Kazran Sardick: Well, you tell the Doctor. Tell him from me. People can't.
The episode begins on a spaceship's bridge, while the ship is crashing. Amy and Rory enter, wearing their police officer and centurion outfits respectively. (They've come directly from the honeymoon suite. Draw your own conclusions.)On the planet below, the local Scrooge, a very rich man named Kazran Sardick (Michael Gambon), is ruining people's Christmas. Sardick is a moneylender, and he routinely takes people's family members as security deposits and freezes them in his basement. One of those families is begging him to unfreeze a young woman named Abigail just for one day. She loves Christmas so dearly, and she's been frozen for years and years and years. Sardick ignores them, and also ignores the local president, who phones in to ask Sardick to rescue the crashing spaceship.He's soon interrupted, however, by someone falling down the chimney. It's the Doctor, who knows that Sardick is the only one who can stop the crash, and who just couldn't resist a good Christmasey chimney entrance. He finds a machine that is generating the cloud layer that's preventing the aforementioned ship from landing. But the only one who can turn it off is Kazran Sardick, who is being very uncooperative. So uncooperative, in fact, that he has the Doctor thrown out of his house. He also throws out the begging family, but he can't bring himself to hit their small child. The Doctor sees that as a clue.Sardick's cloud-controlling machine is bio-linked to him individually, and the Doctor can't land his TARDIS on the crashing ship because he can't lock on. He brings Amy up to speed via phone... right up until he notices that fish on this planet can swim in the fog, geeks out over this and utterly fails to notice an ominous shadow slip through the mist behind him. After being reminded that, oh yeah, the ship is going to crash in about an hour if something isn't done, he's again distracted by a broadcasting Christmas carol...
The Doctor: A Christmas Carol!
The Doctor: A Christmas Carol!
The Doctor: A CHRISTMAS CAROL... Oh!
The Doctor: Well. Try and be all nervous and rubbish and a bit shaky.
The Doctor: Because you're going to be like that anyway. Might as well make it part of the plan and then it'll feel on purpose. Off you go, then.
Kazran: Now? I kiss her, now?
The Doctor: Kazran, trust me, it's this or go to your room and design a new kind of screwdriver. Don't make my mistakes. Now go!
- Abusive Parent: Kazran's father.
- Accidental Pervert: Old Kazran is believed to be a pervert by Rory.
- Acting for Two:
- Old Kazran and Kazran's dad are both played by Michael Gambon. Leads to a heartbreaking moment when young Kazran calls his old self "dad?"
- Likewise, Young Benjamin, and the unnamed younger Pettigrew in the present are both played by Bailey Pepper.
- Action Prologue: The crashing spaceship.
- Adorkable: Teenage Kazran's complete awkwardness with Abigail. The Doctor actually encourages Kazran to be this when Abigail kisses him, since he's going to do it anyway and this way it will be part of the plan. Eleven would know, he's a fine example himself.
- Aerith and Bob: Kazran Sardick. The special is set on an Earth colony, and he's the only character with a name like that; the other named residents of Sardickstown are Abigail Pettigrew; her family Isabella, Eric and Benjamin; and Kazran's father, Elliot.
- Androcles' Lion: Kazran's and the Doctor's relationship with the shark.
- Applied Phlebotinum
- Arc Words:
- "Silence" pops up in Abigail's song.
- Christmas Carol of choice for the doomed passengers? "Silent Night"...
- Artistic License – Biology: In-universe.The Doctor: Don't think shark; think dolphin!
Abigail: A shark isn't a dolphin.
The Doctor: It's nearly a dolphin!
Abigail: No, it isn't!
The Doctor: Well, that's where you're wrong, because... shut up.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: The Doctor, which leads to a few epiphanies along the way.
- "Christmas Eve on a rooftop, saw a chimney, my whole brain just went 'What the hell!'"
- "Ooh, now, what's this? Now, I love this, a big flashy lighty thing!"
- Fish swimming in fog is just as intriguing than a crashing ship.
- Back from the Dead: The fez makes another appearance.
- Batman Gambit: Done by Abigail's family, of all people. Knowing that they would have to trade in one of their own as security for the vitally important loan, they gave Abigail to Elliot Sardick, probably knowing full well that she was on the verge of death anyway, and could achieve far more by putting herself up as security for the loan than by just sticking around for a week and dying.
- Beard of Evil: Kazran's father, Elliot.
- Bittersweet Ending: Poor Abigail.
- Blatant Lies: Even the psychic paper mutinies at the Doctor's attempt to palm himself off as a babysitter...The Doctor: (pulls out psychic paper, shows it to Young Kazran) I think you'll find, I am universally recognised as a mature and responsible adult.
Young Kazran: (looks at it confusedly) It's... just a lot of wavy lines.
The Doctor: (looks at it, annoyed) Yeah, shorted out. Finally, a lie too big.
- Book Ends: Kazran just barely holding himself back from slapping a child.
- Bow Ties Are Cool: As Eleven's catchphrase, to be expected. It seems to inspire Kazran to believe likewise. Although in a slight subversion, he acknowledges that it's cool because he wears it and doesn't care how it looks.
- Brick Joke: During one of his trips with Kazran and Abigail, the Doctor somehow ends up accidentally marrying Marilyn Monroe. At the end of the episode, Rory says that there's a Marilyn on the phone who wants to talk to the Doctor. She also makes a phone appearance much later in "Night and the Doctor".
- Buffy Speak: Frequently.
- The Cast Showoff: Katherine Jenkins, better known for being a Glamorous Wartime Singer, plays Abigail. Of course she ends up singing.
- Chekhov's Gun: Chekhov's Half-a-Sonic-Screwdriver.
- Christmas Episode:Kazran: But will it work?
The Doctor: No. Absolutely not. It's impossible. Except on Christmas.
- Cool Starship: The Galaxy-class liner.
- Continuity Nod:
- The Doctor and young Kazran are both wearing fezzes once when they greet Abigail during the montage.
- The Doctor is inspired by the works of Charles Dickens, who as we learned back in "The Unquiet Dead", he is a massive fanboy of.
- Much like his previous incarnation did, the Doctor accidentally gets married to a historical figure, though we never see the results. We can add Marilyn Monroe to the list of historical women the Doctor's had a brief romance with.
- The Doctor states to Kazran that, in nine hundred years of time and space, he's never met anyone who isn't important. Besides echoing his speech to the Atraxi back in "The Eleventh Hour" as well as a speech referencing normal people as being the most important in "Father's Day", that suggests he's definitely learned his lesson after the whole A God Am I thing from the events of "The Waters of Mars".
- The scarves that the Doctor and Kazran wear at one point are similar to a certain item of clothing favoured by another Doctor.
- Amy's "I'm sorry. I'm very, very sorry" line echoes Ten's catchphrase.
- The controls on Elliot's machine are isomorphic. The Master has been shown to have an isomorphic laser screwdriver, while the Doctor has at least claimed only he can operate the TARDIS.
- Rory's wearing his Centurion outfit from "The Pandorica Opens"/"The Big Bang", and Amy is wearing her police girl outfit from "The Eleventh Hour".
- During Rory and Amy's reunion kiss in "The Big Bang", the Doctor reminded them to breathe. When he walks in on Kazran and Abigail having an intense kiss, he says:The Doctor: How do you do that? Do you breathe through your ears?
- As featured most prominently in "The Eleventh Hour", the Doctor is able to deduce a lot in a short period of time by analyzing the details of his surroundings. This is accompanied by a helpful montage of said details.
- One of Kazran's photos is of the Doctor excitedly pointing to the Empire State Building. You can practically hear him saying, "...And there were Daleks in the basement! With pig soldiers!"
- As in "Voyage of the Damned", a giant space liner is crashing onto a planet, and the Doctor must save the day. Also there is a pretty blonde girl who is played by a famous singer, and a wealthy misanthrope obstructing the Doctor.
- As in "The Time of Angels"/"Flesh and Stone", the story begins with a crashing Galaxy-class ship.
- Much like in Moffat's "The Girl in the Fireplace", the Doctor shows up in someone's life at various points, only a few minutes between each visit for the Doctor but years for the person he's meeting. When Kazran asks him if he knows how it feels, the Doctor stays quiet.
- The Doctor's line when opening the TARDIS doors, "I keep amazing... out here," evokes a similar line said to Amy in the first of the "Meanwhile, in the TARDIS" bonus scenes on Series 5's box set: "You know what I keep in here? Absolutely... everything."
- Kazran's "Everybody has to die" and Amy's reply "not tonight" is a nod to River's voiceover in "Forest of the Dead":River: Everyone knows that everybody dies. But not every day. Not today.
- This also echoes statements made by the Ninth Doctor in "The End of the World" and "The Doctor Dances".
- At the end, Amy implies this is not the first place the Doctor has dropped her and Rory off for their honeymoon. They also went to a planet that was on a honeymoon with an asteroid, as mentioned in "Death of the Doctor".
- Dissimile: When trying to convince Young Kazran that he's an appropriate "babysitter":The Doctor: Have you ever seen Mary Poppins?
Young Kazran: No...
The Doctor: Good. Because that comparison would have been rubbish.
- Development Gag: Eleven produces a picture of himself with Einstein towards the beginning of the special. Matt Smith wrote fanfiction about the Doctor meeting Einstein after being cast to prepare himself for the role.
- Distracted by the Sexy:
- Abigail starts each Christmas adventure looking solely at the Doctor... until she sees the grown-up Kazran.
- Later, Kazran finds himself distracted by Amy's Kissogram outfit when she's playing the Ghost of Christmas Present, prompting Rory to shout, "Hey! Eyes off the skirt!"
- Doing In the Wizard: The Doctor attempts to scientifically rationalize Abigail's singing calming the fish, but the fish disagree.
- Everybody Lives: The first Doctor Who Christmas Special ever where no-one dies on-screen! (OK, there was that one little fish, but we'll let that go...) And Abigail only does so due to leaving on her one remaining day.
- Everything's Even Worse with Sharks: Subverted: the shark is not evil, but simply hungry, and becomes almost nice and cuddly at the end.
- Flying Seafood Special: All sorts of different kinds.
- Freudian Excuse: Kazran Sardick gets two:
- In the first timeline, he lives alone with a bullying, avaricious and abusive father who is responsible for not only his bitter loathing of people around him but also his ruthless, stingy values.
- In the second, after the Doctor's intervention, he appears to be developing more of a moral conscience when his heart is broken by the fact that the woman he loves turns out to be dying, and thanks in part to him and the Doctor only has one day of life left before she dies.
- Future Me Scares Me: Kazran
- Generation Xerox: What eventually manages to get Kazran is the realization that he's essentially become his hated, bullying father, Elliot. Almost literally, even — they even have the same actor.
- Genre Savvy:
- Amy, so very much.Amy: Were you being extra charming and clever [towards Kazran]?
The Doctor: Yeah, how did you know?
Amy: Lucky guess.
- Kazran himself is unfazed by the Doctor's "Ghost of Christmas Future" shtick, since he is in no denial he will die as karma befits, cold, lonely and afraid. The latter finds a more elaborate method however.
- Amy, so very much.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- Multiple people ask, but Rory and Amy never do explain just what they were doing in the Honeymoon Suite dressed in their Policewoman and Centurion outfits. Probably Backgammon.
- Also, no matter how you cut it, the relationship between young Kazran and Abigail has a Mrs. Robinson air about it. Kazran is just a kid the first few visits, and when he suddenly grows up, Abigail gets the hots for him.
- Gilligan Cut: In-universe example from Abigail's perspective; young Kazran assures Abigail that the Doctor promises to visit every Christmas Eve. The Doctor protests that he said no such thing but Kazran slams her freeze-chamber's door shut before he can rectify the lie. Then the door instantly opens (although it's actually a year later, of course) to reveal the Doctor and Kazran cheerily greeting her in Santa hats.
- Girl in a Box: Abigail
- Gone Horribly Wrong + Gone Horribly Right: First the Doctor's plan goes horribly wrong when, in trying to make Kazran a better, more caring person he succeeds... and ends up getting the boy's heart broken and turning him into an even worse bitter, angry old man. Then it turns around and works even better and... now Kazran's father never left him in control so he can't save the people on the ship like he wants to.
- Heel Realization: The Doctor and the others have a subtle one after realizing that in attempting to better Kazran with Abigail, they slowly whittled away her remaining time left to one day, thus dooming one life to save others, and only embittering Kazran further.
- Human Popsicle: Abigail and the other people in the cryogenic vault.
- Hypocritical Humor:Amy: (on the phone with the Doctor) Have you got a plan yet?
The Doctor: Yes I do.
Amy: Are you lying?
The Doctor: Yes I am.
Amy: Don't treat me like an idiot!
Rory: Is he lying?
Amy: No, no.
- Identical Grandson:
- Gambon plays both Sardicks.
- Similarly, the same young actor plays both Abigail's nephew and his son.
- Ill Girl: Abigail Pettigrew
- Informed Deformity: Well, Informed Illness — Abigail Pettigrew, who shows no symptoms of any sort of illness throughout the entire episode. Although she's allegedly got less than 24 hours to live, she is still capable of full movement and still has a very strong singing voice. Really makes you wonder whether she is really going to die in the morning....
- Internal Homage:
- Ironic Echo: As might be expected throughout such a recursive story, though best illustrated with the identity of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Both Past and Present were existing Doctor Who characters who barely fit their descriptions, as is fairly common in adaptations. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to come subverts that expectation, by being precisely what Dickens described: the thing all men fear. Scrooge didn't know how good a cold, lonely death was compared to becoming your own worst fear.
- I Was Quite a Looker: Teenaged Kazran
- Jerkass: Both Sardicks are this, though Kazran grows out of it due to the Doctor invoking Character Development.
- Karma Houdini: Kazran's father.
- Kick the Dog: Both subverted and played straight. Early on, Kazran is about to strike a small boy, but can't bring himself to do it. It's Kazran's failure to Kick that particular Dog which convinces the Doctor that Kazran's redeemable. Kazran's father, however, has no hesitation in hitting his own son because he was interested in an inch-long flying fish, and left the window open about six inches.
- The Last Dance
- Laugh with Me: Kazran does this and follows it up with a "That was funny!"
- Living on Borrowed Time: Again, Abigail.
- Loss of Identity: In changing Kazran's past, the Doctor alters his character so much that the isomorphic controls no longer respond to him.
- Magic Music: Apparently the right kind of singing causes the ice crystals in the clouds to resonate in a special way that calms down the fish.
- Measuring the Marigolds: Young Kazran's reaction to the Doctor trying to turn "the fish like the singing" from Magic Music to Techno Babble.
- Metaphorgotten:The Doctor: Big flashy lighty things have me written all over them. Not literally, but give me time... and a crayon.
- Mind Rape: Kazran accuses the Doctor of doing this to him, since he simultaneously remembers all the new memories that the Doctor manufactures for him and remembers his previous life, while also being aware that the former were created by someone trying to "rewrite" him.
- Mrs. Robinson: Abigail and teenaged Kazran. Possibly boy Kazran too, but let's not go there.
- Music Soothes the Savage Beast: The flying shark becomes placid enough to be stroked by Abigail once she starts singing to it.
- Never the Selves Shall Meet: Averted. No Blinovitch Limitation Effect here. Arguably justified, as the timestream is changing so much that technically they're not quite the same Kazran anymore, which becomes a plot point. If his father's machine is any indication, he's not even the same person in his own present.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
- In turning Kazran into a sympathetic soul, the Doctor renders him unable to use the very device that would save Amy, Rory, and the rest of the ship's complement.
- Also, for a time the Doctor's act of introducing the love affair between Kazran and Abigail turns Kazran into an even bigger bastard than he was before.
- Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: The Doctor makes offhand mention of "face spiders" that have specifically evolved to live on the backs of kids' wardrobes, then says something about how "they'd be in your mattress at this time of night." The jury's out on whether he's serious or just screwing with kid Kazran.
- Non-Actor Vehicle: For Katherine Jenkins, who doesn't have to do much but sing.
- Noodle Incident:
- It's interesting to speculate who the Doctor is referring to — a young Rani (or the Master?) on Gallifrey, or an adult Romana?Kazran: Now? I kiss her now?
The Doctor: Kazran, trust me. It's this or go into your room and design a new kind of screwdriver. Don't make my mistakes.
- The sonic screwdriver first appeared in "Fury from the Deep", in which the Doctor was accompanied by Victoria and Jamie...
- It's interesting to speculate who the Doctor is referring to — a young Rani (or the Master?) on Gallifrey, or an adult Romana?
- Pajama Clad Hero: Kid Kazran, when the Doctor first visits him.
- Promotion to Opening Titles: Arthur Darvill as Rory.
- Pun: Sardick: "I think she's a bit cool about the whole thing. Hah hah hah. That was funny."
- Recycled In Space: A Christmas Carol IN SPACE! ...WITH A FLYING SHARK!
- Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Kazran is able to remember both of his timelines, albeit with some difficulty. This was also a major plot point in "Continuity Errors", a 1996 short Doctor Who story by Steven Moffat that had a similar plot.
- Rousseau Was Right
- Rule of Cool:
- The Doctor riding a carriage pulled by a flying shark, wearing a Santa hat.
- And the mental image (even if not seen on screen) of the Doctor singing a duet with Frank Sinatra and romancing Marilyn Monroe.
- Running Gag: Rory and Amy get a lot of "What are you wearing?"
- San Dimas Time: Used heavily. Kazran's memories change as though the doctor were chatting up a younger Kazran concurrently.
- Saving The World With Art: The episode ends with The Doctor asking a teenage girl to sing to the fishes floating in the sky in order to calm the planet's atmosphere so that a spaceship could safely land instead of crashing into a widely populated city.
- Schizo Tech: Barring the cryogenics and the weather-control machine constantly blasting purple light into the sky, almost everything about this planet's technology, socioeconomic makeup, architecture et al appears to be identical to Victorian England.
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong: The Doctor's plan to make Kazran a better person by giving him a proper childhood. The Doctor himself knows exactly what it is like to have a lonely childhood.
- Shaggy Dog Story: The Doctor's plan is to change Kazran's past and make him a better person so he'll agree to use the controls that only he can operate to save the crashing ship. In the end, it turns out that changing Kazran's character that much means his father no longer gives them to him. The Doctor's plan did end up providing the solution in the form of Abigail, but it was completely by accident.
- Sherlock Scan: The Doctor does this in the very beginning to prove Kazran's not a complete utter jerk and dissect his relationship with his father. Steven Moffat is also in charge of Sherlock.
- The crashing spaceship looks like one of the ships from J. J. Abrams' Star Trek films with its sleek aesthetic and constant lens flare.
- The ship resembles (and is explicitly called) a Galaxy-Class spaceship.
- There's a black guy on the bridge with a eyepiece that looks like Geordi's VISOR.
- The captain of the ship resembles Janeway.
- The bridge of the ship even looks like the bridge of the alternate-reality-reboot Enterprise, enough that Simon Pegg (Scotty in the Abrams series) tweeted "Doctor Who Xmas special was great. Can't remember the last time I saw that much lens flare on the bridge of a spaceship."
- Amy and Rory's dress up games as policewoman and centurion is remarkably similar to Rodney and Cassandra's dressing up in the Only Fools and Horses Christmas special "If They Could See Us Now".
- Kazran's father, Elliot, happens to strongly resemble Charles Dickens.
- Old Kazran's first call to remove the Doctor: "Bye bye, bored now. Chuck him!"
- At Christmas dinner with Abigail's family, the Doctor repeatedly tries and fails to impress her nephew with a magic trick, until he finally impresses him (and still gets the boy's card wrong) by making it show up in a Christmas cracker. This is a shout-out to a vignette at the beginning of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, in which an old man livens up a little girl's night (at a very boring dinner full of stuffy old men) by showing her a magic trick in which a salt shaker ends up embedded in the clay of an incredibly old pot. The book was written by Douglas Adams and is strongly based on an unfilmed Doctor Who story "Shada", where the old man was a Time Lord posing as a Cambridge college professor. He even still has a time machine in the book — which, of course, is how he performed the trick.
- Significant Monogram: The Scrooge character is named Sardick, although his first name is Kazran. His father, however, was named Elliot, and was even Scrooge-ier than he is.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Kazran and Abigail.
- Steam Punk: Oh good God yes.
- Stripperiffic: Amy, and lampshaded too. Justified, though, as she was "having a bit of fun" with Rory.Amy: I'm the ghost of Christmas present.
Kazran: A ghost? Dressed like that?
Rory: Hey! Eyes off the skirt!
- Techno Babble:
- Parodied. The Doctor's valiant attempts to explain why the fish seem to respond to people singing only serve to get him bitten by irritated fish.
- Also played straight, although low on the babble, high on the followability.
- Time-Shifted Actor: The three ages of Sardick. Also, Isabella and Benjamin Pettigrew.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: Like crazy.
- Too Awesome to Use: Abigail's final day, in a rare in-universe example.
- Would Not Hurt A Child: Kazran considers this a weakness of his. The Doctor disagrees, saying it's what stops him becoming the father he hated.
- Yet Another Christmas Carol: And a very good one at that, and playing the parts of the Ghosts:
- Past: the Doctor;
- Present: Rory and Amy;
- Future: Kazran himself.
- You Can't Fight Fate: Played with. Kazran becomes a cynical old man despite the Doctor changing his past. His reason behind his bitterness just changes from isolation to heartbreak.