REVIEW: "A Christmas Carol" DVD

Christmas Carol DVD
Release Date: Jan 24


DVD £13.27/Bluray £16.33

Duration: 60 mins (approx.)

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!)

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.


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