The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe

 

After last year’s clever reworking of A Christmas Carol, this year Steven Moffat tweaks, pokes and nudges the Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Our festive special starts with The Doctor crash landing on earth a couple of years before World War 2. Once again he’s misplaced his TARDIS, and this time he’s ended up the wrong way round in a spacesuit. He bumps into family woman, Madge (Claire Skinner) who helps him find his lost Police Box.

Three years later when war breaks out, Madge and her two Children are evacuated to a large country house. The Doctor has taken over as The Caretaker, a title he takes quite literally. On a personal note, who wouldn’t want to live in that house?

As the Caretaker Matt Smith is allowed to fully indulge in another persona, ok it’s not a million miles away from The Doctor but the Caretaker’s Willy Wonker style antics allow him to take a step away from The Doctor.

There’s plenty of childlike wonder on offer, there’s a beautifully wrapped gift that’s actually an inter-dimensional gateway to a Narnia like world. Obviously the children open their present early, and are transported to an alien forest that’s alive. This gift was intended as a harmless treat for the kids, but things soon turn deadly for the Arwell children and Mum is in pursuit.

Bill Bailey shows up with a couple of other industrial workers from the future, the forest is about to be melted down with acid rain. Whilst it’s always nice to see Bill Bailey in anything, there was little point to his presence in the episode. The entire sequence felt out of place, and the only function of this scene was exposition, which sadly felt lazy on Moffat’s part. There was no shortage of ideas in the episode but many didn’t come across as fully formed,

This was still a very enjoyable episode; Whovians would of spotted the first physical appearance of Alexander Armstrong as Madge’s husband Reg. Alexander previously voiced Mr. Smith in all 5 seasons of The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Madge is another strong female character written by Moffat, something that he seems to thrive at.  Claire Skinner plays Madge with gusto and wit, her years of work on BBC sitcom ‘Outnumbered’ may have her typecast as a Mum but she brings some needed emotional backbone to the episode.

Given where we left The Doctor in series 6, where he went next was always going to be bumpy. It’s clear why he felt drawn to a family, despite The Doctor hiding in the shadows nothing can break his need to help people.

I am a huge Doctor Who fan, and always try to manage my expectations of the specials. Since it’s rebirth there have been 7 (8 if we’re counting both parts of End of Time) Christmas specials. Sadly not all of them have been good, a couple have been very poor (yes I’m talking about you The Next Doctor), but like that big box under the Christmas tree that you’re sure is something brilliant it turns out to be a cleverly wrapped pair of socks.

There’s just enough time for a fleeting cameo from the Ponds, the reunion isn’t quite the tearjerker it should have been. As River had already filled Rory and Amy in on the Doctor’s escape from death, all of the emotional impact was lost. As we now know both Karen and Arthur are leaving the show at some point next year their one scene was underused. Whilst we’re on the subject of their exit, Steven Moffat recently said this in regard to the departure of the Ponds;

Amy and Rory will be rejoining us next [season] and joining the Doctor back on the TARDIS. But the final days of the Ponds are coming. And during the next [season] — I’m not telling you when and certainly not telling you how but that story is going to come to a heartbreaking end.”

It was a shame there was no coming soon trailer for the forthcoming cut down series 7. We did get treated to a new trailer for Sherlock, which is back on New Year’s Day on BBC 1.

There’s still no confirmed transmission date for the next series, so it could be a bit of a wait before we see The Doctor’s next adventure.

As a special treat here’s my favourite Doctor Who Christmas Specials in order.

  1. A Christmas Carol
  2. The End of Time (Combined)
  3. Voyage of the Dammed
  4. The Doctor The Widow and The Wardrobe
  5. The Christmas Invasion
  6. The Runaway Bride
  7. The Next Doctor

Happy New Year!

Chris Suffield

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