Friday, 31 December 2010

A Christmas Dr Who

Dr Who was terrific, wasn't it? Stephen Moffat's tenure as the new chief writer hasn't been the smoothest of transitions. I thought some of his epipodes lacked a little something - some heart perhaps. But his Christmas special was a triumph, a glorious literary trick that left us drooling.
The strange thing is that A Christmas Carol hadn't been done with a time traveller before. It seems so obvious: Ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. Who else but a time traveller could supply those perspectives?
And A Christmas Carol has been done just soooo many times: this year alone my V+ box has Scrooged, A Muppet Christmas Carol and a dodgy looking musical featuring Kelsey Grammer...and that was without really looking for variations on the Dickens theme.
Moffat's triumph, I think, was that he took the Carol as a theme, but didn't stick slavishly to the format (like Blackadder did a few years ago). He played around with it and with our expectations.
I noticed a little chat about it on the web afterwards. Well, the guardian's comments ran into the several dozen, with several fanboys pointing out that it broke the first, or was it the fifth?, law of time, which states that you can't muck around with a person's own timeline. So Moffat broke the rules: good. That's what good drama is all about. Good literature too.
Padgett Powell, when I spoke to him recently, spoke about the rules in literature as well, and went on to admit that his own recent book, The Interrogative Mood, didn't comply by any of them. That it was, by rights, not actually a novel at all.
The great thing about literature is that it doesn't comply with the rules.

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