By Ken Tucker
Updated December 25, 2010 at 03:31 PM EST
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By far the best Christmas special to be seen on TV this year, the Doctor Who Christmas special takes on A Christmas Carol in its own unique way. Airing on BBC America on Saturday night, it gives a sci-fi/fantasy spin to Charles Dickens’ tale, and its great achievement is that it offers a rip-roaring Doctor Who adventure tale while never losing the spirit (and structure) of A Christmas Carol. Oh, and Harry Potter‘s Michael Gambon makes a wonderfully mean, broken-hearted, un-Dumbledore-y, Scrooge-ish villain.

Since 2005, Doctor Who has offered a new Christmas special every year. This is the first one overseen by the current Who crew, starring Matt Smith as our bow-tied hero, written and produced by Stephen Moffat. Gambon plays a cruel industrialist who despises the holiday because it’s an example of people “expecting something for nothing.” (Fill in your own contemporary political metaphor; I abstain for the holiday.)

Smith is as manic as ever, tossing good lines and advice over his shoulder (to a child: “Keep the faith — stay off the naughtiness”). Opera diva Katherine Jenkins appears as a warm ice princess. A parallel plot finds Who‘s Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) trapped in a spaceship in danger of crashing. I won’t spoil anything else. Except to say Marilyn Monroe figures into this, too.

Complete with a sleigh-ride with merry bells ringing and a flying shark with teeth that bite, this Doctor Who hour provides just what anyone, child or adult, fan or non-fan of the Who cult, wants: heartfelt Christmas sentiment, a sense of humor without excessive irony, much clever dialogue, and terrific acting. It’s a fitting climax to BBC America’s Doctor Who marathon.

God bless us, everyone.

Twitter: @kentucker

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