Smallscreen Reviews

Review: Doctor Who - The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe

By Ian Cullen Dec 26, 2011, 23:01 GMT

Review: Doctor Who - The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe

Synopsis: A madcap caretaker greets evacuee Madge Arwell and her two children and leads them into a magical world.

Synopsis: A madcap caretaker greets evacuee Madge Arwell and her two children and leads them into a magical world.

Review:

Iím not quite sure how to start this, but if you have been reading reviews putting a load of praise on this Christmas episode and are of the opinion that it was the greatest thing since sliced bread, then read no further, because Iím probably one of the few reviewers who is a 'Doctor Who' fan that is going to say that this episode wasnít really all that good.

In fact, it wasnít as good as the run-of-the-mill 'Doctor Who' episode. It was quite boring and somewhat predictable.

Keep in mind that have watched this three times now and re-watching it hasnít made it any better. The first time was with my sister, my 10 year-old niece and my 16 year-old nephew and brother-in-law, the family audience that the series is professing to be aimed at, especially at Christmas.

Pretty much everyone in the room was losing the will to live by the time the episode had come to an end. Donít get me wrong, the episode did have a few good moments, but they were far and few between.

The premise sees the Doctor returning a favor to Madge Arwell by taking her and her kids on what is supposed to be a fun Christmas adventure, only to have it go very wrong when some humans land on the planet that the Doctor has chosen for this adventure.  They intend to strip it of its natural resources, but the trees realise this and set about using the Doctor and his new friends to their advantage and use Madge as a means of transferring their consciousness through the time stream to somewhere safer.

Of course, you get the Doctor trying to explain all the timey-wimey stuff to the world War II family, but the fact of the matter is it doesnít really translate all that well.

The episode was teased as being inspired by C.S. Lewis' literary works of Narnia, but aside from the Doctor being the caretaker and the snow landscape of the planet and so forth it was more of a science fiction story, but of the predictable environmental kind.

Add to this that I felt the Doctor, who is the main character, winds up playing second fiddle to the guest star. In that Madge Arwell, who was played brilliantly by Claire Skinner is very much the heroic figure of this piece.

The Doctor himself says as much when he realises that the consciousness of the trees is looking for the more feminine aspect of strength in that they need a female because of a womanís natural inclination to be more nurturing than us men.

We do see a group of humans that are after laying waste to the planetís natural resources, but they are dispatched rather quickly, which is something else that bugged me about this episode.

The thing is, theyíd got Bill Bailey to play one of these humans and Bill Bailey is one of the UKís best comedy performers when it comes to television drama and comedy. He is also a big science fiction and 'Doctor Who' fan. So would have very much enjoyed the chance to do this, but trouble was he was wasted and had very little to do other than to appear and be somewhat comedically insensitive before being seen off by the trees.

At the start of the episode it is revealed that Madge is trying to hold off telling her children that their father had died in a plane crash, and the adventure, which they have is facilitated by the Doctor who is looking to help Madge give the kids the best Christmas ever, before having to convey the bad news that there dad had died.

But by the end, Madgeís going back in time through the time stream with the consciousness of these trees that she is tasked with saving enables her husband to land his plane and crew safely, which gives us a happy ending but takes away from the lesson that people do lose loved ones at Christmas.

Itís all a little too well-wrapped up for my liking. It would have been a better story all round if their father remained dead.

To close out the episode, the Doctor makes himself known to Madge at the end when he lands the Tardis in her home to check on her life, a happy one with her husband back along with the kids, she invites him to Christmas dinner and he refuses saying he has places to go. She asks if he has friends and orders him to have dinner with them.

This leads to a scene in which we see the Doctor pay Amy and Rory a visit for Christmas dinner, which gives us a rather touching scene where the Doctor sheds a tear at being invited in for Dinner with Rory and Amy, who have been setting a place for him at their table despite the fact that they havenít seen him for two years. The obvious message being that a time travelerís life is a lonely one, but its even more lonely for the last of the time lords, who had come home in a sense to Rory and Amy who view him as family.

In conclusion, while this had a fair few nice syrupy messages to warm the cockles of Christmas time, the episode dragged a fair bit and the lack of any real villain sort of made it difficult to watch or keep any sense of interest in it.

If it were left up to my niece and nephew, a second viewing of the episode would be a pass because they felt it was that bad. As a 'Doctor Who' fan, I tend to re-watch episodes to see if they come across any better on the second or third viewing. 

This is for me one of Steven Moffatís first duds; I canít see him winning any Hugoís for this one.

2 stars



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