The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe

Source: Copyright 2011 by BBC.

Written by Steven Moffat

Directed by Farren Blackburn

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.

One thought on “The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe

  1. I re-watched this since I knew you were reviewing it. Okay, and because the new series premieres this weekend. I had a bit of Doctor dissonance, though, because for the past few months I have been on a steady diet of Jon Pertwee (Third Doctor). Watching the Eleventh Doctor prance around like an idiot in the tour sequence really bothered me. Honestly, it made me think that the Third Doctor would view his later incarnation as a buffoon and an idiot–much as he viewed his second incarnation. The Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) probably would have been amused by the tour sequence.

    It all comes down to the fact that I’m a grumpy Doctor Who fan and just need to learn to deal with the elements that aren’t directed at my age demographic.

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