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Doctor Who meets Scrooge in BBC yule special

By Joanne Ostrow

The Denver Post

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 22 2010 3:37 p.m. MST

Boris Karloff narrarates the 1966 animated classic "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

ABC

A certain flying phone booth is going to ensure that Christmas won't be canceled this year.

"Doctor Who," the long-running, witty British sci-fi phenomenon, offers a holiday show worthy of the clever Doctor by way of Dickens.

"Doctor Who: A Chrismas Carol" (Saturday, 7 p.m. on BBC America ) has everything, from an appropriate Christmas-y message to a one-shark open sleigh.

Best of all, it's got Michael Gambon (perhaps best known for the "Harry Potter" films, he also should be recalled for making TV miniseries history with "The Singing Detective").

Here Gambon forcefully embraces the Scrooge role.

The "Doctor Who" Christmas special will air Christmas Day on Saturday in both the United States and United Kingdom.

Alas, the special from writer Stephen Moffat ("Coupling," "Sherlock"), does not have David Tennant, who left the role of the Doctor last year.

But Matt Smith, the 11th incarnation of the character, does a fine job as the gawky, nerdy and endlessly fascinated time-traveler who is actually meant to be a centuries-old alien.

Smith's portrayal is adequately eccentric. And who cares about the ever-changing look of the protagonist? A key element of the Time Lord, remember, is his ability to regenerate a new body when he needs to. A handy characteristic for casting directors.

"Fish that can swim in fog? I love new planets!" The Doctor exclaims, as the story takes off for new terrain.

The Doctor is only disappointed that human beings always seem to choose the boring alternative.

Boredom is the ultimate villain as the good Doctor must avert the imminent crash-landing of a spaceship carrying 4,000 people.

Gambon scowls as Kazran Sardick, a selfish and lonely, rich old man who has succeeded in owning the sky and accompanying cloud belt. He manages the atmosphere through a highly sophisticated mechanism that The Doctor expertly identifies right away as "a big flashy light-y thing."

Miserable miser Sardick hates Christmas, of course, and must be shown the error of his ways through visions of Christmas past ("found on an old drive" and projected on the wall of his fortress), present and future.

The tale turns on the sound of music — and not always Christmas carols.

It seems singing jolts the ice crystals in the cloud belt and changes the atmosphere, per the Doctor's experiment. With the right sounds and vibrations, the sky resonates, the clouds are calmed and the killer sharks are tamed. Or something.

Doing the resonating is Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins, who has her small-screen debut as Abigail Pettigrew, a beautiful blond ice queen, frozen by Sardick because her family cannot pay their debts.

The point is, the narrator notes, on planets everywhere, about this time of year, folks get together and say, "Well done, everyone, we're half-way out of the dark! Back on Earth we call this Christmas or winter solstice."

Whatever you call it, this production will help you celebrate being halfway there.

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