Blurb from the Reference Guide: Christmas Eve, 1938, and Madge Arwell helps an injured spaceman-angel. He promises to repay her kindness. Three years later, Madge escapes war-torn London with her children for a house in Dorset. The Arwells are greeted by a caretaker whose Christmas gift leads them into a magical wintry world.
Seeing as I love trees and snow it is safe to assume that I would enjoy this Doctor Who Christmas special from 2011. Add to the mix an enjoyment of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (again, trees and snow) and this story pretty much ticks all the boxes. On the whole, it was light and fun with an interesting—yet mildly silly—mystery. And that’s not really a bad thing, because it is Doctor Who, after all, and silliness does have a place here.
Having said this about silliness, it strikes me as somewhat hypocritical to admit that I found The Doctor’s tour of the mansion too silly. Perhaps a better phrasing would be “over-the-top”. Or, even better, “trying too hard.” I think this is because the tour stands in stark contrast with the scene that immediately follows. Madge is expressing her frustration with The Doctor, which is really emotional unloading. Her husband has recently died at war and she hasn’t told her children. She is afraid to tell them because the joy of Christmas would be overshadowed by the grief of death. The Doctor comforts her by helping her see that her frustration comes from knowing the sorrow that will soon engulf her children. She gets mad at them for being happy when they will soon be so very sad. He tells her that it is most important for her children to be happy now because of the sadness that they will soon feel. It is this moment that shines. It is this moment that makes Matt Smith seem like a wise old man in a very young body. It is this moment that makes his earlier silliness seem forced, almost as if the process of making Doctor Who has interfered a little too much in the story; the production became a bit too self-conscious of its status as a Christmas story that will probably garner first-time viewers. It actually reminded me of the montage leading to the fish custard scene in The Eleventh Hour, which I felt went on too long and was just a bit too forced. Many other people love it, though, so I won’t bang on about it.
Of course, the bottom line is that the story made me cry. Yes, if one of the elements of the story is how it is good to cry when you are happy, then the story should probably make the viewer cry. This one did, so I think it is a success. So, while this episode doesn’t make the top tier of my favorite Doctor Who stories, it is certainly a solid entry.
I may not be writing longer reviews of each story or episode at the moment, but I’m doing my best to keep making my way through the classic series. My goal is to finish the classic series before the 50th anniversary. That sounds like something I could reasonably achieve.
A few days ago I finished Season 8, which marked Jon Pertwee’s second year as The Doctor. I’ve already reviewed some of the stories elsewhere. What I wish to do here is give a brief impression of each story, then a rating out of five.
Terror of the Autons by Robert Holmes The Autons return, but this time they are being aided by a renegade Time Lord who calls himself “The Master.”
Apart from the introduction of The Master, this story is basically a rehash of what we saw in season 7’s Spearhead from Space. The Autons just don’t seem that interesting, especially when paired with The Master, superbly played by Roger Delgado. Assistant Liz Shaw is abruptly replaced by Jo Grant. The Brigadier seems a bit thicker than when we last saw him. The UNIT cast is also rounded out by the addition of Captain Mike Yates. Overall, a decent beginning, but—apart from The Master—nothing terribly intriguing. Well, apart from the man who is smothered by a chair. My Rating: 2.5/5
The Mind of Evil by Don Houghton During the World Peace Conference, The Master is plotting to spark a war with the aid of an alien creature that feeds on evil and fear.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have an opportunity to watch this story, but I was able to listen to the audio recordings from AudioGo. I found the story to be intriguing and complex. While The Brigadier seemed again to be dumbed down, I found the alien in the prison to be an interesting idea, and the idea of a machine that would remedy “anti-social” behavior reminded me of A Clockwork Orange and certain episodes of Babylon 5. While I can’t speak for how this story looked, I did enjoy the audio. My Rating (of the audio): 3.5/5
The Claws of Axos by Bob Baker and Dave Martin A group of aliens makes contact with UNIT. They want to trade technology for fuel. However, The Doctor remains suspicious.
I found this story to be quite a bit of fun, from the irritating MP Chinn to the exploration of an organic ship (yes, I know it has been done in other sci-fi shows and books, but I loved seeing Doctor Who explore it). It was interesting to see The Master return (yet again), but still remained just plausible enough that he would be involved. My Rating: 4/5
Colony in Space by Malcolm Hulke The Time Lords send The Doctor and Jo to the planet Uxarieus to foil a plot by The Master. While there, he must attempt to broker a peace between a colony of farmers and a mining corporation.
Off world at last! I was so thrilled to be off Earth for this story; I loved every minute of it. I soaked it up! It is possible that I wouldn’t enjoy this story as if watching Doctor Who out of sequence, but in this broadcast order, I found this story quite satisfying. I also appreciate Hulke’s subtext about European colonization/Imperialism and the Native American population. My Rating: 4/5
The Daemons by Guy Leopold The Master, posing as a vicar in the village of Devil’s End, seeks to summon an ancient alien who was the basis for demon mythologies. This story was a mixed-bag for me. I liked the idea of The Doctor, Jo, Mike, and Benton being separated from the rest of UNIT. I liked the idea of pagan ideas and images of demons being based on an ancient race. The first episode of this story had some good scares as well. Unfortunately, I didn’t care much for the resolution, and by this point I felt The Master truly was growing old. My Rating: 3.5/5
So there we go. It got off to a rough start, but the season soon picked up. Characterization issues (and the lack of Liz Shaw) aside, I think it was a good follow-up to season seven. However, I still prefer the previous batch of stories. I think UNIT was treated better and I prefer Liz Shaw to Jo Grant.
I’m well in to season nine at the moment. I’ll update again when I finish.
S.W. King wanted me to introduce myself before I started posting anything, so here it goes.
My name, as the title implies, is John Chambers and I am going to be a contributor to The Edwardian Adventurer. Mr. King is busy with school work and his other blog, so I offered to write a review of The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe since he has not yet done so. That will probably post next week. And, if I can come up with the money to subscribe to series 7 on iTunes, I may try to review that as well.
With regard to Doctor Who, I am a fan of the new series. I haven’t yet watched anything of the older series, although I am passingly familiar with the various Doctors. I like the scary side of Doctor Who, so I love stories such as The Empty Child, The Impossible Astronaut, and The God Complex. I already know Mr. King and I differ on some of our Doctor Who tastes, but I think that will add some nice variety to the blog.
Outside of DW, I enjoy horror films and am a huge fan of shows like The X-Files and Fringe. I also like mysteries and police procedurals like Monk and Nero Wolfe. I’m also addicted to Ghost Hunters, something my roommate Grant likes to make fun of me for. But I’ve always been fascinated with ghost stories and the supernatural. When I was a kid I would get the Time LifeMysteries of the Unknown books from the library. I’m addicted to YouTube videos of the supernatural and ghosts. I don’t care if they are fake or not, they still sent a thrill up my spine. I’m hoping to find some time (and money) to visit a hotel that is supposedly haunted. Ghost hunting would be a lot of fun, don’t you think?