Reviews

A Dickens of a Good Time

Jan
11

Review of A Christmas Carol

Try as I might, I cannot find a way to make “Christmassy-wistmassy” sound good in a sentence.  But how else do you accurately describe the action in A Christmas Carol, which is simultaneously about as timey-wimey as we’ve seen and also unrelentingly inspired by the holiday season (and, more specifically, by its namesake)?  After a somewhat shaky start (“Christmas is canceled!”? What kind of rubbish line is that?), the episode turns rollicksome and barely pauses for breath.  Little details made me smile before the story really even began.  I mean, how can you not love Amy & Rory’s discomfiture at being caught with their barely-metaphorical pants down?  And after all that happened last series, it’s brilliant finally to see Arthur Darvill’s name in the credits.

From the title down, the whole episode is deliberately Dickensian – the Doctor himself makes a conscious decision to mimic the story when his answer to Amy’s query changes from “a Christmas carol” to “A Christmas Carol”.  Thus it’s no surprise right off to hear Kazran’s rant (“I call it expecting something for nothing!”) so closely echo Scrooge’s complaint that Christmas is “a poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!”  It’s almost like a game to find as many references as you can, though perhaps it would be wise to stop before you started counting every little quasi-Victorian detail on the set.

While I’m on the topic of minutiae, I may as well mention the Doctor’s new jacket; his fabulous entrance; and the way he continues to be as frenetic as ever, delivering viciously funny lines that are all too easy to miss while you’re still laughing at the last one.  (A few of those – like the whole bit about the face spider – feel like something Moffat couldn’t bear to leave on his Wonderfully Scary Ideas clipboard despite the fact they wouldn’t support a stand-alone episode.)  I could point out how wonderful the Doctor’s comment about never having met someone “who wasn’t important” is or how well his eyes say “if only you knew” when Kazran spits his venom about trying on a broken heart for size.  Maybe I should mention the subtle use of the Doctor’s Theme when Kazran’s father tells him of the machine’s completion, and he seems to reject it, going to the drawer for the sonic screwdriver before finally rejecting the Doctor.  Or the way Amy’s exchange with the Doctor outside the TARDIS at the end harks back to the end of Forest of the Dead.

Perhaps, though, it would be more interesting to examine some of the overall themes of the episode.  With that in mind, I’ll present the rest of my thoughts on a theme-by-theme basis.

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