It's not just the Doctor Who Christmas special that can be traced back to Dickens -- this author finds him responsible for everything from It's a Wonderful Life to Back to the Future. A short but fun read!
A spaceship hovers above a foggy planet where music-loving fish swim through the atmosphere, with the passengers' lives hanging in the balance until the man who controls the sky will agree to let it through.
How does any of this relate to Charles Dickens?
Glad you asked. The Christmas Carol episode of Doctor Who took the story of Scrooge -- or Sardick, as he was known here (played by the great Michael Gambon) -- and made it into a fascinating space-age tale with lots of time-traveling twists.
As some of you know, this was my first time watching Doctor Who. Yet I'm acquainted with so many adoring fans of the show, and have read so many of their online discussions about it, that I felt almost as if I were watching old friends. (I've asked one of those fans, who goes by the screenname tempestsarekind, to help me with this review. Special thanks to her for her insights!)
Regular cast members Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Arthur Darvill all performed as beautifully as advertised. Gambon and his fellow guest star, singer Katherine Jenkins, were excellent as well, with her sweetness providing a sharp contrast to his dourness. (Child actor Laurence Belcher, playing Sardick as a boy, got almost more screentime than Gambon did, and fortunately was up to the challenge.) Jenkins even got to favor us with a Christmas carol or two during the episode, as it turned out the fish -- including the occasional shark -- were especially drawn to her singing. You kind of had to be there. . . . Anyway, her voice is lovely and I enjoyed it as much as the fish did.
As for the story: Sardick is the sort of man who loans people money and then takes one of their family members as security, to be kept frozen in an underground chamber. You have to admit, this is even worse than the kind of thing the original Scrooge used to do.
Having received this box set for Christmas (thanks, Mom and Dad!), I now find myself with two copies of Our Mutual Friend on DVD. I'm offering one of these for $5 plus shipping, whatever that turns out to be -- I'll have to let you know when I ship it. Comment below if you want it. First come, first served.
The National identifies five life lessons found in A Christmas Carol. Although I think they misunderstood the sentence they cite for #2 -- I don't think Dickens actually meant to praise "gentlemen of the free-and-easy sort" -- they did a pretty good job. Can you think of any you would add?
We're having a very nice Christmas here. Even Sydney is getting into the spirit. (I think he was a little put out that we don't have any eggnog in the house, but he's trying to put a brave face on it.)
A very merry Christmas from both of us to all of you!
Released in October, A Christmas Carol: The Concert tells the familiar story with the help of a full symphony orchestra, a choir, a group of soloists, and a narrator. It's really more of a recitation with music than a conventional musical or concert. And it's very, very well done. The songs by Bob Christianson and Alisa Hauser are excellent, featuring elements of various styles including classical, Broadway, jazz, pop, and gospel. The performances and the characterization are strong; I especially liked teenage Scrooge's song, "Better Off Alone," which takes us deeper into his character and his imagination at that age than we usually get to go. And I particularly appreciated the masterful blending of Dickens's words with Hauser's lyrics, to create the impression of a seamless whole. This one is well worth a listen.
Also, though I haven't tried it yet, the liner notes inform me that putting either disc into the computer will allow you to read the script of the show.
(Thanks to Newport Classic and Alisa Hauser for the review copy.)