Better a Broken Heart Than No Heart–Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol.

Previously on Doctor WhoThe Big Bang.

This is it. This is what we’ve been waiting for. That gorgeous dose of Doctor Who after six months of tittering behind our napkins in the aftermath of The Big Bang. The Christmas Special and the trailer for Series 6.

And goodness, hasn’t Steven Moffat blown my mind. Again. Please excuse me and hit the jump to get to the spoilers while I scrape my brain from the walls of my room, I’ll be right with you.

Ah. Yes. Blimey… Sorry… Christmas Eve on a rooftop. Saw a chimney, my whole brain just went: What the hell!

What can I say?

The plot—well, it is Dicken’s A Christmas Carol with a twist and monsters, so that’s easily done with; perhaps with the odd explanation of the electromagnetic particles inside the clouds, which are brought into harmony by Abigail’s singing, which also puts the fish at rest.

Yes, FISH. Again.

(a shark is trying to get at them in Kazran’s bedroom cupboard) Kazran: It’s going to eat us! The Doctor: Well, perhaps we’re going to eat it, but I don’t like the odds!

When I read the reactions to the Christmas trailer on twitter and tumblr, and all the comments on how Amy and Rory ended up in those costumes, I wasn’t really sure about the suggestion of kinky honeymoon roleplay but, at the same time, I couldn’t come up with a sensible timey-whimey reason for it. BECAUSE THERE WASN’T. Ooh, kinky.

Rory: So, does this mean he’s coming or does it mean I need to change the bulb?

But, but, it does have scientific merit, because now we know how much of the Big Bang scenario Amy and Rory remember. Quite a bit, as it turns out, since the Doctor has been brought back by Amy’s memories.

Speaking of memories:

So, how does Kazran remember his ‘other life’? Because time is always in flux and can be rewritten, this could be how:

  • the memories have always been there in his head, and he just repressed them—which would be plausible ’cause he hadn’t come into contact with the Doctor yet, but was already mighty touchy about the idea of letting Abigail out for that one Christmas Day with her family; and which would be why he could remember what he’d say and what would happen before we see it happen in the Doctor’s timeline.
  • Admittedly, the memories were literally only created in that moment in his and the Doctor’s shared timeline when the Doctor crossed into young Kazran’s—but, you know, timey-whimey. Also, take this as an example: If the crack hadn’t erased Rory/if Amy had been able to remember Rory properly after Cold Blood, she would have remembered seeing them both on that hill, together—old Kazran still remembers his ‘other self,’ he even lets it dictate his actions for most of his life, after his past has already been altered in front of his old self’s eyes. But he hadn’t witnessed the change yet, so he couldn’t acknowledge it as such. The acknowledgement is what it took to make him a better person as the Doctor had hoped.

What I’m not cool with, however—there should be a paradox. There should be Chronovores. Not because of the changing time thing, it’s not a fixed point in time, it’s pivoting, so it’s fine. But even if, back in Series 1, Rose hadn’t tried to save her dad, she shouldn’t have touched Baby Rose, ’cause she was crossing her own timeline. So it shouldn’t have been possible for Kazran to hug his younger self—can it be explained away by the fact that the new Kazran was a changed man? I’m not so sure. But, well, we know Moffat likes screwing with the canon.

But, in other news, the psychic paper has eventually reached its boundaries:

I’m universally recognized as a mature and responsible adult. […] Finally, a lie too big.

I say…

The Doctor is a changed man, too, though. He’s got lovely ideas for honeymoon trips, he’s great with kids, AND he’s very open about his propensity to have famous women fall for him—Marilyn Monroe, in this case.

My point is: the Doctor loves the Christmas spirit, and those fickle but grand human emotions; grandest among them love. Kazran’s whole story pivots around the Doctor playing matchmaker, hoping that Kazran might fall in love with Abigail and do the right thing for her sake, having recognized her importance right when he first met Kazran—though it wasn’t the first time Kazran met him. Hence the, um, importance. Thus, this Christmas special is very much a tale of how loving someone can change you for the better, no matter how painful it is and how much the pain makes you want to lash out, or hide, or put off the inevitable–because you cannot choose that last day with your beloved, it just arrives. Just as Journey’s End did; just as the End of Time did, and the Doctor lost the Master for good a second time, along with the rest of Gallifrey; just as he stupidly left Sarah Jane behind; just as he let Romana go when she wanted to stay in the other universe; just as he just had to go and wipe Donna’s memories of himself.

And both times when Kazran questions the Doctor’s reasoning—first, on loving at all, and second, on letting Abigail live her last day on that Christmas, of all days—we see the Doctor’s pain. He voices his regrets to Kazran, too:

It’s this or going to your room and design a new kind of Screwdriver: don’t make my mistakes! Now, GO!

Whom didn’t you kiss, Doctor?

The nice thing is: he’s allowing himself to move on—see Marilyn. Losing all those people and missing… moments with a few of his companions still hurts, but he’s moving on, and truly. It’s not just that End of Time shag with Elizabeth, I., wallowing in his misery. He’s having fun, he’s snazzy, he’s got hair that’s made of teak.

He still doesn’t really get kissing, though.

How d’you keep going like that, d’you breathe out of your ears?

A bit more of self-referentialism: Did you notice the numbers on Abigail’s ice box changing to ooo oo4 just after the Doctor and Kazran had turned up wearing ridiculous scarves? This is why I love Moffat.

Loving Moffat also entails loving Sherlock… Everyone says the Doctor was a bit Sherlock-y there, but, actually, Sherlock was a bit Doctor-y: Sherlock’s deduction scenes were like the what-am-I-missing scene in The Eleventh Hour; which were filmed in stop frames. That evolved into these fast-paced sequences in Sherlock, and now that’s been taken back to Doctor Who, jumping from the Doctor to the painting, Kazran, and back. But, yes, basically, the Doctor just turned into Sherlock fucking Holmes. Might as well ask him how he’s breathing.

Fun facts: He calls Santa, Geoff.

Also, thank you, Steven, for making us absolutely terrified of our cupboards and mattresses. Really. THANKS.

Anyway. I think this is my favourite Christmas special so far, although I absolutely LOVED The Christmas Invasion, as well as The Runaway Bride and The Voayge of the Damned. This thing had to stand up to quite a bit of Christmas-sy Doctor Who legacy, and it hit the ball right out of the park.


I cannot tell you how incoherent I was right after seeing this. And I’m still not much further than that, so I’ll just give you the notes I typed out right afterwards.

Amelia Pond—my life in your hands. He can’t ask why. Why can’t he ask why.—This is the real relationship betw. him and Amy. BUT WHAT EXACTLY IS IT?!
What will happen to Rory? Or, how is he gonna die? *sobs*
Prisoner? The Doctor, prisoner, away from his TARDIS. WITH A BEARD. DON’T QUESTION THE BEARD.
Lots of it is in America. River: “We’ve been recruited.” By WHOM?! Amy’s in the Utah desert with people who look like FBI.
The TARDIS from The Lodger!
Why does River always kill the hats?
“I’ve been running, faster than I’ve ever run, now it’s time for me to stop.” Time War. Time Lords. That’s what he’s running from, isn’t it? He always said that (Series 3 finale, while he was on the run with Martha and Jack).

All in all, I cannot wait for Series 6 to begin.

Next episode: The Impossible Astronaut.


  1. I thought the special worked pretty well on the whole. It even just about managed to make an operatic singer a plausible part of the plot (well, just about). More than anything, this episode was fun and free of the angst and the overly camp humour of recent years – and the bittersweet element of the Kazran/Abigail romance wasn’t allowed to overshadow the comedy.

    I wondered about the time paradox thing, but remember the Doctor has interacted with one or more of his previous selves in the past too. I think we just have to accept the explanation that it’s OK or a Time Lord to mess around with the time stream because they know what they’re doing, but not for others who don’t.

    I know some have been complaining that the Xmas special was light, fluffy and relatively meaningless – but I think they miss the point. Xmas episodes are supposed to be light, fluffy and meaningless – we can leave the serious tough for season six proper.

    As for the season six trailer – ooh! Stetsons are cool. The Doctor asks for Jammie Dodgers (what is he going to do – bluff the Daleks again?) And in the shot of him as a bearded prisoner we get a brief glimpse of the lettering spelling out ‘Area 51’ on a wall behind him. Alien conspiracy theory!



    1. Hi Tim, nice seeing you here! (I’m gonna read your review in a minute :))

      Hmm, I suppose you’re right, but still–it’s not so much different from Father’s Day, really. Just that this time the established events weren’t as dramatic as Rose’s dad dying. Well, I’ll just take it as timey-whimey, but it always leaves me wondering when Moffat does something like that x)

      You’re right; it’s a lovely Christmas with the Doctor hopping around, stopping to look at Christmas trees, and checking the general chimneyness. Why would someone complain about that? 😀

      Oooh, I haven’t seen that ‘Area 51’ thing.. oh dear! I keep asking myself how the Americans come in there. UNIT? FBI? I mean, the Jammie Dodgers folks were Secret Service, it was pretty clear they were in the Oval Office. But the others… they all look the same with their vans and suits.



  2. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m generally okay about Moffat playing around with the concept of time travel and occasionally breaking with the series’ established continuity to do so. After all, it’s not as anyone actually KNOWS how time travel works, and things like the Blinovitch Limitation Effect are fundamentally just theories. The most important thing is telling a good story. For me, Moffat is a master of that, and it’s something RTD drifted away from in chasing loopy stunt-casting and seeking bigger action setpieces and bigger jeopardy. If I want jeopardy at Christmas, I’ll watch Die Hard. Who at its best has always been about telling interesting – often quite intimate and small-scale – stories. That’s what Moffat does brilliantly, and it’s what he achieved here. Continuity errors and sheer silliness? Yes, but really who cares? Give me a that over a continuity-slavish crap story any day.



    1. That’s true, I’d also rather have this over crap, and putting a twist on A Christmas Carol doesn’t work without breaking with continuity, and I’m glad Moffat did it! It just bewilders me every time he does 🙂 But I’m always pretty fast at just accepting what Moffat thinks is cool, BECAUSE IT IS, so, yeah, sod it. And I’m totally fine with up-scale silliness anyway. (Except when it’s stuff like The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood. I know he didn’t write it, but he must have liked it well enough, otherwise he wouldn’t have put it in. And I thought that that was another excursion into bigger action setpieces and bigger jeopardy–it didn’t even do that convincingly. And the boy’s mother annoyed me to no end.)



  3. The Tardis can’t be used once you’re part of events.
    See episode 2×04 – The Girl in the Fireplace.
    Moffat annoys me. An episode built on such a contradiction just ruins the whole experience.

    This just shows how Moffat ruins everything RTD built, including the Doctor’s personality and behavior. Moffat can write geniusly complex stories, but he does that by ruining what was built in 4 seasons we loved. And that makes the whole experience very sad. 😦



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