A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol was the 2010 Doctor Who Christmas special. It was the first BBC Wales Christmas special neither written by Russell T Davies nor starring David Tennant. Like other Christmas specials before it, a renowned guest star was signed on to portray a major character. This special played host to the talents of actor Sir Michael Gambon, who was uniquely given two roles, portraying both the main antagonist and that character’s lookalike father.
Furthermore, it broke the record for least delay between UK and US premiere broadcasts of an episode of Doctor Who. Previously held by The End of Time, whose US debut of Part One was a single day later, the delay between BBC One and BBC America (easternmost) broadcasts was a mere eight hours. Australia was equally well-served, with the delay being something on the order of seven hours, depending on time zone.
Behind the scenes, it was significant for the number of new faces in most departments – more than on any other single episode since Rose. Of those new to BBC Wales Doctor Who, the most prominent were those of production designer Michael Pickwoad, costume designer Barbara Kidd, and editor Adam Recht. On the subject of a new costume designer, Matt Smith’s Shetland tweed jacket ensemble made its debut in this special, replacing the outfit he wore during Series 5. It remained in use up to The Bells of Saint John: A Prequel, before Smith once again had a costume change.
A spaceship plunges towards an unknown planet. Its captain orders the pilot to try steadying the ship. A distress call has been sent from the ship’s honeymoon suite, angering the captain as she does not know who sent it. Amy and Rory, honeymooners aboard the craft, rush to the bridge of the spaceship to see if they can help. Amy was the one who placed the distress call. Rory holds an odd device with a light attached and is wondering if he has to change the bulb or if the Eleventh Doctor received the signal; Amy quiets him, praying that the Doctor isn’t late. All of a sudden, the ship’s computers register a small object approaching the ship; the TARDIS soars into view, beaming the message, “Come along, Pond.”
Kazran Sardick, a wealthy, heartless man, owns much of the planet below — and the cloud belt above, where the ship is trapped. His money comes from a loansharking business he inherited from his father. To secure loans, he cryogenically preserves family members of borrowers for collateral. On Christmas Eve, he meets with one such family in his library. They beg for the release of a family member to spend Christmas Eve with them. Kazran rejects this proposal. He takes a phone call from the president of the planet, asking his permission to land the star-liner safely; he refuses. As he returns to berating the family, a boy notices the sound of the TARDIS landing above them. Suddenly, the Doctor slides down the chimney into the room, calling it a whim. Babbling, he notices a “flashy-lighty thing” machine and tells the group that it’s what brought him there; he tries to use the controls to open the cloud belt, but cannot use them. Kazran says the machine is isomorphic. The Doctor wonders who Kazran is, confusing the rich miser as everyone on the planet should know him; the Doctor changes the subject, wondering who the girl in the ice box is. Kazran says she is no one important, amazing the Doctor as he has never met anyone who wasn’t important. He asks Kazran to help him save the ship stuck in the cloud belt, but Kazran refuses.
Kazran orders the Doctor and the family removed from his home. The servants grab the Doctor to pull him away. The family’s young son throws a chunk of coal at Kazran’s head. Kazran moves to strike him, but doesn’t; he orders the family and the Doctor thrown out. The Doctor returns to ask why he didn’t hit the boy. Though Kazran is less than cooperative, the Doctor quickly pieces together Kazran’s personality from the arrangement of his furniture. There is a picture of his father, deceased for twenty years, but Kazran keeps his chair pointed away. Kazran fears being like his father. The Doctor says he is not because he didn’t hit the boy.
Outside, the Doctor speaks to Amy over her mobile phone, but is distracted by the sight of some sky fish swimming around a lamp. The unnaturally high water level in the cloud belt, combined with the slight electrical charge, allows the fish to swim among the fog. A carol begins playing in the speakers in the street, preventing Amy from hearing the Doctor properly; she informs him that the ship only has an hour left. The Doctor begins panicking about what to do, babbling about what he knows about the situation. Amy asks him what the singing is in the background, but cannot hear him; the Doctor repeatedly tells her that the noise is a Christmas carol, suddenly getting an idea from his repeated sentence. The Doctor suddenly smiles and looks up at Kazran’s mansion, saying, “Merry Christmas, Mr Sardick”.
Kazran is asleep in his library, dreaming of Christmas Eve when he was only twelve years old and tried to film his encounter with a sky fish. Kazran wakes to find this video being projected onto a wall in his library; in the video, Kazran’s father storms into the room and strikes his son, furious that he has disobeyed him by researching the fish. The Doctor appears behind the adult Kazran and wonders if he ever saw the fish; Kazran reveals that this was the day where he first began to realize that there was no one who would ever help him, and that he was on his own in the world. The Doctor reveals that he can change the past and takes off as Kazran derisively declares this to be impossible. The sound of the TARDIS is heard; in the video, young Kazran looks around just as the Doctor steps into his room via the window. He gleefully jumps around, revealing that he is Kazran’s new babysitter. The adult Kazran protests that this didn’t happen, but suddenly begins to remember that it did.
Young Kazran and the Doctor hide in Kazran’s wardrobe, luring the sky fish in through the open window with the sonic screwdriver. Kazran confesses to the Doctor that he is the only student in his class who has never seen a fish; a few minutes later, the Doctor opens the wardrobe door to see a small fish curiously playing with the sonic. The Doctor steps out — with the adult Kazran, remembering the event, warning him not to — and deduces how the fish survive in the fog. Suddenly, a large sky shark swoops in and gobbles up the smaller fish and half of the sonic screwdriver. After a struggle, the Doctor manages to stun the shark, which cannot survive outside the fog belt. The Doctor tries to console a young Kazran, confessing there is nothing he can do for the shark without his sonic screwdriver, half of which is still inside the fish; though he has a means of returning it to the sky, it would never survive the trip without some form of life support. To his surprise, Kazran offers an ice box.
Kazran leads the Doctor to a large store room in the basement, which is filled with rows of ice boxes, all of which hold frozen people. Stopping in front of one ice box, Kazran plays its video message: its occupant is a young woman called Abigail Pettigrew, who expresses her gratitude towards Elliot Sardick and her love of the fish. Kazran explains that the people in the boxes are family members of those who have borrowed money from his father, but he insists that they can borrow Abigail’s box for the night, unlocking it. Before she fully awakes, the two realize that the shark has followed them to the vault, temporarily revived by swimming in the fog that is settled on the floor. Following a short chase, the shark is put to sleep by Abigail’s singing. The Doctor explains that her voice resonates with and aligns the fog crystals in the same way that Sardick’s machine does. He places the shark inside the box and brings the trio to the TARDIS, which they use to return the shark to the sky. In the present day, Kazran turns to a picture on the wall, realizing that it is of Abigail.
In the TARDIS, the Doctor notices a dial set at eight on Abigail’s ice box. When he asks her if it relates to her, she responds by asking if he is one of her doctors; however, he is distracted by something else before she can explain. The Doctor and Kazran return Abigail and her box to the vault, with Kazran promising that they will return and wake her every Christmas Eve from now on; the Doctor feels obliged to do this to keep Kazran happy, and so every time he visits, he takes the pair to new and distant places — including a sleigh ride through the cloud belt, New York City, and the pyramids. However, with each visit, the dial on Abigail’s ice box counts down.
On the sixth Christmas Eve, Abigail finds Kazran much older than before, and appears attracted to him. This Christmas, she requests that they visit her family; she and Kazran watch her sister, brother-in-law, and nephew prepare for the festivities through the window from outside. Abigail cries; when Kazran wonders why, she explains that it is because she is watching the life she will never be able to have. The family invites the trio in for dinner, where Abigail’s sister warns her that Kazran will turn out just like his father. At the end of the night, Abagail kisses a nervous Kazran. Meanwhile, the adult Kazran reflects on his new found memories.
The following Christmas finds the trio at a 20th century Hollywood party. Kazran finds a crying Abigail by the pool; when he expresses concern for her, she explains that it is time for her to tell him the truth. A few minutes later, the Doctor finds the couple kissing passionately, but impatiently requests to leave, as he has accidentally become engaged to Marilyn Monroe; he leaves with her nevertheless. Abigail sadly tells Kazran that there is nothing that can be done. When the Doctor and Kazran return Abigail to her ice box, the couple bids each other a silent and emotional goodbye. When the Doctor tells Kazran that he’ll come back next year, Kazran explains that he has outgrown Christmas and would like to end their yearly ritual. With the Doctor reflecting that Kazran has not changed nearly as much as he would have liked, he offers Kazran his half of the sonic screwdriver in case Kazran ever needs him; Kazran assures him that he won’t. Meanwhile, Abigail’s dial has returned to one.
A few Christmas Eves later, Elliot Sardick is celebrating with his son — his machine is complete, and the planet is theirs; Elliot finally figured out part of the truth. Confused on what he should do from now on, Kazran runs to his room and takes the screwdriver out of his desk, considering using it to call the Doctor. He turns to see the Doctor standing just outside his window. Kazran goes to the window and looks on as the Doctor gives him a smile, hoping he can be of help. Angrily, Kazran shuts the curtains on him and returns the screwdriver to his desk drawer.
In the present day, Kazran goes to his old and disused room and takes the screwdriver out of the drawer and holds it, contemplating what to do. He receives another call from the president of the planet, who demands the cloud belt be opened and allow the star-liner to land safely. However, Kazran simply refuses; he explains that a very old friend (the Doctor) took many years to show him life isn’t fair. Suddenly, a hologram of Amy appears in the library; she is the ghost of Christmas present. She brings him to the vault, where she has summoned dozens of holograms of the spaceship’s passengers, who are singing for their lives; she explains that the Doctor was only trying to turn Kazran into a kinder man, but Kazran insists that people can’t be rewritten. He destroys the holograms and stops in front of Abigail’s ice box, revealing to Amy that Abigail was mortally ill when she volunteered for the ice, and the dial showed how many days she had left to live. If he were to let her out now, he would only have one day with her. Determined, Amy projects a hologram of Kazran onto the ship’s deck, where he is able to witness the chaos as the ship plunges towards the planet; the captain angrily tells Kazran that the Doctor has the ship’s passengers singing with the hope that they might stabilize the ship — as Abigail was able to calm the shark — but it’s not working; now, they’re doing it because it gives them hope. When he is appealed to again to save the ship, Kazran angrily declares that everyone must die. Amy reveals that the Doctor has been listening, and he returns Kazran’s consciousness to his body in the vault, apologizing.
The Doctor says that he will now show Kazran the future, and Kazran welcomes this, knowing that he will die alone and afraid as everyone does; he repeats that he doesn’t care about the people on the ship and goads the Doctor into showing him the future — only to be surprised when the Doctor explains that he already is. He points to a twelve-year-old Kazran standing in front of the TARDIS; the boy mistakes his older self for his abusive father, infuriating the elder Kazran, who goes to strike him. However, a rush of memories cause him to break down and embrace his younger self before he decides to save the ship.
With only a few minutes left, the Doctor and Kazran go to the cloud belt controls only to find that Kazran has changed too much and the machine no longer recognizes him as Elliot would never let a kind person use the machine.
The elder Kazran gives the Doctor his half of the sonic screwdriver; the Doctor realizes that he can transmit a signal from one half to the other — which is still contained in the shark floating in the cloud belt — but he needs it to transmit something else, something they know will work. Apologizing to Kazran, he explains that they will need to release Abigail; her voice resonates perfectly with the fog crystals, and only that will calm the sky. Kazran is reluctant to let her out, but when he does so, she insists that she would have chosen Christmas Day with him for her final day. She begins to sing her song, which unlocks the cloud belt and causes a snowfall for the first time in years. The ship’s crew realizes that they are able to land the ship safely, and Rory and Amy embrace. The Doctor departs with young Kazran as old Kazran and Abigail wave goodbye; they then notice that a sleigh lies behind where the TARDIS was.
Amy and Rory meet up with the Doctor on the ground, where she notices he has built numerous snowmen along the street. The Doctor wonders why they are dressed in their costumes; Rory explains that they lost their luggage despite having a safe landing. However, the Doctor wonders why they are dressed like that at all; Amy hushes the Doctor and tries warming herself up. Rory asks if the Doctor has any more ideas for honeymoon locations. The Doctor begins babbling on about a carnivorous “moon” made of “honey” that has some “lovely views”; Rory is less than excited to hear about this idea and walks into the TARDIS. Amy asks the Doctor if it is okay to leave things the way they are; Abigail and Kazran only have one day left together. However, the Doctor tells her that if nothing ever ended, nothing would ever get started. Rory pops out of the TARDIS, saying he answered the phone; Marilyn has called the Doctor. The Doctor tells Rory to inform Marilyn that he will call her back, “and that was never a real chapel”.
Amy wonders where Kazran and Abigail have gone, but the Doctor only answers “Christmas”; Amy enters the TARDIS and the Doctor follows shortly after looking up into the sky. The scene pans above to show the snowing night sky as Kazran and Abigail fly by on their shark-drawn sleigh.