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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 6 November 2012
Really great Christmas special, however if you are buying the boxsets of Dr. Who this is on the Series 6 complete box set so don't bother buying it too (as I did!).

I still really enjoyed it and just need to find a friend to pass it along to now!
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VINE VOICEon 25 January 2011
If Series 5 of Doctor Who proved anything, it was that it certainly turned out to be the most divisive series of the show yet. Just as Russell T Davies had radically reinvented Doctor Who when he headed its revival, so too did Steven Moffat radically reinvent the programme when he took the helm.

Opinion has certainly been divided over what Moffat has done since succeeding Davies. Some think that the show has become better and more intelligent than ever. Some think it too much of a radical reinvention and are wishing for Davies to come back. Personally, I thought Series 5 suffered from inconsistency, making it hit-and-miss overall. Some beautiful classics (e.g. "Vincent & The Doctor") counter-balanced by some appalling letdowns (e.g. "Vampires in Venice").

But in any event, Series 5 was generally regarded a critical success, Matt Smith had truly proven himself as the Eleventh Doctor, and with both Karen Gillan (Amy Pond) and Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams) providing excellence as the Time Lord's newest companions, Steve Moffat and his magic was here to stay.

Regardless of criticisms I had here and there for Series 5, I was looking forward to the 2010 Christmas Special, mainly because it hit upon a remarkable idea. Loosely adapting elements of Charles Dickens' classic tale and working it into the Who universe. It certainly made for a refreshing change from Christmas Specials past, and the fact that Doctor Who at Christmas had long become a great festive TV tradition (ever since the success of 2005's `The Christmas Invasion') was reason enough to tune in.

Premise-wise, "A Christmas Carol' sees newly weds Amy and Rory enjoying their honeymoon...right up until the point the space liner they're on malfunctions and is about to crash-land on the planet below, killing them, all the other passengers and doubtless many more civilians. The only man capable of averting rich, powerful `Scrooge', Kazran Sardick (played by the legendary Michael Gambon). Bad news is that he simply doesn't care if people die or not. So it's up to the Doctor to try and bring Kazran around. And to do that, he must show him the true meaning of Christmas...and humanity.

Now, as I said, the plot-premise is a remarkable idea. It's never been done before, and it was a wise-move to go for this to set it apart from previous Christmas epics i.e. "The Christmas Invasion", "Voyage of the Damned" and perhaps most notably "The End of Time" (where David Tennant was on his way out), so Steven could again continue with his unique style and bring it to Christmas.

Unfortunately, like Series 5 misses such as "Victory of the Daleks" and series-finale "The Big Bang", the excellent premise isn't executed like its meant to be. "A Christmas Carol" falls into the same trap that "The Big Bang" did, which is that the plot becomes too convoluted for its own good, to the point where it gets lost within itself. Though its not as severe as it was with "The Big Bang", the special still lacks the beautiful intricacies and coherency of such Moffat-classics like "Blink", "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead" & "The Time of Angels"/ "Flesh & Stone".

Other notable elements which I criticise is the `space-liner-in-peril". That's been done before in Doctor Who (and much better) and the premise of flying fish comes across as being really stupid. To see a shark pull a sleigh through the sky was something I had great trouble taking seriously, even for a science fiction programme.

But where the story suffers, the character-focus and ACTING triumphs. Matt Smith - who truly graduated with honours as the latest Time Lord - succeeds utterly as the Doctor yet again. Matt brings all his trademark wit, dynamism, quirky oddness, warmth and sharp drama that makes his Doctor just so appealing. Even if the story is bad, Smith can make it at least watchable with his performance, because he has that gift.

The legendary Michael Gambon is another actor to keep your eye on here. He makes the character of Kazran Sardick the centre of attention, putting on a quality rendition of Scrooge; stubborn, resolute, bitter old man to the point of him being almost completely unfeeling, yet betraying just a spark of compassion. As the Doctor works hard to try and redeem him, Gambon reels you in with his performance, taking you along for the journey that will have you booing, hissing and ultimately rooting Kazran on for the path towards redemption.

But in my opinion, the most exceptional performance belongs to (rather surprisingly) singer Katherine Jenkins as Abigail. Given that she had no acting experience prior to this, Katherine gives truly emotional and utterly heart-warming gravitas to the part she plays. It's utterly plausible, making the tragic and loving Abigail one to appreciate. Jenkins could really make a go at further acting if she ever chooses to, because her acting is every bit as class as her singing.

Alas, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill are criminally underused in their respective roles as Amy and Rory, which is another disappointment about "A Christmas Carol". The characters are reduced to `companions in peril' status, and although both Karen and Arthur make the most of the screen time they get, it's not enough. And at over an hour, this Christmas Special does also drag on at times. Still, there is the fantastic 2010 Doctor Who at the Proms (presented by Karen Gillan), a nice Confidential piece and a trailer at the end for Series 6, which looks highly promising. So there is a fair amount of content on the disc to satisfy fans.

Like Series 5, Doctor Who: "A Christmas Carol" has certainly divided fan reaction. My opinion? It's certainly not the best Christmas Special that's ever been done, but if you want to see Matt Smith, Michael Gambon AND Katherine Jenkins at their finest, then check it out. Just don't expect the story to go with it. Take it or leave it.
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on 12 January 2011
At last a Doctor Who Christmas Special that was actually very Christmassy - even with fezzes! Steven Moffatt has been flexeing his literary muscles again by re wiring Charles Dickens famous Christmas tale(actually, he's very, very good at re jigging 19th Century writers - see 'Sherlock'). And he does it again with flair and wit. Yes, we all know the Doctor's going to sort out Sardick's misanthropy in the end but it's the way he gets there that's interesting/entertaining. This story is similar to Jackson Lake's predicament in 'The Next Doctor' - where the Doctor basically helps the man get through his nervous breakdown. These scenes and plot where well handled but were seriously buried by the hideous pantomime plotline and vision of the Cyber King. Again in 'A Christmas Carol' we have the Doctor curing the afflicted but it's more central to the story and works better upfront. It's also very direct and engaging to an audience. How good was Catherine Jones? I must admit that I was dreading her as a piece of stunt populist casting but she was convincing as the demure Abigail and broke my heart with her rendition of 'In the Bleak MidWinter' - the latter a deliberate choice by Moffatt to tie in with his 'halfway out of the dark' theme here - a nice touch. I'm always entertained by Matt's Doctor's bounding enthusiasm & optimism even when he's makes the worst faux pas. Loved it when he bounces on Sardick's bed with boyish glee when he first visits him in the past. And what a deft touch by Moffatt to make the elder Sardick the scary ghost of Christmas yet to come to frighten his younger self - magical. Mind you this did have the minor quibble of almost suffering from silly alien custume syndrome a curse of 20th Century Who - notice the large and silly hats worn by the locals in the final scenes as they walk across the square. I think at times Moffatt must be kept away from the design department as I feel he's not up to it aesthetically - i.e the new look Daleks and his idea of the 11th Doctor in pirate gear. I rest my case!! I haven't mentioned Michael Gambon - but do I really need to? You know he's going to be brilliant. And the little fishes were luverly. I could even put up with the unsubtle 'Jaws' reference. Merry Christmas one and all!! Bring on Series 6 and loads more!!!
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on 5 April 2011
As a grumpy old fan from the black and white era I have to admit that I have come to like all of the new Doctor incarnations. There is a wonderfully inventive streak running through many of the story-lines and this recent Christmas Special chimed nicely with Dickens, Time and Who. Sitting through this story made me ever so slightly less grumpy so... Best taken with a pinch of snuff and a mince pie.
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on 18 May 2013
I happened on this and couldn't believe the number of low scores. This and "The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe" are my household's all-time favorite Christmas specials OK, "The Snowmen" is a contender because of 1) Clara getting her real introduction and totally sparkling and 2) Vastra, Jenny, and Strax, who are funny enough I'm hoping they get their own spin-off.

There are a ton of sweet references to the Dickens story (some are actually quotes put in a slightly different context): a bit like the "Great Detective" references built around Vastra's team. But a lot of the humor and just plain fun silliness are built around them referencing these great works of fiction. A Christmas Carol is not only deeply moving and charmingly scientific, it's very cleverly written. Seriously, did all the people giving it 1s and 2s not get the joke that Amy is in her meter maid outfit and Rory in his centurion uniform and they're on their honeymoon??? Did they not get all the Dickens references/quotes? Do they not understand the effect child abuse (or whatever they would have called this treatment in Victorian England) can have on the child? Did they not get the reason the Doctor knew there was hope for "Dumbledore" because "you didn't strike the boy"? And holy cow, I would have given this 5 stars if all the Doc, Amy, and Rory did was recite nursery rhymes just for the sake of hearing Katherine Jenkins singing. This was my first introduction to her. And now I know what angels sound like, even if I end up having to listen to them from Hell.

One comment on the criticism that the Doctor is fiddling with time. What he's really trying to do is save the future. Face it, the series uses the idea that you can't cross your own timeline when it suits the plot; if you're a Trekkie, it's the DW version of the Prime Directive. But in this case, he's not changing major events of the past so much as trying to bring out in Kazran Sardick the good that he sees is still there when Kazran very clearly wants to smack the kid but then pulls the slap. Kazran is not his father: that's what the Doctor sees, and that's what he has to work with in order to save 4000 people including the Ponds.

And OMG in addition to Jenkins' astonishingly beautiful voice, the scene where Amy as the "Ghost of Christmas Present" holograms in everyone on the ship so Kaz can hear them singing and see their faces and ask what they're doing... it would take a Scrooge-like heart not to be reaching for the tissues at a moment like that, esp when she tells him they're singing for their lives. Likewise the scene where they're out of options and have to release Abs on the one day she has left if they want to save the folks on the foundering ship. I pictured her as a true savior-figure: had they been able to ask her "May we let you out even though you have only one day to live," she would have said "Why are you even asking?" (I like to think that, off-screen and a day later, the Doctor got her to the "Best Hospital in the Universe" and they had found a cure, but maybe a little too maudlin...)

Anyway, hoping my one little "5" pulls up the average a tiny bit because this was a magnificent piece of writing and really one of their best Christmas shows.
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on 9 March 2011
What has made me review this item is more to do with the one star reviwers than the fact that this is brilliant in every way.
The acting is breathtaking both from Matt Smith and the special guests, the writing is well brilliant again, likewise the production values. It is funny, exciting, thoughtful, full of christmas, ingenious and at times very sad. Like all great Doctor Who, despite the tradgedy it is also very uplifting and life affirming. This is television at its very best.
The sad thing is the average punter will glance at this and see it is a little low on stars. They probably wont look further and see that the vast majority of reviews loved it. They wont understand that because its Doctor Who, there are always the small but vocal minority who whilst giving the impression they are fans of the show, will then just rip it to bits. I should be used to this after almost fifty years, it seems like it has never been different, but it still makes me cross. I just don't understand why anyone wants to be so pointlessly destructive about something they claim to love. One reviewer acctually tells people not to watch this!!!! Why would anyone do that? There have been a few slightly dodgy episodes of new who since it returned in 2005 and most of those were better than most of the stuff we usually get on television. Of course all reviews are a matter of opinion. What I love may not be another viewers cup of tea and I understand that. Even so it is impossible to comprehend how anyone could justify giving this episode one star! Even if it is not someone's fave episode it has so much to offer. As a Doctor Who fan since 1963 I understand new who is not written for the fans, but for a much much bigger audiance. It is still very hard to understand why any Doctor Who fan would not love this.
As for Smith he had a hard act to follow and he has done that brilliantly. If others have put you off, please dont let them. If you take their advice not to view this, you will be missing out on a brilliant bit of television. Perhaps you wont agree with me. but at least you will have given it a chance, everybody is entitled to their own opinion. I cannot find anything not to love about this story and the extras are pretty good as well. The price of the DVD is worth it just to see the look on the kids faces at the proms concert when monsters come on, or the Doctor himself, still working his magic after nearly fifty years. Uplifting and simply fantastic.
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on 28 December 2010
Ok, so some fan boys wanted "Crash of the Cybermen" or "Yet another Darlek invasion in London". Truth be told, the previous specials had really nothing to do with a Christmas vibe and were just another excuse for a shallow Davies adventure with Tenant as an overblown and increasingly lampoonish incarnation of the Doctor, reverting to laddish jibes whenever confronted with any sort of challenge.

Here Moffet and Smith have crafted something not only touching and in tune with the season but created a new spin on a familiar story by borrowing not only from Dickens but also Moby Dick, Citizen Kane and Tim Burton. Love it, every minute (Fish in Space!).

Smith is simply great in the role with his kooky post war physics professor look and I hope he keeps to his word to continue to explore and expand the part.

I would have liked to have seen more of Amy and Rory but they were after all a foil to the events taking place in this "Scrooge" homage.

It's also a breather after the more challenging, adult and excellent Season 5 with a trailer which promises that Season 6 will deliver. Cannot wait.........
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Doctor Who had already met Charles Dickens in the first season of NuWho, but while the great man doesn't appear in this - Christmas special, his most popular tale provides the perfect template for the Doctor - after all, who but a Time Lord could so effortlessly move through Christmas Past, Present and future? Set on an alien colony where Michael Gambon's miserable miser Kazran Srdick literally controls the dangerous skies, our hero has only a matter of hours to save his companions and the passengers of a stricken spaceliner from disaster, which he can only accomplish by reforming the old rogue and showing him the real value of human life by popping up in his past...

Far from jumping the shark (something the show takes literally with its flying shark), it's one of the most successful of all NuWho stories, managing to be great fun and also surprisingly emotional while making a lot more sense than the plothole-ridden Russell Tedious Davies Christmas specials. As the Peter Pan elements of Series Five showed, Steven Moffat has a great affinity with classic stories and here he manages to perfectly meld Dickens and the Doctor, both fulfilling expectations and adding a few new surprises, even managing to put a nice spin on Christmas to come. Gambon's a perfect Scrooge, never overplaying it, allowing the humanity to briefly surface before being quickly locked away, the potential gimmick casting of Katherine Jenkins works surprisingly well and Matt Smith is in his element running off at the mouth and jumping back and forth in time to get the information he needs to get out of trouble. The subsequent troubled Series Six may have had its behind the scenes problems that occasionally were all too noticeable on screen, but this is a perfectly delightful finale to Smith's first year in the TARDIS.

Available as part of the Series Six boxed set, as well as the Doctor Who Confidential documentary, this does have one extra that wasn't carried over to that set, the Doctor Who at the Proms concert, though whether that's worth a double dip depends on your completism or your tolerance for Murray Gold's scores.
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on 5 January 2011
Best Christmas Special so far? In a word, yes. I loved the way Steven Moffat toyed with the Dickens tale to give us something odd and original. I love that for once, the Christmas special was all about Christmas and not a wedding, an invasion, the titanic, Cybermen in Victorian London or the death of the Tenth Doctor. Was brilliant Christmas day telly and full of laughs.

What bothers me is the complaint that the story was unbelievable. This is a sci-fi show about space and time travel. It's ok if it ventures in to the ridiculous. The flying fish were cool and gave us a flying shark (which is no more ridiculous than a flying reindeer, yet we all accept that as ok.)

This is well worthy of 5 stars to me and the soundtrack...
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on 28 February 2011
just wanted to share with ppl that will buy series 6 that this will probly (as the other series' specials except 2008-2009 series 4 specials) be included in the series 6 boxset:

series 2: The Christmas Invasion (btw 1 and 2)
series 3: The Runaway Bride (btw 2 and 3)
series 4: Voyage of the Damned (btw 3 and 4)
so series 6: A Christmas Carol (btw 5 and 6)
attention be4 buying if u'll buy s6

edit: it has been confirmed in the Series 6 Boxset both DVD & Bluray that this is included in the boxset of the complete series 6 Doctor Who - The Complete Series 6 [Blu-ray]Doctor Who - The Complete Series 6 [DVD]
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