Doctor Who Christmas Special 2010
Original airdate December 25, 2010
Christmas is about a great many things, but its about perhaps nothing more than faith. For some people, that means religious faith. For others, that means faith in your fellow man. But for many people, especially young people, Christmas is about faith in magic, faith in the idea that the world might be a little more special than what we see every day, belief that a benevolent man in a sleigh will come along bringing presents and joy.
Doctor Who is, among other things, a show about magic, about a mad man in a magic box who comes to call, showing up just when you need him to make the world a better place, so it makes perfect sense that The Doctor would be a big fan of Father Christmas (or, as he knows him, Jeff). So the show is perfectly suited to Christmas episodes that are about the exuberance of the season, and about Christmas miracles that come along to brighten up a dark and dreary season. “A Christmas Carol,” the show’s sixth Christmas Special since its 2005 revival, is a new twist on an old story that has The Doctor bringing a Christmas miracle to save Amy and Rory from a crashing spaceship.
To save the ship, The Doctor has to get Kasran Sardick (Michael Gambon, giving a great performance to fit a great Doctor Who name), a miserly Christmas hater, to learn the reason for the season in time to allow the ship to land safely. Kasran’s reasoning for not allowing the ship to land makes basically no sense, but then, this is Doctor Who, where a strict adherence to logic will quickly drive you round the bend, so hang on tight as The Doctor travels through Kasran’s past to reshape the present man’s personality until he gains enough compassion to save the day.
The plot is largely an excuse to let Matt Smith run around being big and goofy for an hour on Christmas, and he is in fine form. Smith’s Eleventh Doctor is a fast-talking ball of energy, an endless source of child-like glee who confronts the world before him with a boundless sense of wonder. In short, he is the perfect Doctor to have at your side if you are a kid on Christmas, the sort of tour guide who will reveal great sights to you, and be just as impressed as you are at the possibilities of the universe.
The episode’s chief theme is a seasonally important one about being compassionate to others and valuing them for themselves, expressed most beautifully in an early moment, right after the Doctor has arrived in Kasran’s life. The Doctor asks who a woman frozen in ice is, and Kasran caustically replies “Nobody important.” The Doctor responds with one of my favorite lines Eleven would ever utter: “Do you know, in 900 years of time and space, I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important before.” Everyone matters to The Doctor, because everyone is a person with thoughts and feelings, fears and anxieties, hopes and dreams. Every person, like every experience, is a possibility, but they are more than that. They are big and complicated and impressive, even at their worst. People matter, and are worth paying attention to, worth caring about, worth valuing for themselves.
“A Christmas Carol” has that trump card up its sleeve throughout, but that is only part of the reason it is my favorite Doctor Who Christmas Special. Beyond that, this is just a ceaselessly fun hour of television, that is a showcase for Matt Smith at his best. He gets to be uproariously funny, gleefully silly, and deeply compassionate here, all within the episode. It’s a sight to behold, watching one of the finest performers to ever play the role at the top of his powers. It’s a bit magical to see, and at just the time of year when we could all use a little magic to brighten up some dark days. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. Don’t let the flying sharks bite.