the future, he shows Young Kazran who he becomes. Young Kazran mistakes his older doppelganger for his father, infuriating old Kazran who raises his hand to strike his younger self….
….. time travel is so hard to write about…
Anyway, they go to the controls for the clouds, only to find that Kazran can't work them anymore, he's changed too much--- the Doctor has changed him too much. But don't count the Doctor out… he remembers that Abigail's singing calmed the shark and the fog once, so he asks Kazran to release her on what will be the last day of her life. He does, and she sings into the sonic screwdriver, saving the day, and making snow. The space liner is able to land, and the day is saved.
The Doctor sets to making snowmen, and the honeymooning Amy and Rory finally get back in the Tardis where Rory fields a call from Marilyn for the Doctor. Kazran and Abigail fly off into the night in a carriage being pulled by an air shark…
Wow. I really enjoyed that!
First, for some reason, I really liked the description of Christmas as 'half way out of the dark'. It really echoed with me for theological reasons. You can fill in the blanks.
The episode moved so fast and so well that I was challenged in keeping up. The dialog, witty and clever. The acting spot on with a nice guest appearance by Michael Gambon (of Top Gear fame and some odd wizard movie series or something…). The music was not too obnoxious, in spite of two numbers done by Abigail (played by somebody that I'll look up in the morning).
The story was very interesting- The Doctor takes care to change a single person over the course of his life- that no one was boring or unworthy. And though the Doctor can speed through a man's life, he takes his time doing so, though the fate of 4000 people's lives hang in the balance.
I'm sure that the bridge of the cruise ship was a Star Trek parody. The captain looked waaaay too much like Janeway and the helmsman had an eye prosthetic ala LaForge. This just goes to show you that we're not the only ones who think that later Trek made the ships and uniforms resemble the Love Boat.
There's lots more to talk about, but we'll carry that conversation onward in the comments. So comment, and let's get the ball rolling!