Monday, January 10, 2011

REVIEW: "A Christmas Carol" DVD

Christmas Carol DVD
Release Date: Jan 24

RRP:

DVD £13.27/Bluray £16.33

Duration: 60 mins (approx.)

Extras:
Doctor Who Confidential
Dr Who at the 2010 Proms


PLEASE NOTE: Some of the words in this review have been suggested by humans on Twitter. See if you can spot which ones.


The Christmas "special" has been an odd affair over the years (yup, that phrase can now legitimately be used as this is the sixth of its kind) and A Christmas Carol was purty much that. Odd. Like the day itself - and I am mindful that to some readers it is simply just December 25 - there are a lot of expectations and a lot of "different" kinds of people to satiate and satisfy. With no one really coming away with the best experience of their lives but happy nonetheless.


Only The End of Time Part 1 (review HERE) so far can claim to be a proper "story" whereas the other specials are, for want of a better word, fluff. Enjoyable and extremely well~made fluff, yes. But still fluff. This year's tale (a re~bumbling on the Dickens story, in case the title or the numerous times it was mentioned pre~broadcast didn't indicate) continued the rather jokey way in which writer and trouser~wearing Scotsman Steven Moffat plays with time.


Now, I'm just going to come out and say it now. I don't like time~travel being used so flippantly and so cheaply. For me, this year's finale was rendered almost comedy~sketch~laughable by the way in which The Doctor jumped back and forth (needlessly it has to be said) trying to save the day. He does again here. Jumping forward in time to find out the code to open a door which will allow you to alter time and save 4,000 or so people when you could have just as easily have stopped the ship leaving int he first place (which amounts to the same thing as what he's doing anyway) does leave me a bit subdued. Let's not even mention Blinovitch Limitation Effect or The Reapers...


Anyway, a small point. But a salient one. We could argue about "timey~wimey" events until the phrase has lost all meaning, so let's not bother. The notion of dilemma (the 4,000 people about to die) was also removed through The Doctor's, for want of a better phrase, fannying around marrying actresses in the 1950s. If he doesn't care, why should we? And we don't really. It's the relationships on the ground that prove to be so fascinating or, as our Hungarian friends would say, lenyűgöző.


Although we have acting heavyweight Michael "So he's in the Harry Potter films but that doesn't make him a bad person, OK?" Gambon performing an old, but lurvable bastid stoutly, he's supported by a remarkable cast. In the boys corner are Matt Smith lookalike Danny Horn and young Arthur Darvill impersonator Laurence Belcher (pictured above) both playing the younger version of Gambon's character, Kazran "The Anagram" Sardick. The latter in particular is worthy of a mention as he really steals the show, quite a feat given he gets quite a bit to work with.


Different story for the ladies with lurvely "actress" Katherine "The Skirt" Jenkins leading the way with her character Abigail. The chanteuse makes for an immensely engaging female lead and her first foray into acting should be commended as she plays the bland role with sympathy and a great deal of allure. Indeed, if someone has said Jenkins was a jobbing actress, no eyebrows would have been raised, such is the quality of her performance.


Matt Smith, of course, is on top form as The Doctor and Moffat plays to Smith's superb comic timing and delivery; using material that wouldn't have looked out of place in The Moff's charming sitcom Coupling (specifically the "girl" stuff between The Doctor and young Kazran). It's not difficult to see why so many have warmed to Mazza so quickly. When the viewer witnesses his joy opening the "tomb" containing Abigail whilst wearing a Fez or Tom Baker~style scarf (a touch which, I confess, brought a tear to my eye), we feel it too, so enthusing is his performance.


The production is glorious and sumptuous in equal measure; the sets are gorgeous and certainly some of the finest seen in the show. Can't say the same for the bland and lens~flared spaceship, however, but you can't have everything. Murray Gold's score is suitably seasonal, ranging from the heart~warming choral work, through the action pieces with Clive the Shark (oh yeah, there's a shark in the story - I forgot to mention that) to the chilling Abigail's Song sung by Jenkins; truly beautiful.


Does the beauty of A Christmas Carol outweigh the story though? For me, no. But it fulfils the Christmas Special criteria neatly and entertains enough, though an hour was stretching it somewhat - the forty~five minute slot would have been more appropriate for such a light narrative. It's not an episode I'll be coming back to anytime soon. Top marks, though, for the "happy ending" which actually wasn't - just how long was Abigail to live? Or did Kazran, knowing his future (twice over), *coughs*, spend his life trying to find a cure for her? (It is a Steven Moffat tale after all!)


EXTRAS
Unusually for a "vanilla" or single episode release there are a surprising amount of VAMs. Well, there's only two but they're both an hour long so that amounts to double the feature. You get the Christmas edition of Doctor Who Confidential in all its glory featuring the cast and crew in some delightful locations (particularly the use of the TARDIS interior) as well as the turning on of the Cardiff Christmas Lights. Completing the collection is Doctor Who at the 2010 Proms. Again, marvelous to watch this with Murray Gold's trouser~tightening tunes and the delightful appearances from Mazza, Kazza and Azza (pictured above).


Despite my own slight disappointment of the episode itself, the extras certainly make A Christmas Carol a worthwhile purchase - three hours on one disc for about a tenner ain't bad at all. And, for those who care about such things, the "Next Time" trailer makes a return to the Doctor Who DVD with that groin~grabbingly good Series 6 teaser - worth the price alone.


BLOGTOR RATING 8/10

21 comments:

JP said...

While I understand why you don't like all the flipping about with time, I disagree. Doctor Who has to me always being sold as a time Travel show and if if you don't incorporate time travel into the plot at least a few times over a series then the TARDIS simply becomes a means to get the Doctor to his next story, incorporating it into the story like this is I feel a better way of using the function of time travel than simply setting up a story. Also with the ship, if he'd gone back in time to stop it he'd have caused a paradox. i.e. the ship wouldn't have been crashing so he wouldn't have went back in time to stop it and then...ow my head hurts. (cue someone pointing out 1-10 paradoxes that actually occurred in ACC).
To me it was the best Christmas episode by a mile

Steve said...

I'd have to agree with JP: understand why you didn't like the story but totally disagree and think it's wonderful that a show about TIME TRAVEL actually acknowledges it. Oh and the bit about Reapers and Blinovitch Limitation Effect doesn't technically apply as no contact was made between two versions of the same character. Old / Young Kazran touched, yes, but Kazran was in the process of being changed by that moment and the machine not responding to him shortly afterwards indicates it was a literal change, different person after all is said and done. And JP hit the nail on the head with the ship too, the TARDIS couldn't lock on and land on the ship and if the Doctor had gone back and stopped it getting into trouble then you DO have a paradox and trouble ensues. I've been very impressed with the way Moffat has handled his time travel storys and very surprised at how many long time fans seem to miss the more subtle aspects of what he's doing.

Anyway, sadly I won't be getting this just yet as a) I want to see if it's on the S6 boxset but far more importantly b) it's not the full version of the Proms. Incredibly disapointed by that, was hoping we'd finally get an unedited version as even the longer BBC version omits a LOT of content that was such good fun live. Oh well, can't have everything I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I am baffled by the lack of enthusiasm and level of criticism in this review. I've heard nothing but praise for the episode--we enjoyed it so much we watched it twice--and most people I've spoken to thought it was utterly charming. Odd how dissonant perspectives can be!

Romney said...

I was expecting a review of the DVD and mostly this is just a review of the episode. Fine if thats what you want to do, but please title the entry appropriately. I didn't need this much chat about an episode that I (along with the rest of the country) saw on telly very recently!

excentric said...

I don't care about any of it. I absolutely loved the show. Every single minute. It was FUN! After years of RTD's angst dragging down everything, this was a joy. It made me happy. After all, it was Christmas. 'Happy' Christmas, is the greeting, I believe. And my capcha word is 'bilie'. Coincidence?

Austin said...

A practical question: is there any information about whether the Christmas Special and the lovely assorted extras will be included in the next box set? I am trying to avoid double purchasing.

Follow up question: Has there been any information regarding split box sets for the upcoming split series or is it too early for that?

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Captain Marbles said...

I loved the story. I just don't understand the idea of time travel being a bad plot device.I remember the Blinovitch stuff as a convenient plot device in the classic show which was usually used to avoid awkward special fx. However, I really think that the old plot devices need to be ignored in favor of wonderful plotting and the gorgeous spectacle of the show.

It was a real 10/10 for me.

To each their own, but this is the first Christmas special which had me nearly in tears.

Robin Bell said...

Baffled by this review, i thought this was BY FAR the best Christmas special yet.

Dr. Omega said...

You mentioned Karzan "Anagram" Sardick. I know many think this is an anagram, but I haven't heard anyone come up with what it is supposed to be. Do you have insight here or were you guessing in the review?

Cameron McEwan said...

Dr Omega, just my idea of a joke as his name seems to be set up for an anagram.

Ruud said...

For me, this was the episode where I saw MS as THE Doctor. So I loved the episode and have it seen a few times already.

Matthew said...

In what way was Laurence Belcher an Arthur Darvill impersonator? I didn't get that. I also don't see how Danny Horn looks like Matt Smith...

Matthew said...

I don't see how Danny Horn looks like Matt Smith... I also don't see how Laurence Belcher impersonates Arthur Darvill. Or am I just missing something here?

elliot paige said...

At Last! a less than stella rating for A Christmas Carol!, I thought I was the only person on the planet that didnt like it!. I really wanted to.I have watched it 3 times now, the last 2 times I hoped to see what everybody else sees, but to me it was just slow tedius & plodding. I must have looked at the clock 5 times in 60 mins.
Ah well, Id rather the show blow everyone else away and leave me dissapointed rather than the other way round.

Maddy said...

I agree with Elliot..
it wasn't the best christmas special ever..
I watched it 2 times and I didn't see anything special.
it was a nice christmas story, not a dw story, that's all..

Sam said...

Couple of things.

While I'm a bit on the fence about it this series going back to RTD has established that there are "Fixed" points in time that can't be changed and everything else is fair game.

If Kazran Sardick's life wasn't Fixed then the Doc can eff around with it to his heart's content.

Second thing is the impression I got from the episode was that the Doctor could have done a million different things to save the day but he chose to focus his energy on Kazran because he saw something in him worth saving. Persuading Kazran to save the ship from crashing was the Doctor's litmus test for how effective he'd been in altering Kazran's life.

In a way that's what I liked about the episode. The Doctor didn't need to go to all that trouble to save the day but did it for Kazran's sake because he decided Kazran was worth it.

awkward91 said...

How on earth have you come to the conclusion that The Christmas Invasion was a "fluff" story?? (Although I agree with you concerning the other Xmas episodes)

Mr Pointy said...

I still say it was shark-tastic! Generally spot on but as awkward91 said The Christmas Invasion wasn't really "fluff" IMO

Matthew said...

There was a glaring paradox. If Kazran changed, the Doctor would not have went to his past. But we have to remember, Doctor Who isn't all about the technical time-wimey. It's about the thrill of the adventure and imaginative wonder. It's fantasy and remember that if the science goes wrong. But if it's an obstacle, just remember that the laws of time got a great whipping with the death of the Timelords and the Cracks.

Noblelox said...

I'm in the pro time travel camp. Like JP(first comment) I scratch my head at how Time travel is so criminally under used in Doctor Who. Being a big Tom baker fan, you have to admit that time travel was hardly ever utilised in 90% of his tenure. Most of the time the Tardis would appear on some alien world and we would not have the slightest clue as to when it was. RTD was the same, like the Pertwee years, RTD largely kept the Doc stuck in modern day earth, with the odd obvious shunt to the end of the world or Victorian times. But again, time travel did not really have any impact on the story. I can only think of the fact finding mission to the creation of Earth in the Runaway Bride as the only real exception.

So Blogtor, stop hating on the time travel, love the wibbly wobbly timey wimey! it opens up massive story telling opportunities I hope other writers catch on to.