The Episode (4/5)
I would like to open this review by declaring that 2010 must have been truly the year of the Moff. Steven Moffat has proved that he is not only an excellent writer, but an entirely clever one. From his early work on the BBC comedy Coupling, and the Rowan Atkinson starring Doctor Who spoof The Curse of the Fatal Death, Moffat has proven this time and again. With his work under Russell T. Davies incarnation of Doctor Who, his episodes always stood out as the best during their respective seasons, and now as show runner for Doctor Who he has arguably created what may be the finest series the revived show has ever seen. If that wasn't good enough for him with 3 episode mini-series Sherlock he brought Sir Arthur Conan Doyles famous detective into the 21st century better than anyone in recent memory.
I bring this up because 2010's Doctor Who Christmas special, Christmas Carol is an absolutely clever, and inventive episode of Doctor Who. This episode as the title suggest takes the framework of Dicken's holiday classic, and recreates it as a Doctor Who episode. Normally, this kind of adaptation would come across as cheesy, but the way Moffat writes it he makes the material work for him, rather than shoehorning the plot of A Christmas Carol into Doctor Who, and while the episode does have some cheesy elements, rest assured the carefully orchestrated plot is not one of them.
The plot involves the Doctor's current assistant's Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and her new husband Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) on a honeymoon space cruise, which goes awry in the cloud belt of a planet, whose weather is under the control of one man Kazran Sardick an Ebenezer Scrooge like character played wonderfully by Harry Potter actor Sir Michael Gambon. In this episode the Doctor (Matt Smith) has an hour to convince Sardick to end his control over the cloud belt to save Amy, Rory, and the other 4001 passengers on the space cruise from crashing to their imminent deaths. In order to prevent this the Doctor plays the role of the ghost of Christmas past, with a very clever time travel twist. The Doctor ends up going into Sardick's past, every Christmas Eve from childhood through his teenage years, introducing him to the love of his life Abigail, and attempts to change his personality by showing him kindness, and understanding.
Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol is a short 60 minute ride, and goes by at quite an excellent pace. By the time it is over, it feels as if no time has passed at all. The plot is deep enough, and has enough twist for a movie twice the length of this episode. There are some cheese elements most notably in the denouement, but overall this is a fun ride, and is sure to become a Whovian holiday classic.
Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol is presented in it's original 1:33:1 exhibition ratio, and features a nice 1080i transfer. The transfer itself is not perfect, however, coming from the position of a long time Whovian it looks absolutely brilliant. Who knew in the days of wobbly sets, and rubber suited monsters that Doctor Who would ever look THIS good. The black levels are deep, colors are solid, and the flesh tones are largely accurate. The level of detail seen her is nothing short of outstanding, and while I am slightly bothered by the fact that it is not 1080p, it is still quite an excellent looking disc.
The audio is presented in an English DTS-HD track, and it is quite a strong track. The dialogue is crisp and clear throughout, and the sound effects and music are strong in the mix. No audio imperfections can really be heard, as in no hissing, pops, cracks, or other forms of distortion.
BBC/2Entertain have provided a nice little set of extras for their release of Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol. The most substantial extra, is a 60 minute episode of Doctor Who Confidential which goes into the making of this episode. The only other extra is Doctor Who at the Proms 2010, this is basically an orchestral show that features Doctor Who characters and monsters and was recorded live at London's Royal Albert Hall. I found this extra to be quite good, and a nice thing to throw in the background as I do other things.
If you were a fan of Series 5, then picking up this Blu-ray is a no brainer. It features the same amazing cast, with the addition of an excellent performance by Michael Gambon. The A/V work is solid, and the novelty has still not worn off seeing Doctor Who in glorious high definition. The extras are good, and give a good background to the episode, and some additional entertainment value. Recommended for Doctor Who fans.