December 27th, 2011


Doctor Who: "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe"

Another Christmas has come and gone, and with it another Doctor Who Christmas special, in which the Doctor once again saves Christmas. Not for the whole world this time, but for one family, which actually makes it feel even more Christmasy. (The Doctor is perhaps the only extraterrestrial to care this much about Earth holidays.)

I've made no secret of the fact that I've been sorely disappointed with Steven Moffat's tenure at Who's helm. I felt the series really lost its way with this last season. I don't know about you, but I don't tune in to Doctor Who to witness all the minutia of a side character's life, especially when said minutia essentially erases all the mystery that made this side character intriguing. And when the season wasn't focused on telling us everything about River Song that we never asked for, it gave us unwatchable dreck like "The Curse of the Black Spot." Of course, the season did have its wonderful moments--they all do--but overall, it was the first time since the new Who started up that the series felt lackluster to me. And let me just say I was about ready to throw in the towel when it was revealed that after Amy Pond left the TARDIS she used all the fierce determination, courage, and loyalty she displayed during her adventures to become...a fashion model. Please. As I said before, even the female companions of the 1960s era went on to do far more important and inspiring things than that.

But where I think Moffat fails at concocting season-long arcs, he excels at writing one-offs, and what are the Christmas specials if not the epitome of one-offs? Last year's special was a treasure, following the structure of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, while this year's special turns its eye to C.S. Lewis. Less a structural echo of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe than an homage to it (there's no talking lion, thank goodness), "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" sees the Doctor repaying Madge Arwell (a fantastic Claire Skinner) for the favor she once did him, though through a clever bit of physical comedy she never saw his face. Now Madge and her children have evacuated WWII-era London because of German bombing and come to a house in the country, where the Doctor masquerades as the caretaker. He's got a special gift for her and her children, a dimensional doorway to another world where the forest is sentient and the trees look like natural Christmas trees--only, as usual, things get botched. The children go through the doorway too soon and find there's trouble afoot in the forest. Three tree harvesters from Androzani Major are about to use acid rain to harvest all the wood on the planet.

Of course, this being a Christmas fairy tale, no one is truly in much danger, and no one is actually evil, not even the tree harvesters, who are goofy and clumsy but not actually bad people. And yes, I cried a little toward the end when Madge is in the time vortex and sees her husband's plane. Shut up. Anyway, this episode was wonderful, and Moffat could stand to include more in this vein next season (which will be the 50th anniversary of the program!) instead of focusing on, I don't know, where River Song gets her hair done or whatever.

And now for some Doctor Who neepery:
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