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 Christmassy 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!
First, the Ghost of Christmas Past. Confronting Kazran Sardick once again, the Doctor uncovers a particularly unhappy Christmas Sardick experienced as a boy. When young Kazran's abusive father (also Michael Gambon) completed the cloud-control machine, fish could no longer roam freely through the air in schools. Kazran missed out on seeing them raid his school once, because he was sick that day, and now he could never see the schools of fish again. He felt left out and alone, and when he tried to film himself going fish-exploring one day, his father caught him and hit him, hard.
Old Sardick is amazed, then angry, when the Doctor plays that video in his living room, and even more amazed when the Doctor steps out for a moment and appears in the video. The Doctor travels back in time to meet young Kazran, thus changing history — and, much to his bewilderment, Sardick's memories. Although the psychic paper fails to convince Young Kazran that the Doctor is his new babysitter (apparently "the Doctor is universally recognized as a responsible and mature adult" is one blatant lie it is just not capable of supporting), the Doctor nevertheless manages to entangle Young Kazran in a scheme to lure in a fish. He learns in the process that Kazran's issues stem from loneliness and isolation, and befriends the young boy. Old Sardick, mesmerized by the video, is horrified to realize that his memories are being altered while he watches.
After a few moments of bonding, the Doctor manages to lure a fish in with his sonic screwdriver as blinking lure. Unfortunately, he soon discovers that these fish have predators. The good news is, Young Kazran now has a story to tell his school friends. The bad news is, it'll probably involve the Doctor and Kazran being eaten by a shark in Kazran's bedroom closet. The inverse, the Doctor presumes, is possible but unlikely. And to make matters worse, the shark has also swallowed the screwdriver. The Doctor fortunately manages to extract half of it and keep all his limbs, but sadly the shark has been stunned, and will not survive for long outside the fog. Young Kazran is particularly affected by the suffering of the shark, who had no malicious intent but just wanted something to eat.
The Doctor cannot get the shark back to the skies alive without some sort of freezing pod. Fortunately, Kazran's father has lots of them downstairs. All of them, however, are full of people who have been kept frozen by old Mr. Elliot Sardick as 'security' against the loans of their families, not to be freed until those loans are repaid. Still, they can certainly borrow one for their purposes, and young Kazran is particularly intent on freeing Abigail (Katherine Jenkins), an attractive young blonde. He doesn't know the security code, but old Kazran Sardick, still watching with tears in his eyes, is repeating it in his present day room. The Doctor pops in to hear it, then back to young Kazran to enter it. Old Kazran Sardick keeps finding old photographs that never existed before: of Abigail, of him and the Doctor, of strange journeys that he knows he couldn't remember before today.
According to her built-in pod holograph, Abigail is very grateful to be among the fish that float happily among the fog in the pod chamber, feeling an affinity for them. The Doctor's screwdriver indicates that its other half is nearby, which means that the shark has woken up. And has followed them down. The pod is opened, and Abigail is freed — and she has an incredible singing voice, one capable of lulling the shark into a calm state. The Doctor realizes that her singing can directly cause the ice crystals in the clouds to resonate. Kazran insists that it's just magic. With Abigail free, a pod is available, and soon Mrs. Shark is safely locked up and ready for transport.
Abigail and Kazran, of course, are delighted by the TARDIS, and by the Doctor giving them a trip to the skies to see the shark freed into the beautiful schools of fish that swim freely in the upper air layers. Having enjoyed a rare sojourn from stasis, Abigail happily asks the Doctor and Kazran to visit her again, and Kazran — quite enamoured of Abigail — is eager to make it a yearly thing. And so begins a tradition where every Christmas, the Doctor collects the two to take them on a Christmas Eve adventure. A flying-shark guided carriage ride one year, a trip back in time the next. One year, Abigail watches her family prepare for Christmas dinner through their window (in a very sweet mirror of the Christmas Past scene in A Christmas Carol). She's delighted when she sees that the Doctor's already sauntered into the house and befriended her whole family. She's invited in, and she spends an idyllic Christmas with her family, who even welcome young Kazran.
Kazran, of course, is growing older, and he and Abigail are growing closer, ending one year with a magical kiss:
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!
Unfortunately, there's a timer on the front of Abigail's pod, and it ticks off one number less every year — and at a Christmas bash thrown by Frank Sinatra, while the Doctor accidentally gets engaged off-screen to a certain Marilyn Monroe, Kazran learns exactly why that is. He won't tell the Doctor, however, and just keeps on kissing Abigail endlessly, as if he'd never see her again. (The Doctor goes off and marries Marilyn just to spite them.) Much to the Doctor's confusion, the news Kazran receives is enough to make him bitterly spurn the Doctor's offer of further Christmas adventures. Which, of course, means that he falls ever further under the shadow of his ruthless, avaricious father, who has completed the device that will allow him to control the skies of their world and, through that, the people.
In the present, Kazran Sardick remains the bitter, twisted old man he was before. Only the reason has changed. The Doctor is forced to change his plans. He calls upon the Ghosts of Christmas Present — Amy and Rory, communicating from the ship via hologram to show Sardick exactly what his cruelty is resulting in. The ship is not weathering the storm, and the people aboard are resorting to Christmas carols in a desperate attempt to control the skies and the creatures in them. Sardick hears them and sees them, but doesn't budge. Amy and Rory desperately plead with Sardick to clear the skies and spare the people aboard. But Kazran is still not inclined to acquiesce — because many years ago, he learned that Abigail was dying when she entered that pod, with only a few days to live, and each time the Doctor and Kazran took her out of that pod she lost one more day. She only has one left now. Railing against the Doctor's manipulation of his life, where he replaced loneliness with heartbreak, Kazran values the one day of Abigail's life he has been miserly saving. He's spent his whole life unable to decide when he has the right to take it from her, and the 4003 people who will die due to his callousness are still not enough of a reason.
Finally aware of what has transpired, the Doctor regrets the pain he has inadvertently brought Kazran, but has no intention of letting him allow the deaths of the people aboard the ship. Time for the Ghost of Christmas Future. Confronting him once again, Kazran rails against the Doctor's manipulations of his life, challenging him to show any evidence that Kazran will not die bitter and alone, as he is convinced he will. However, it's not the old Kazran that the Doctor is playing the Ghost of Christmas Future for — it's the younger Kazran, brought forward in time to see exactly what kind of man he will become. A man exactly like his own hated, cruel father. Old Kazran is about to hit his younger self, but has a massive Heel Realization when his younger self says, "Dad?". Overwhelmed by the new memories he has been given now, Old Kazran breaks down and hugs his younger self. He finally agrees to clear the fog and save the lives of the people on the ship. Unfortunately, the Doctor has changed history too much — the controls of the machine no longer respond to Kazran's touch, as he is no longer the man his father would have allowed to access them. This means they cannot clear the fog with the device. However, they know of someone which can clear the fog, just as she controlled the fish. Someone who can save 4003 lives with the power of her voice. Someone who has only one day of life left to her. Kazran is torn about releasing the woman he loves to her death. But Abigail has her own thoughts on the subject, and would rather face the last day of her life with the strange old man she loves than have it stored away forever.
On board the starship, Amy, Rory and the crew prepare to face their deaths when the sound of beautiful singing comes through the clouds. It's Abigail's voice, clearing the skies, breaking the forcefield and enabling the ship to land safely. As it snows on the planet for the first time in years, the Doctor takes young Kazran home as old Kazran and Abigail prepare to enjoy their time left together, however little they have. Having saved the lives of 4003 people and the soul of a miser, the Doctor reunites with his friends and prepares to avoid a phone call from Miss Monroe as Kazran and Abgail reunite with their old shark friend for one last carriage ride through the skies.
- Abusive Parent: Kazran's father.
- Accentuate the Negative:The Doctor: I bet I get some very interesting readings from my screwdriver when I get it back from the shark in your bedroom.
Young Kazran: There's a shark in my bedroom!?!
The Doctor: Oh fine, focus on that!
- Accidental Pervert: Old Kazran is believed to be a pervert by Rory.
- Action Prologue: The crashing spaceship.
- 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: The cloud-control machine.
- Arc Words:
- "Silence" pops up in Abigail's song.
- The 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 as a crashing ship.
- Bait-and-Switch: We all knew that sooner or later, someone was going to be "The Ghost of Christmas Future" in an attempt to change Kazran — but the iconic scene where the ghost shows the old man his own grave stone doesn't show up, and the old man isn't the one the "ghost" talks to. He is the ghost.
- 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.
- Bookends: Kazran just barely holding himself back from slapping a child.
- 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.
- Chekhov's Gun: Chekhov's Half-a-Sonic-Screwdriver.
- Chimney Entry: The Doctor chooses to come through the chimney because his TARDIS happened to have landed on the roof, and the temptation was just too much.
- 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 crashing ship is a Galaxy-class liner, like the Byzantium.
- 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 policewoman 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 voice-over in "Forest of the Dead":River: Everyone knows that everybody dies. But not every day. Not today.
- 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.
- 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 policewoman 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.
- Epic Hail: Amy and Rory find themselves on a crashing spaceship, so naturally they summon the Doctor.Rory: The light's gone out... So, does this mean he's coming, or does it mean I need to change the bulb?
- 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.
- Foreshadowing: When the Doctor first notices some tiny fish flying around a street light, he questions why people would be afraid of them as they fly away - as the camera turns away from the fish you can just make out the silhouette of the shark behind the Doctor.
- Future Me Scares Me: Young Kazran is terrified of Old Kazran when he sees him as the "Ghost of Christmas Future".
- 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.
- 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 pod'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, for years on end.
- 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.
- Kazran gets his own when his younger self, brought forward in time, mistakes him for his abusive father.
- Human Popsicle: Abigail and the other people in the cryogenic vault.
- Hypocritical Humour: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:
- Michael Gambon plays both Sardicks.
- Similarly, the same young actor plays both Abigail's nephew and his son.
- I Have Many Names: Santa Claus. Father Christmas. Jeff.
- Ill Girl: Abigail Pettigrew.
- Implied Death Threat: The Doctor says 4003 people will die, and if Kazran doesn't help, that will be 4004. Kazran isn't impressed; "Was that a sort of threaty thing?"
- 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: Abigail's last day alive is used saving the spaceship.
- Laugh with Me!: Kazran does this, and follows it up with a "That was funny!"
- Literary Allusion Title: Well, it is a Whole Plot Reference to the novel.
- Living on Borrowed Time: Again, Abigail, with an emphasis on the 'living'. It cannot be too strongly emphasized that Abigail is fine with spending her few remaining days having fantastic Christmas adventures with the Doctor and Kazran.
- 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. The Doctor comes up with a Techno Babble explanation, which no-one is particularly interested in, least of all the fish.
- Mathematician's Answer: The Doctor's reply to Young Kazran's question about the Doctor's means of access tohis bedroom:Kazran: If you're my babysitter, why are you climbing in the window?
The Doctor: Because if I was climbing out of the window, I'd be going in the wrong direction. Pay attention.
- 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.
- 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.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 Doctor apparently partied with Father Christmas (AKA "Jeff") and Albert Einstein at Frank Sinatra's hunting lodge in the 1950s.
- It's interesting to speculate who the Doctor is referring to.
- Not His Sled: Kazran, seeing that the Doctor is deliberately invoking the Christmas Carol Story, suspects that when the Doctor plays the Ghost of Christmas Future, they shall show him a future where he shall die bitter and alone. The Doctor confirms they are playing Ghost of Christmas Future, but instead for the younger Kazran, brought forward in time to see exactly what kind of man he will become.
- 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 Doctor Who short story by Steven Moffat that had a similar plot.
- Rousseau Was Right: In the end, Kazran becomes a good person.
- 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: Kazran's memories change as though the Doctor were chatting up a younger Kazran concurrently.
- Santa Claus: The Doctor apparently knows him, and he prefers to be called "Jeff".
- Saving the World with Art: The episode ends with the Doctor asking a young woman 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.
- Screw the Rules, I Make Them!:Kazran: I don't make the rules. No, wait a minute; I do.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The psychic paper essentially does this when the Doctor tries to pass himself off as a responsible adult.
- Self-Plagiarism: The idea of the Doctor travelling back in time to alter a person's perception of him ia taken from Steven Moffat's short story "Continuity Errors".
- 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.
- Shark Fin of Doom: When the Shark sneaks into the vault, its dorsal fin sticks up through the fog.
- 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 dressup 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.
- Soap Opera Disease: Whatever it is Abigail is suffering from, it doesn't leave any external symptoms at all.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Kazran and Abigail.
- Steampunk: As the setting is based on Victorian England (with the addition of new technology and flying fish), it had to have this setting.
- 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 Kazran Sardick. Also, Isabella and Benjamin Pettigrew.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: The Doctor changes a big chunk of the past in an attempt to change Kazran, but the present ends up being roughly the same... until Kazran loses control of the weather, anyway.
- Too Awesome to Use: Abigail's final day, in a rare in-universe example.
- Wham Line: This exchange between Eleven and Kazran, where the Doctor reveals that Kazran himself is playing the role of Christmas Future.Kazran: Then show me the future. Prove me wrong.
The Doctor: I am showing you the future. I'm showing it to you right now.
- 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: 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.
- You Mean "Xmas": Discussed. Kazran mentions in narration that the first colonists on his planet called Christmas "The Crystal Feast".
- Your Days Are Numbered: Quite literally in Abigail's case. She was already terminally ill when she went in the ice, and her pod literally counts down the number of days she has left before she dies, going down by one each time she leaves it.