Tue, 4 January 2011
A Christmas Carol" is an episode of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It is the sixth Doctor Who Christmas Special since the programme's revival in 2005, and was broadcast on 25 December 2010 on both BBC One and BBC America, making it the first episode to premiere on the same day in both the United Kingdom and United States. It was broadcast on 26 December 2010 on ABC1 in Australia and on Space in Canada.
The episode had an initial rating of 10.3 million viewers on BBC One and BBC One HD according to overnight figures, making it the second most watched programme on Christmas Day, just behind EastEnders. The rating was roughly comparable to the 2009 episode, The End of Time Part 1, which had 10.0 million watching on BBC One and 0.4 million on BBC HD.
The crew of a space liner carrying more than 4000 passengers struggles to maintain the ship's course while traveling through the strange cloud cover of a human-inhabited planet that interferes with their controls. Amy and Rory, aboard the liner for their honeymoon, send a distress call to the Doctor to help. The Doctor is unable to use the TARDIS directly to save the liner, and lands at a house topped by a giant antenna-like spire that seems to control the clouds. The sole resident of the house is bitter, peevish, old Kazran Sardick. The wealthiest and most powerful man on the planet, his father had built the spire. The Doctor tries to convince Kazran to turn off the cloud controls — isomorphically locked to him — but he mockingly refuses. Kazran, like his late father, considers the rest of the population of the planet little more than cattle, and cares not for the lives aboard the liner either. This becomes apparent to the Doctor when Kazran refuses to release a young woman, Abigail, from cryonic storage to her family for even a Christmas day. Recognizing that Kazran's father has had a significant effect on Kazran's life, the Doctor devises a scheme inspired by Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, the idea being to influence Kazran in his past and present to become more compassionate to the lives aboard the liner.
The Doctor visits a young Kazran shortly after his father had struck him for trying to experiment with a unique phenomenon of the planet: the ability of all manner of fish to "swim" in the foggy air. The Doctor discovers the ice in the clouds contain a weak electrical charge; this is what allows the fish to swim, but is also what is disrupting the space liner. The "boys" experiment with the fish anyway, until a shark attacks them and swallows the Doctor's sonic screwdriver. The Doctor recovers half, but inadvertently harms the shark in the process; it cannot return to swim in the clouds. The Doctor concludes that some sort of life support container could transport the shark safely to the clouds. Young Kazran shows the Doctor a system of cryonic chambers beneath the spire, where Kazran's father stores as "security" family members of people to whom he has lent money. Kazran directs the Doctor to Abigail's chamber; Kazran knows she had been fascinated by the fish before she was put into storage. They release her, and she sings to the shark, resonating with the ice crystals, and calming it. The three then successfully return the shark to the clouds.
Before putting Abigail back into her chamber, Kazran promises that he and the Doctor will return every Christmas Eve to celebrate it with Abigail. The Doctor keeps this promise, travelling forward every year to reunite Kazran and Abigail, taking them across time and space, and watching them develop a romance as he grows to a young adult and is introduced to her family. However, after several Christmas Eves, Abigail reveals a secret to Kazran, leading him to decide to end the tradition and leave her in cryonic storage indefinitely. The Doctor gives the broken half of the sonic screwdriver to Kazran to use when he needs it. Meanwhile, in the present, older Kazran enjoys his many new memories, but, heartbroken at Abigail's fate, still refuses to disable the spire.
From the liner, Amy appears to present-time Kazran as a hologram. She shows Kazran the crew of the doomed liner, singing Christmas carols, using the musical vibrations to partially stabilise the ship within the cloud system, just as Abigail calmed the shark, but still leaving the ship doomed to crash. Kazran waves away the holograms, continuing to refuse to release the controls. When the Doctor appears and tries to show Kazran his future, Kazran reveals Abigail's secret, that she was dying before she was frozen and will live only one more day outside of the chamber. Fully admitting that he will die alone, he values the one day left he has with Abigail over the thousands on the liner or the population of the planet. Unbeknownst to Kazran, the Doctor has brought young Kazran into the present to show the boy his future; he is shocked by his elder self's revelation. This change is reflected in the newly compassionate older Kazran, and he agrees to release the spire controls. They find, however, that the Doctor's interference has changed Kazran's past too much; Kazran's father, seeing his boy too kind to others, never programmed the spire's controls to recognise Kazran.
The Doctor concocts a new plan: by unfreezing Abigail and having her sing through the broken half of the sonic screwdriver amplified by the spire, the other half, still inside the shark, would be able to resonate the ice crystals, disrupting the cloud field, and allowing the liner to safely land. Kazran is aware that Abigail will die after one day, but he releases her anyway; she comforts him, reminding him they have had many Christmas Eves together and it is time for Christmas Day to come. The Doctor's plan is successful, and as the ship safely lands on the planet, the breakup of the clouds releases snow across the city. As the Doctor takes young Kazran back to his past and reunites with Amy and Rory, the old Kazran and Abigail celebrate a shark-drawn carriage ride together.
Several nods to earlier outfits in the series appear in A Christmas Carol. Amy Pond wears her kissogram policewoman's outfit from "The Eleventh Hour", while Rory wears a Roman centurion's outfit as seen in "The Pandorica Opens". In one of the many Christmas Eves the Doctor and Kazran spend with Abigail, they present themselves to her in matching long, stripy scarves. The Fourth Doctor's trademark accessory was long, striped scarves. The two also appear in fezes, an item of clothing the Doctor became fond of in "The Big Bang".
The Doctor initially scoffs at the idea of "isomorphic controls" – controls that will operate only for a specific person or limited set of people. In the classic series Pyramids of Mars the Doctor states to Sutekh that the TARDIS controls are isomorphic, although many other characters are seen operating them. In "Last of the Time Lords", the Master had a laser screwdriver with isomorphic controls.
During one of his trips with Kazran and Abigail, the Doctor introduces them to Frank Sinatra and inadvertently ends up marrying Marilyn Monroe, though he later attempts to claim that the ceremony did not take place in a legitimate chapel. The Doctor has hinted at marriage before during "The End of Time", suggesting his wife was Queen Elizabeth I, which was also reported upon by Liz 10 in "The Beast Below".
According to Ben Stephenson, Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning, the episode is a "clever twist on the much loved A Christmas Carol". Matt Smith added "It's as Christmasy as it comes in 'Doctor Who' land. It's loosely based on a 'Christmas Carol' with a time travelling twist. Steven has managed to reinvent it. I think those two things marry quite well together — 'Doctor Who' and Christmas." Steven Moffat, writer for this episode said "It's all your favourite Christmas movies at once, in an hour, with monsters. And the Doctor. And a honeymoon."
 Cast notes
Arthur Darvill is included in the opening credits in this episode, for the first time since he joined Doctor Who.
 Broadcast and reception
A Christmas Carol was tied with Come Fly with Me as the second most-watched program on Christmas Day in the United Kingdom, following EastEnders, and with a average viewership of 10.3 million peaking at 10.7 million.
 International broadcast
A Christmas Carol is the first episode of Doctor Who that was broadcast the same day in the United Kingdom and in North America through BBC America. Previous episodes from the revitalized series would have from a week to months-delay between the BBC and the BBC America or Sci Fi channel airing. Richard de Croce, Vice-President of Programming at BBC America, stated that they will try to continue the same-day airing on both stations with future episodes of Series 6. In the United States, 727,000 viewers watched A Christmas Carol, an 8% increase on the previous holiday special, The End of Time.