December 26th, 2010


Doctor Who, "A Christmas Carol" reviewed

Collateral Damage: The Problem With Steven Moffat

There are (at least) two kinds of cheating common in the writing of popular fiction. One is when a plot doesn't make sense, where an apparently intricate tapestry is revealed to be only a bunch of holes where the logic fell through; another is when a story's human logic is lacking, when long-established characters betray their readers' or viewers' previous experience of them.

25 minutes into the 2010 Doctor Who Christmas Special, "A Christmas Carol", I was having a wonderful time, and thinking that the Steven Moffat I'd once loved — the Steven Moffat who gave us the intricate yet humane chills of "Blink" and "The Doctor Dances — had come back to us at last.

But still, I had misgivings, and by the 30 minute mark, they had re-emerged full-blown. The Steven Moffat who concocted last season's "crack in the universe" story-line, and who had first shown his true colours with the popular but hollow and inhumane "The Girl in the Fireplace" was still in charge.

Moffat can be an excellent writer, whose plots are complex and who can create intriguing and believable characters with a few deft strokes of the auctorial keyboard. But as a dramatist, he has one honking big flaw, and it takes centre stage here. "A Christmas Carol" is a grand, meticulously-constructed romp, but a romp with a monstrous emptiness at its fairy-tale heart.

My full review is at Edifice Rex Online. Minor plot spoilers ahead, but unless you've never heard of Charles Dickens, not too many.

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