“It’s Doctor Who meets A Christmas Carol meets Jaws.”
That’s the description of the 2010 Christmas episode of Doctor Who, “A Christmas Carol,” from the episode of Doctor Who Confidential that’s contained on disc one of the season six complete set of Doctor Who.
If that description causes you to shakes your head, then this season may not be for you. If, however, you think that it sounds crazy, wild and fun, then season six is exactly what you want.
Note: On Monday, December 19th, we’ll begin a contest to win some copies of parts one and two of season six of Doctor Who. Stay tuned!
This is Matt Smith’s second season as the 11th Doctor and he tackles it with a huge amount of fun with pathos underneath. It’s also Stephen Moffat’s second season at being in charge of the franchise and he shows off his ability to scare the hell out of viewers while at the same time providing a wildly romantic thrill ride. Given how relationship-focused the show can be at times, I suspect if Moffat was a woman, someone would accuse him of throwing too much gushy romance into the show.
The season begins with the death of the Doctor at the hands of someone in an astronaut suit. It seems to be a real death: there’s a body, it’s clearly the Doctor, and they burn the body as part of a funeral. But then the Doctor shows up just minutes later. It’s him but from some years earlier in his timeline. And if this sounds confusing, I have to warn that the timey-wimey stuff gets even more complicated for the rest of the season.
The episodes build bit by bit to the point where the Doctor catches up to his own death. And it’s not a given he’ll survive, given the Doctor is occasionally killed, only to regenerate into a different actor.
In between, there are adventures. We meet “The Doctor’s Wife”–not who you’d think–in an episode written by Neil Gaiman, a second Doctor is created from conscious “flesh,” the enigmatic and slightly crazy River Song re-surfaces, and Amy suffers as no companion has suffered in “The Girl Who Waited.” Oh, and the mystery of Amy and Rory’s missing baby is solved.
Along the way, there’s Amy , the “girl who waited” for the Doctor as a child and Rory, “the boy who waited” over 2,000 years to save the love of his life. I’m a new Who fan, so I’m only familiar with the Companions who’ve appeared in the modern stories but I can’t imagine any improvement over Rory and Amy, even if Rory does suffer from the “They killed Kenny!” syndrome. Karen Gillian gives a heartbreaking performance in “The Girl Who Waited” as a younger and older version of Amy but Arthur Darvill as Rory is also wonderful as he can’t choose between them.
I thought Gaiman’s episode was perfect, was terrified by “Night Terrors,” and laughed at the Doctor’s adventures in babysitting in “Closing Time,” my absolute favorite episode of the season was “Let’s Kill Hitler.”
First, there’s the title. And while Hitler is definitely present, he quickly gets shoved into a literal closet and plays little part in the whole of the episode. This is about River Song, the enigmatic criminal/professor who seems to know everything about the Doctor, calls him “sweetie,” and appears to be more than his match. The episode fully explains where she came from, shows her transformation into Alex Kingston, River Song as we know here. All that would be enough to love the episode but there’s also the banter that zips by the viewer faster than the Tardis can travel, we see younger Amy and Rory and how their romance developed, River Song takes on all of Hitler’s guards, and, finally, there’s introduction of little people who pilot, well, artificial people.
The season is wrapped up in another wild, time-bending episode toward that proclaimed “fixed point in time,” the Doctor’s death, which River Song is trying mightily to avoid, even if that includes crashing time itself to do it.
I’ve read criticism of the season that it’s too confusing, The time line certainly is a bit messed up and I’m not sure it makes perfect sense. I also became confused about both the Doctor and River Song’s personal timelines, given their tendency to jump backwards and forwards in time. Still, every time I watched the show, I smiled.
The complete box set includes several episodes of Doctor Who Confidential, commentary on “The Doctor’s Wife,” “The Impossible Astronaut,” “The Rebel Flesh,” “A Good Man’s Goes to War,” and “The Wedding of River Song.” There’s also several episodes of the Monster Files, and comedy sketches featuring the current cast.
And, after watching the Doctor Who Confidential on “A Christmas Carol,” I think I love Matt Smith even more as he’s wearing a Batman t-shirt during the cast read-through. One wonders what would happen if Batman did meet the Doctor. (Though, I have a feeling that fanfic on it is out there already….)
One last warning to parents: some of these episodes are incredibly scary. There’s no gore, there’s only the power of suggestion of something intensely horrifying just out of sight but I’d recommend parents review the episodes first before showing it to young children.