NEW DR WHO REVIEW : “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe” – S6 – E14/14 – 2011 Xmas Special – (Spoilers!)

Since the new series of Doctor Who began in 2005, the Who Xmas Special has been at best, a mixed affair.

This years Xmas Special’s plot seems to have been entirely inspired by a play on the Lion, Witch and Wardrobe title.

The Doctor – being presented in Russell T Davies OTT style, running from a series of explosions onboard a spaceship, in a scene with no explanation. The spaceship itself, is headed to Earth, presumably in an invasion attempt by some unknown race of Aliens.

It ends with the Doctor doing a Captain Kirk style halo jump into the Earth’s atmosphere, cue the opening titles.

Back on Earth – it is just prior to WWII, he meets a woman called Madge Arwell who helps him back to his Tardis injured.

In gratitude, he gives Madge (who have been evacuated with her two kids Lilly and Cyrill) a big flashing xmas present which is actually a portal to a Xmas-y Alien world. Meanwhile, Madge is withholding the potentially heartbreaking news that daddy Arwell died in a downed bomber and won’t be home for Xmas.

Predictably, the kids sneak down on Xmas Eve and unwrap the Doctor’s present for a sneak preview and wind up getting lost in the Xmas-y World; which looks like a Xmas-y forest, complete with baubles on the trees which are actually eggs.

The Doctor goes in to rescue the kids but lo and behold there’s some acid rain on the way to burn the forest down and kill everyone. Including the King & Queen of the forest, huge wooden golems who live in a big flying wooden tower in the middle of the forest, I’m not making this up!

So rather than the Doctor, its Madge who saves the day by piloting the big wooden tower back to Earth using her mind and in the process saving the whole Cupranol race and handly for her, her husband – who follows the light from the flying wooden tower and this time changes the past by successfully landing the bomber.

doctor who widow wardrobe king bill bailey madge cyril lilly arwell matt smith

The point of all of this, if there is any, is that families should be together at Xmas and to remind the Doctor that he shouldn’t be alone at Xmas, himself. So he pays a visit to Roramy for a slap up turkey feast.

What comes before the final realisation that the Doctor misses Amy, is a complete Macguffin, not even a passable guest appearance from Bill Bailey can help save it (or give it any sense) as he isn’t in it long enough.

The reveal of the secret behind the Xmas-y Forest, the King & the Queen and the flying tower is as unsatisfying and wooden as the Cupranol King & Queen themselves.

Sinister villains who turn out to be completely benevolent in the final third, only end up making all of the well crated tension sag badly. Hence the addition of the Acid rain to kill everything, as a plot device to ramp the tension back up. But it didn’t help!

The ending where Madge saves the Doctor, her kids, the Cupranol race and finally her husband and reunites the family, ticked all of the fluffy Xmas boxes.

But I would have liked to have seen the Doctor save the family but be unable to save the father, due to not being able to meddle in fixed point in time type scenario. Leaving the Doctor to mull over the fact as all powerful as he is, he can’t help everyone – all the time.

This would have fit in better with Moffat’s early darker writing, which unfortunately in this case seemed to have been mothballed for fluffy xmas writing, in this case. Which whilst it ticked all of the right festive boxes, failed to challenge the viewer.

On a plus point, Matt Smith interacts with Children brilliantly. Maybe there is a suggestion there of a younger companion for him in the future?

Overall, it was a very ambitious project to bring to screen and on paper – probably read great but that’s where it should have stayed!

Nice little touch at the end, Amy’s front door looking just like the Tardis.

Note to Moffat – can we have a Doctor crossover for next Christmas, featuring Paul McGann.

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