by Catriona Mills

Live-blogging Doctor Who Christmas Special: "A Christmas Carol"

Posted 26 December 2010 in by Catriona

So I’m setting myself up for the live-blogging, in the company of Nicholas and a small, paranoid dog who frequently attacks the television—he’s currently attacking some villagers who are apparently trying to kill a leopard.

I actually approve of him attacking them.

The rest of the family (mother, father, sister, sister’s partner, brother, brother’s partner, brother’s partner’s mother) are all eating leftover turducken in the conservatory, though my sister promises to come back and provide some bon mots as the episode demands, and I believe the others intend to wander in and out.

Would a cast of characters be helpful, perchance? Most of these people will probably never appear, but best to be prepared.

MOTHER: Mother.

FATHER: Father.

EUAN: Brother.

LU: Sister.

LIZ: Sister’s partner.

EUAN: Brother.

LEAH: Brother’s girlfriend.

DENISE: Brother’s girlfriend’s mother.

GENERAL MONTGOMERY (MONTY): Paranoid, television-attacking, slightly damp dog.

RIPPER: Sister’s dog, also mad.

That should bring you all up to speed.

So, while we wait for the episode to begin, how was your Christmas? Or non-denominational secular holiday? Good?

We autopsied a chicken. And no: that’s not a euphemism. Denise brought a frozen chicken down in her hand luggage on the flight from Lismore so that my father (former specialist poultry vet) could autopsy it for some form of cancer. I’m sure you’ll all be pleased to hear that it didn’t have cancer, though, of course, it was dead anyway.

I was the official chicken-autopsy photographer, but my photographs were sadly judged sub-par. They didn’t adequately capture the viscera.

For the record, that’s a fairly normal Christmas round these parts.

Oooh, fancy opening to the episode. And, wow, that’s an unflattering spacesuit. But that’s not important right now, because some sort of spaceship is crashing into an icy planet. But Amy and Rory, wearing their policewoman’s dress and centurion’s outfit, have sent out a distress call to the Doctor.

Amy seems quite optimistic, even though the Doctor has been late to everything, ever.

But no: here’s the Doctor, with the message “Come along, Pond.” I guess he doesn’t care about Rory, then.


Elsewhere, it’s Victorian England, apparently. You can tell, because Michael Gambon’s narrating it. According to Gambon, it’s Christmas on Earth, but this is something else, because Christmas on Earth never actually involves a bolt of lightning striking the sky from the sunroof of a vaguely neo-Victorian building.

The building is home to a man I’m just going to call Scrooge, who is keeping a woman cryogenically frozen, as security for a large debt.

He also hates Christmas, by the way.

GAMBON: Oh, what a clever little boy. You must be so irritated.

Scrooge is terribly unconcerned about the fact that the frozen woman loves Christmas, or that her family have come to ask for her release, or that the Doctor has just fallen out of the chimney.

DOCTOR: Christmas Eve. On a roof. I saw a chimney, and my whole body said, ‘What the hell!’

And the Doctor insists that Santa Claus is real, because he once spent time with him at Frank Sinatra’s hunting lodge.

The Doctor babbles a bit about the steampunky controls and the giant organ in the corner of the room and the fake sky (I missed most of that), before spotting the frozen woman. She is, according to Scrooge, not important.

DOCTOR: You know, 900 years of time and space, I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important before.

The Doctor has come to Scrooge, because Scrooge’s family controls the sky over this planet. Literally. So without his help, there’s nothing can be done for the spaceship. And the Doctor can’t just jump in, because the controls are isomorphic.

The Doctor warns Scrooge that whatever happens, he brought it on himself. But there’s still hope for Scrooge, because he failed to smack a small child in the face.

I frequently fail to smack small children in the face. I guess there’s still hope for me.

My sister wanders in late and says, “So, what’s happening?” She also told me to say that.

The Doctor’s chatting to Amy—coincidentally, as my sister points out, the spaceship is going to last about the same time as the episode has left to run—and points out that he hasn’t really helped the situation, since the only man who can help now hates him.

Also, there are space fish.

AMY: What’s that? Is that singing?

DOCTOR: A Christmas carol!

AMY: What?

DOCTOR: A Christmas carol!

AUDIENCE: Where did those anvils come from?

Elsewhere, the young Scrooge is being menaced by his father, who tells him that fish are dangerous, while young Scrooge (currently being belted by his dad) says that the fish like singing.

Of course, this has all been set up by the Doctor (who has recovered the recording by using quantum folding and a paperclip), who declares himself the Ghost of Christmas Past.

I admit, I’m a bit bewildered by the significance of the fish and also of the “Ding Dong Merrily on High.” But it’s early days yet.

Scrooge throws the Doctor out, and the Doctor says he’ll be back. Of course, being the Doctor, he means back in time—because he pops up in the recording of the young Scrooge, climbing through the window and claiming to be the new babysitter.

SCROOGE: Why are you climbing in the window?

DOCTOR: Because if I was climbing out the window, I’d be going the wrong way.

The Doctor says that because Scrooge is twelve, he’ll stay away from the under-the-bed area, chats about girls a bit and spiders designed to climb up the back of cupboard doors (oh, that’ll be haunting me), and listens to Scrooge talk about his father’s sky-taming machine.

Ultimately, he wants to take young Scrooge to see the fish he wants to see.

DOCTOR: We’re boys. And you know what boys say in the face of danger.


DOCTOR: ‘Mummy.’

Next time I manage to look up at the screen, they’re sitting somewhere dark, but I seem to have missed where they were going and why. All I know is that there aren’t any face spiders there, because they’re all nesting in my mattress.

Oh! They’re in a cupboard!

And the Doctor has attracted fish by setting up his sonic screwdriver to emit a certain pulse. The fish is only a little fish, but—oh now it’s a shark.


Spiders and sharks.

My two greatest fears.

YOUNG SCROOGE: There’s a shark in my bedroom?

DOCTOR: Oh, fine. Focus on that.

I would think that’s very important.

When Scrooge asks what’s happening now, the Doctor asks, “What do you call it when you don’t have any feet and you’re taking a run up?”

The shark is lodged in the cupboard door, which conveniently gives the Doctor a chance to reach down its throat and grab the screwdriver.(Well, two chances. Two arms.)

The shark is dying, though: it can only survive outside the cloud belt for short raids. The Doctor wants to take it back, but he needs Scrooge’s father new invention. Young Scrooge doesn’t know the password, but old Scrooge does, allowing the Doctor a convenient trip back in time to grab the password.

The invention allows Scrooge’s father to freeze people, as security for loans. (That’s an expensive form of security.) One of them looks suspiciously like the woman from the beginning of the episode.

As they look for an empty cell, the shark wakes up, as half the sonic screwdriver begins signalling to the other half.

DAD: How’s it going?

ME: It’s “A Christmas Carol” in space. With sharks.

DAD: Oh my gawd.

I get distracted by the arrival of a small dog and the fact that the computer is deleting all my text because the battery pack is swelling.


Also, someone is singing “In the Bleak Midwinter.” She’s very pretty, and has a lovely voice. Also? I’m partial to that carol. So is the shark.

Then the battery pack swells to the point that we have to remove it, which involves restarting the computer and I miss absolutely everything that follows.

So now Scrooge is about ten years older, and I think I’ve missed some important information about the cryogenically frozen opera singer.

This is the most confusing live-blogging ever.

But now he’s taken the opera singer to visit her family, and she’s peering through the window at them, wearing a hood, and crying, while Scrooge tries to work out whether you should talk to girls when they’re crying.

I’ve missed a lot, but at least the computer is no longer randomly deleting my typing every five minutes.

The opera singer heads into to talk to her sister’s family, and the Doctor claims that a small child is doing a card trick wrong, because the Doctor can’t guess his card.

Now they’re all eating Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, because the opera singer only has Christmas Eve off. Or something? Sorry: the battery thing really threw me.

I guess they saved the shark?

Now the opera singer is being frozen again, and she wants to say “good night” to Scrooge. Which means a kiss. Which Scrooge has never done before.

DOCTOR: Try and be all a bit frightened and rubbish and shaky.


DOCTOR: Because you’re going to be like that anyway, so you may as well make it look on purpose.

Old Scrooge, of course, has photos of all the Christmas Eves she’s spent with Scrooge. I completely missed the bit where they arranged that she’d have Christmas Eve out of the tube.

But now they’re in the 1950s, and the Doctor has accidentally got engaged to Marilyn Monroe.

DOCTOR: Marilyn! Get your coat!

Lu and I think they’ve faded away from an important plot point, because Scrooge and Abigail look all serious, but Nick reckons she’s pregnant.

Still, she’s cryogenically frozen again.

ME: That can’t be good for the baby.

LU: Well, we don’t know there’s a baby. Nick’s just guessing.

Nevertheless, though, Scrooge and Abigail have somehow agreed that she’s not going to be defrosted on subsequent Christmas Eves, so it seems as though Nick’s guess is a good one. Because all that refreezing won’t be good for the baby. You know what it does to chicken meat: makes it horribly tough.

So it seems as though the Doctor’s plan to make Scrooge a nicer man by giving him a pretty girlfriend whom he gets to spend one day a year with has been torpedoed by basic physiology.

Bloody physiology.

Uh-oh: the Doctor’s theme. Something’s bound to happen now!

Sure enough, Scrooge grabs the broken screwdriver that the Doctor gave him to open Abigail’s tube. Um, the cryogenic tube. But the Doctor pushes too far, because when Scrooge turns to find the Doctor waiting outside his window, he pulls down the blind and shoves the screwdriver back into the drawer.

Only to pull it out again in the present.

But he hasn’t mellowed enough. He still won’t help the crashing space ship.

But here comes Amy Pond as the Ghost of Christmas Present—which means a miniskirt and a serious of people singing “Silent Night,” which thoroughly startles Ripper.

Monty doesn’t know.

The wassailers are people on the ship, singing to save their own lives.

Euan comes in with a leaking can of Diet Coke that he found in the esky, almost completely empty (but unopened), leaking with a high-pitched whining noise.

Scrooge reveals that Abigail isn’t actually pregnant. She’s dying. If he releases her, she’ll only live a day.

So Nick kinda sucks at the guessing.

Amy says that Abigail still has more time left than anyone on the ship, but Scrooge thinks that’s a good thing.

And Amy reverses the holographic device that is projecting her into Scrooge’s house, and Scrooge finds himself holographically on the ship. The people, says Amy, are singing to try and attract the fish, to save their lives, but it isn’t working. That’s why they need Scrooge.

The Doctor still thinks that he can convince Scrooge, but Scrooge doesn’t care.

ME: Well, you’re going to have to care in the next eight minutes.

LU: As the actress said to the bishop.

And now there’s a small child. Who’s the small child? Oh, wait: it’s Scrooge himself! Who thinks that he’s his own father!

Well, that’s Freudian.

Apparently, nearly boxing your own ears is enough to make you into a nicer person. I should try that one day.

But the Doctor has made a terrible mistake. Apparently, the machine can only be operated by total jerks. At least, the isomorphic controls no longer recognise the new, nicer Scrooge.

That makes no sense to me, but I’m not a scientist.

But, apparently, we can use the broken screwdriver, because half of it is still in a shark that was sent up into the sky in the bit of the episode that I missed while my computer was freaking out.

So they need to wake Abigail up so that she can sing to the shark.

ABIGAIL: Look at you. You’re so old now.

ME: Well, that’s a nice thing to say after all this time.

But Abigail is out of the ice now, and she’s singing. I’m guessing it’s not a coincidence that they cast an opera singer in the role.

I don’t know this song, though. Anyone? Wendy?

There’s a theory as to what happens when the singing resonates through the clouds, but it was pretty much technobabble.

Technobabble and snow.

Luckily, the snow is only a side effect. What’s important is that the spaceship can land naturally and that the Doctor gets all the credit.

And that Scrooge finally gets to spend Christmas Day with Abigail, after all those Christmas Eves.

As a bonus, everyone gets to frolic in the snow.

The Doctor, though, has to take his Freudian deus ex machina back to its own time.

Behind me, Euan shouts, “Way hey!”, but it turns out he just completed another level of Angry Birds.

Like everyone in the living room, the Doctor wants to know why Amy and Rory are dressed like that, but that’s just because he can’t think outside the square.


The Doctor and Amy are asking each other if they’re okay. And Marilyn’s ringing the Doctor. Oh, he’s carrying some secrets with him, that one. But it’s okay: it wasn’t a real chapel.

According to the Doctor, Christmas is halfway out of the dark.

He should try Christmas in Australia.

EUAN: It’s finished! Now can I shoot Treena with the fly gun?

ME: Give me two minutes and you can.

Oh, wait a minute.


Merry Christmas! Sorry about the dodgy battery!

Share your thoughts [8]


Tim wrote at Dec 26, 11:16 am

Sp. centurion, series etc.

Lovely stuff! Great to have a Christmas special that actually relates to Christmas.

My second-favourite bit was the Doctor getting the number for the vault.

> AUDIENCE: Where did those anvils come from?

I thought that bit was cute. The Doctor looks at the screen, not just anviliciously but fourth-wall-breakingly ‘You know where this is going, and you’re going to love it!’ That was my favourite bit.

> So now Scrooge is about ten years older, and I think I’ve missed some important information about the cryogenically frozen opera singer.

Basically, Abigail’s singing calms the shark — the Doctor theorises her voice is harmonising with the ice crystals. They use her cryochamber to carry the shark back up to the cloud belt. The Doctor, Abigail and Young Kazran celebrate by hitching the shark up to a hansom cab and joyriding through the sky. When Abigail goes back in her box, a counter on the front ticks down from eight to seven. Young Kazran and the Doctor wake Abigail up for a night out every Christmas Eve, the Doctor taking them to various places on Earth (and possibly elsewhere, but Earth landmarks feature heavily). Meanwhile, in the present, Old Kazran is looking at photos and remembering these events. Each night, the counter ticks down further. Abigail notices that Young Kazran has suddenly become Hot Teenage Kazran, but she wants to see her family, and that’s where you came in again.

> Like everyone in the living room, the Doctor wants to know why Amy and Rory are dressed like that, but that’s just because he can’t think outside the square.

Thinking outside the square is his thing; knowing about human relationships, not so much.

I was expecting the fish to be something more alien and somehow tied in to the resolution, not just fish out of water. They were beautiful, though.

Also nice that no bad guy had to be blown up for a change.

The biggest shame, to my mind, was that Abigail and Rory didn’t get to do much. The whole ‘oh, this time we totally can change the past without causing any temporal disasters, no probs’ is a touch annoying, but that timeship has sailed. And a minor disappointment that we are unlikely to see an Egyptian goddess on the Orient Express in space in the near future.


Tim wrote at Dec 26, 12:58 pm

Also, some cute work with the lens flares. :)


Drew wrote at Dec 26, 10:55 pm

Kazran: Now? I kiss her now?
Doctor: Kazran, trust me, it’s this or go to your room and design a new kind of screwdriver, don’t make my mistakes.

Best line ever, best Doctor Who Christmas episode I’ve seen to date. I thought maybe young Kazran would be the one to operate the machine and possibly would have preferred that ending and apparently Moffat has forgotten that the Tardis used to have isomorphic controls once, but I absolutely loved the episode.


Catriona wrote at Dec 26, 11:06 pm

I can’t judge whether I enjoyed this episode or not, because the Expanding Battery Disaster of 2010 completely threw me. (The battery on my laptop is directly under the track pad, so it was randomly deleting whole paragraphs as I was typing.) I need to watch it again, because I missed a really important section while I was restarting the computer and retyping stuff.

By the same token, we can moderate comments from the phones, but we might be a bit slow to respond to comments.

The computer’s on its last warning, after this.

What I could concentrate on, I enjoyed. And I may have been a bit bitchy about the anvils, but I did spend the night before watching A Muppet Christmas Carol with the nephews. I might have hit Charles-Dickens-adjacent-cuteness overload before I even started watching this episode.

They really blew the budget on this one, though, and it showed. The fish were beautiful, and so was the crashing spaceship, the sky-control machine, and the general environment. I could have done with fewer references to sharks and spiders, but that’s just me.

I would so much have enjoyed an Eygptian goddess loose on the Orient Express, oh so much.


Wendy wrote at Dec 27, 12:43 am

I’ve only just watched it due to ongoing television technical difficulties so I feel your battery exploding pain. In the Bleak Midwinter is one of my very very favourites so that was a good choice. I dislike Silent Night though (quite dirgy)…perhaps if they’d sung a better carol the soundwave science might have worked (n.b. I don’t understand any of the technobabbly stuff so I may have that part wrong). I didn’t know the song she sang at the end…perhaps an original written for the episode? It didn’t really grab me though…and I didn’t think it was in the greatest key to show off the register of her voice. Oh well picky picky me.

I did however enjoy all the Doctor’s fast and witty lines…and I’m not that fond of Amy Pond (look rhyming!) so didn’t worry that she was relegated to a lesser role here.

And enjoyed Michael Gambon a lot!


Wendy wrote at Dec 27, 12:46 am

oh…and sadly no chicken autopsies here in RAINY bundaberg…but Boxing Day did see iPad scrabble, a paper plane competition (complete with an electric paper plane launcher) and the beginning of a Breaking Bad marathon…an exercise bike was also assembled by my father and brother and then we all had to try it out. Fun times ;-)


Tim wrote at Dec 27, 01:51 am

Drew, I’m pretty sure the Doctor saying that there’s no such thing as isomorphic controls was intended as an in joke.

Wendy and Catriona, the song at the end is apparently an original for this episode — ‘Abigail’s song’, written by Murray Gold.


Catriona wrote at Dec 30, 10:44 pm

You are all such delightful commenters! I’m only sorry that the Great Expanding Battery Pack Disaster of 2010 has rendered me unable to take part in the debate here.

Drew, I agree that was a brilliant line, but it was right about that time that my battery expanded fatally, and I missed it the first time around. In fact, I think I missed many, many witty lines the first time around.

I also love “In the Bleak Midwinter,” but I do wish they’d gone for another carol rather than the original song at the end. I love love love the old carols, and this was such a good opportunity to use them. (I’m with you on “Silent Night,” Wendy, but I think that’s more down to over-exposure in my case, because “In the Bleak Midwinter”—and my other favourite, “Once in Royal David’s City”—are also pretty dirgy, and they don’t bother me.)

I think I’ll enjoy this episode very much, once have a chance to see it properly. I have to say, live-blogging an episode completely blind is not as much fun as it sounds.

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