Review: A Christmas Carol (read by Tom Baker)

Tom Baker christmas carolAudioGo out now

An unabridged reading of the classic tale of ghostly visitation…

There are certain people whose voices lend themselves naturally to renditions of particular stories, and it seems amazing that no one has previously thought about bringing Tom Baker’s fruity tones together with Charles Dickens’ writing. Genre fans will be aware of Sir Patrick Stewart’s performance of the work (immortalised forever by the fanzine DWB’s headline: “Christmas is Coming – and so is Patrick Stewart”!), but I would actually rate this higher.

One of the delights of the recent Big Finish run of stories featuring Tom Baker has been the way in which he has been able to give a restrained performance from time to time – I think many people (myself included) had worried that he was now permanently stuck in the “Tom Baker playing Tom Baker” rut, and everything would be interpreted through that prism. As with those tales, he’s not over the top throughout this – of course there are times when he makes Brian Blessed seem like a meek and mild choirboy quavering his way through Once in Royal David’s City, but for the sequences with The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, there’s a hollow chill that reflects Scrooge’s growing realisation of his fate.

After so many different takes on the tale on screen, it’s also refreshing to come back to Dickens’ original text, with elements that I had simply forgotten about in the years since I last read it. The scene where Scrooge’s belongings are being divided, or the games played about him, reinforce the image of a man who has divorced himself from the world because he has chosen a different god to worship, as brought home by the confrontation between him and his fiancée earlier.

(The only downside: the use of an effect which is identical to a TARDIS interior sound which might throw you out of the story when it seems dreadfully familiar but out of place!)

Verdict: A fantastic performance by Tom Baker of one of the true Christmas classics. Heartily recommended.  9/10

Paul Simpson

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