A Christmas Carol (Doctor Who)

213 – "A Christmas Carol"
Doctor Who episode
  • Karen Gillan (Amy Pond)
  • Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams)
  • Michael Gambon – Kazran/Elliot Sardick
  • Katherine Jenkins – Abigail
  • Laurence Belcher – Young Kazran
  • Danny Horn – Adult Kazran
  • Leo Bill – Pilot
  • Pooky Quesnel – Captain
  • Micah Balfour – Co-pilot
  • Steve North – Old Benjamin
  • Bailey Pepper – Boy & Benjamin
  • Tim Plester – Servant
  • Laura Rogers – Isabella
  • Meg Wynn-Owen – Old Isabella
Writer Steven Moffat
Director Toby Haynes
Script editor Lindsey Alford
Producer Sanne Wohlenberg
Executive producer(s)
Series Specials (2010–11)
Length 60 minutes
Originally broadcast 25 December 2010 (2010-12-25)
← Preceded by Followed by →
"The Big Bang" "Space" / "Time" (mini episodes)
"The Impossible Astronaut" (episode)

"A Christmas Carol" is an episode of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who.[1] 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[2] and on Space in Canada.[3] It is also the first Christmas episode not to feature any scenes taking place in London.

The episode features the acting debut of Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins,[4] starring alongside Michael Gambon.

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.[5] This special had an Appreciation Index of 83.[6]

A preview of the episode was shown during the Children in Need annual telethon on 19 November 2010.[5]



A space liner carrying over 4000 passengers, including Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) on their honeymoon, is caught in a strange electrified cloud cover over a human-inhabited planet that interferes with its controls. The Doctor (Matt Smith), summoned by Amy, is unable to use the TARDIS to save the ship, and instead lands on the planet and discovers a spire in the centre of a large city is influencing the atmosphere. Its owner, the bitter and peevish old Kazran Sardick (Michael Gambon), refuses to operate the isomorphic controls to deactivate the spire and allow the ship to land safely. The Doctor observes Kazran's fear of his father who had built the spire, and creates a scheme inspired by Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol to bring Kazran around.

He ventures to Kazran's past as a young boy, toying with the unique properties of the planet's atmosphere that allow fish to swim in it. The Doctor experiments with Kazran, leading to a shark entering the room and swallowing the Doctor's sonic screwdriver. Though the Doctor is able to recover part of the screwdriver, the shark is wounded in the effort, unable to swim back into the atmosphere. Kazran offers a solution by taking him to a cryogenic storeroom where Kazran's father has kept people in storage as "security" for loans, including Abigail (Katherine Jenkins), a young woman Kazran has been enamored with. Abigail, once released, sings to soothe the shark while the Doctor uses Abigail's cryo-unit to transport the shark back to the atmosphere. As the Doctor and Kazran return Abigail to storage, Kazran promises her they will see her every Christmas Eve. The Doctor keeps this promise, using the TARDIS to jump forward each year, helping to reunite Kazran and Abigail and watching their relationship blossom. However, after one such visit, Abigail tells the now young adult Kazran a secret, and Kazran requests the Doctor end the practice, keeping Abigail in storage indefinitely. Though old Kazran in the present becomes pleased with his new memories, he remains bitter at Abigail's fate and refuses to help save the ship.

Old Kazran is soon visited by holographic images of the ship's crew in the present. After observing the effects of Abigail's singing, the crew is singing Christmas carols that is helping to stabilize the ship but cannot prevent it from crashing. Amy appears to Kazran and implores his help, but he waves away the holograms. The Doctor appears, and Kazran surmises that he is there to show Kazran his future, but he could not care less if he dies old and alone; he reveals that Abigail had an incurable disease on entering cryostorage and will only have one more day to live. As he cannot decide which day that should be, Kazran chastises the Doctor for believing he could change his mind. Unbeknownst to Kazran, the Doctor has brought young Kazran with him; the realization of how much his bitter future self now resembles his feared father causes a change of heart in Kazran, and he quickly agrees to release the controls to save the ship.

The Doctor finds his changes to Kazran's past have locked him out from the spire's controls, but the Doctor devises a solution: by having Abigail sing through one half of the broken sonic screwdriver, the other half, still in the shark, will resonate in the atmosphere and disrupt the storm to allow the ship to land safely. Kazran releases Abigail knowing this will be the last time, and after a tearful reunion, Abigail reminds him they have had many Christmas Eves together but it is now time to let Christmas Day come. The plan works successfully, and the resulting cloud breakout creates snowfall that falls around the city. As the Doctor rejoins Amy and Rory and prepares to take young Kazran back to the past, old Kazran and Abigail enjoy one last shark-led 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 long, stripy scarves. The Fourth Doctor's trademark accessory was a long, striped scarf. The two also appear in fezzes, an item of clothing the Doctor became fond of in "The Big Bang".[7]

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 tells 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.[8] 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" and hinted at by the Dream Lord in "Amy's Choice".



According to Ben Stephenson, Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning, the episode is a "clever twist on the much loved A Christmas Carol".[9] 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."[10] 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."[1]

A read-through took place in Cardiff on Thursday, 8 July and production started on 12 July 2010 and lasted into August 2010.[9][11]

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

According to overnight figures, A Christmas Carol was tied with Come Fly with Me as the second most-watched program on Christmas Day in the United Kingdom, behind EastEnders, and with an average viewership of 10.3 million peaking at 10.7 million.[12] The final rating for BBC1 was 12.11, making the episode the fourth highest rated of the entire canon since the series was revived in 2005. The two highest rated episodes were also shown on Christmas Day, reaching 13.31 million in 2007 and 13.10 million in 2008, and the only other episode to rate better than A Christmas Carol got 12.27 million on New Year's Day 2010.[13] A Christmas Carol was the third highest rated show on all UK TV for the week ending 26 December 2010.[14] In addition, 716,000 watched the show on the BBC's iPlayer, making it the 8th most downloaded show for December 2010.[15]

The episode was positively received. The Guardian described the episode as a "sumptuous triumph".[16] Website Den of Geek applauded Moffat for "not taking the easy way out"[17] with the adaptation, saying it was "really quite mad, undoubtedly festive, and it treats the Dickens source material with respect". Another review off the same site called the episode "terrific",[18] but wondered if young children "would have enjoyed A Christmas Carol quite as much" as adults. SFX said that although there were "creaky" moments, gave the episode 4.5 out of 5 stars, with extra praise for the performances, especially Smith's, whom they described as a "a force of nature unleashed on screen".[19]

The Daily Telegraph was less enthusiastic about the episode, saying that it "started nicely", but that "by the time she was singing to the shark, I'd had enough," whilst thinking that, "It's not really for old curmudgeons like me, who got more of a kick out of Michael Gambon's miserly Kazran Sardick when he was sneering and snarling at the beginning of the episode than when he had been thoroughly heartwarmed by the end."[20]

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 in the United States and Space in Canada. Previous episodes, prior to The End of Time, from the revived series would have from a week to months-delay between the BBC and the BBC America, Space, Sci Fi channel or Canadian Broadcasting Corporation airing (with the CBC not even airing the 2007 Christmas special). BBC America, capitalizing on the delays experienced with previous Doctor Who Christmas specials, promoted the episode with ads using the slogan, "This year, Christmas won't be late." It averaged 727,000 viewers on BBC America.[21]

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.[22] BBC America later affirmed it would air the premiere of Series 6 on the same day with the United Kingdom.[23] In the United States, 727,000 viewers watched A Christmas Carol, an 8% increase on the previous holiday special, part one of The End of Time.[24]

A Christmas Carol screened in Australia on ABC1 on Boxing Day, less than 24 hours after its debut in the UK. It had overnight ratings of 880,000 viewers,[25] reportedly winning its timeslot. The episode screened in New Zealand on Prime on 30 January and in Italy on Rai 4 on 9 April.


Selected pieces of music from this special, as composed by Murray Gold, were released on 21 March 2011 by Silva Screen Records.

DVD/Blu-ray release

A Christmas Carol was released as a standalone DVD/Blu-ray in Region 2 on 24 January 2011, followed by Region 1 release in the two formats on 15 February 2011. It will also be included in the Complete Sixth Series box set scheduled for release on 21 November 2011 (Region 2) and 22 November (Region 1).


  1. ^ a b "Title of Christmas Special Revealed!". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/dw/news/bulletin_101112_03/Title_of_Christmas_Special_Revealed. Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  2. ^ "Sunday 26 December 2010". ABC Television. http://www.abc.net.au/tv/guide/all/netw/201012/20101226.htm. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  3. ^ "Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol". Space. http://www.spacecast.com/doctorwhoxmas2010.aspx. Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  4. ^ "Katherine Jenkins to star in Doctor Who Christmas special".The Guardian, 12 July 2010.
  5. ^ a b "Doctor Who News Page". 26 December 2010. http://gallifreynewsbase.blogspot.com/2010/12/dwn261210015912-overnight-ratings.html. 
  6. ^ "A Christmas Carol: Appreciation Index". http://www.doctorwhonews.net/2010/12/dwn271210162412-christmas-carol.html. 
  7. ^ Trechak, Brad (2010-12-27). "'Doctor Who' - 'A Christmas Carol' Recap". TV Squad. http://www.tvsquad.com/2010/12/27/doctor-who-a-christmas-carol-recap/. Retrieved 2010-12-31. 
  8. ^ Martin, Dan (2010-12-25). "Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol – Christmas special 2010". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2010/dec/25/doctor-who-christmas-special-2010. Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  9. ^ a b "Father who? The Doctor crashes Christmas". BBC Press release. 12 July 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2010/07_july/12/doctor_who.shtml. Retrieved 2010-07-13. 
  10. ^ "Doctor Who's Christmas carol". Female First. http://www.femalefirst.co.uk/tv/Doctor+Who-59281.html. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  11. ^ "Christmas Special - More Details Emerge". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/dw/news/bulletin_100712_03/Christmas_Special_More_Details_Emerge. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  12. ^ "EastEnders wins Christmas Day viewing figures battle". BBC. 2010-12-26. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12080132. Retrieved 2010-12-31. 
  13. ^ Spilsbury, Tom (9 Mar 2011 (cover date)). "Public Image". Doctor Who Magazine (431): 11. 
  14. ^ http://www.barb.co.uk/report/weeklyTopProgrammesOverview?
  15. ^ http://news.drwho-online.co.uk/Doctor-Who-8th-most-watched-on-BBC-iPlayer-for-December.aspx
  16. ^ "Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol – Christmas special 2010". The Guardian. 2010-12-25. http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2010/dec/25/doctor-who-christmas-special-2010. Retrieved 2011-03-03. 
  17. ^ "Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol spoiler-free review". Den of Geek. 2010-12-13. http://www.denofgeek.com/television/693713/doctor_who_a_christmas_carol_spoilerfree_review.html. Retrieved 2011-03-03. 
  18. ^ "Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol review". Den of Geek. 2010-12-24. http://www.denofgeek.com/television/705504/doctor_who_a_christmas_carol_review.html. Retrieved 2011-03-03. 
  19. ^ Doctor Who "A Christmas Carol" Review, SFX (magazine), 2010-12-25, http://www.sfx.co.uk/2010/12/25/doctor-who-a-christmas-carol%E2%80%9D-revie/, retrieved 2011-03-03 
  20. ^ "Doctor Who Christmas Special, BBC One, review". The Sunday Telegraph. 2010-12-25. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/doctor-who/8224302/Doctor-Who-Christmas-Special-BBC-One-review.html. Retrieved 2011-03-03. 
  21. ^ Seidman, Robert (28 December 2010). "'Doctor Who' 'A Christmas Carol' Episode Averages 727,000 on BBC America on Christmas Night". TV By the Numbers. http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2010/12/28/doctor-who-a-christmas-carol-episode-averages-727000-on-bbc-america-on-christmas-night/76758/. Retrieved 30 July 2011. 
  22. ^ Hoevel, Ann (2010-12-23). "Merry Christmas, Doctor Who". CNN. http://edition.cnn.com/2010/SHOWBIZ/TV/12/23/doctor.who.christmas/. Retrieved 2010-12-31. 
  23. ^ Hibbard, James (2011-03-09). "'Doctor Who' premiere date, plot details, poster revealed". Entertainment Weekly. http://insidetv.ew.com/2011/03/09/doctor-who-premiere-date/. Retrieved 2011-03-09. 
  24. ^ Seidman, Robert (2010-12-28). "'Doctor Who' 'A Christmas Carol' Episode Averages 727,000 on BBC America on Christmas Night". TV By the Numbers. http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2010/12/28/doctor-who-a-christmas-carol-episode-averages-727000-on-bbc-america-on-christmas-night/76758. Retrieved 2010-12-31. 
  25. ^ "Week 1". TV Tonight. 2010-12-27. http://www.tvtonight.com.au/2010/12/week-1-4.html. Retrieved 2011-01-09. 

External links

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