Doctor Who: The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe
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Doctor Who: The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe (Blu-ray)]]>
Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe is one of the beloved series' most enchanting episodes, and that's saying something. The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe was the Christmas special for Doctor Who in England in 2011, and happily it's now available on Blu-ray for merry holiday seasons everywhere. The story opens in 1938 England, with Madge Arwell (played by the prolific and talented Claire Skinner) bicycling home and suddenly seeing an injured man (or is he an angel?). She comes to the mysterious stranger's aid, and he promises to repay her by granting her a wish. Fast-forward several years, when England is being battered by German bombers, and Madge learns that her beloved husband has been lost in combat on the front. Madge is overcome with grief but vows to make Christmas a wonderful one for her children… and then suddenly, magic things begin to happen. Skinner is the heart and soul of this episode, and it's to her credit that the story is such an immersive, enjoyable fantasy. The Doctor (Matt Smith) appears, apparently in answer to Madge's wish, as a guide for her and her children in a magical dimension. The story is an homage to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, with dialogue referencing the earlier work. But The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe is pure Doctor Who in its self-referential, silly, wise, and wonderful way. This special set includes a prequel and several Best of Doctor Who featurettes. Happy Christmas to all. --A.T. Hurley
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- the Doctor: "No idea. Do what I do. Hold tight... and pretend it's a plan."
As sublime as "A Christmas Carol" was, it would take something really special for this most recent Doctor Who Christmas Special to match, let alone top, it. I quite liked "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" because Matt Smith is never less than entertaining. But Steven Moffat's cup of schmaltz really spills over with this episode. But, hey, it's Christmastime, a season ripe for excess, and surely Moffat can be excused for overindulging his inner sappy.
The story opens in outer space as a hostile alien warship menaces Earth. But no sooner do the invaders declare "People of Earth, you stand alone!" than the Doctor pops up to gum up the works. But, having once more saved our little ball of mud, the Time Lord plummets down and crashlands in London on Christmas Eve, 1938. In the crater developed by his forced landing, the Doctor finds himself in a bit of a bind, but he's aided by a passing housewife named Madge Arwell (Claire Skinner). The Doctor is so touched by Madge's generosity that he vows to return the favor. "How?" she asks. "I dunno," says the Doctor. "Make a wish, that usually works."
Cut now to a war-torn London three years later, and to a desolate Christmastime for Madge Arwell. Having just received a telegram informing her of her husband's death under enemy fire, she determines to keep the news from her children, Lily and Cyril, until after the holidays. She promises them: "This Christmas is going to be the best Christmas ever!" (And, at this juncture, maybe there's a collective rolling of the eyes from the audience, oh we jaded souls.) To escape the German blitz, the Arwells relocate to Dorset to an uncle's country mansion. There, they're greeted by an odd stranger calling himself the Caretaker. Madge isn't too sure of the Caretaker and the barrage of mad whimsy he unleashes, but the kids take to him right away. Matt Smith comes across as a big kid at heart.
I think I love this sequence best, when "the Caretaker" gives the bemused Arwells a frenetic tour of their new home. Hoping to lift up their spirits, the Doctor - c'mon, you knew it was him - had made certain adjustments. I particularly enjoyed how excited the Doctor (and, by extension, Matt Smith) genuinely seemed to be in displaying the various rooms and their singular wares (the locomotive chairs, the lemonade pipeline, the plummeting hammocks, etc.). The kids are soon eyeing a mysterious glowing present wrapped up in blue next to the resplendent Christmas tree.
Moffat doesn't try to disguise his nod towards C.S. Lewis's THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE. And those moments of discovery, encompassed in the first twenty minutes, when the story was still somewhat clinging to the C.S. Lewis bits, make up some of the episode's best moments. Later, once the Doctor and the Arwells employ the "wardrobe" and begin to explore the other side's wintry woodsy realm is when I sort of started checking out. I just don't get the logic of harvesting a forest with acid rain. And I don't think Moffat developed the threats of the forest creatures and the harvesters well enough. I did enjoy the neat bit of trivia which references the 5th Doctor's final 1984 adventure ("The Caves of Androzani").
"The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" ultimately doesn't resonate as strongly as "A Christmas Carol," and yet it's still a fine holiday tale. Claire Skinner delivers a strong performance. She doesn't have so many scenes with Matt Smith, but their interactions are quirky and memorable. Matt Smith shares more scenes with Holly Earl ("Lily"), and it's gratifying that the Doctor doesn't condescend to young Ms. Arwell. He treats her like an adult. Matt Smith is incredible, able to do madcap and then effortlessly carry on with the emotional bits. Moffat has pulled out the stops in terms of tugging on your heart strings (and there's an argument that he may've tugged a bit too hard). It helps that Moffat writes some of the best one-liners in this episode, and many good character moments. It ends on a truly wonderful moment for the lonely Time Lord, one of the few times since DOCTOR WHO's been revived as a television series that the closing credits drop on an absolutely content Doctor. There's probably a plate of fish fingers and custard waiting for him.
The DVD's bonus extras comprise a Prequel to "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" (00:01:26 minutes) and three "Best Of" featurettes (totaling over two hours) which essentially recap Series 5 and 6. As such, these featurettes (each running a bit over 43 minutes) focus on the Eleventh Doctor's top moments, on his Companions, and the Monsters they face. Plenty of clips shown from Series 5 and 6 and, surprisingly, an ensemble of American comedians, actors, musicians, and nerd icons provide fanboy commentary and perspective; Mark Sheppard is the only talking head here who is British and has actually worked on the show. "The Best of the Monsters" featurette also comes with "Ask a Whovian" segments in which Doctor Who cosplay fans at a convention answer Doctor Who-related questions.
This Christmas special is mischievous and fun even without a villain, but it’s not very Christmassy. Dad’s missing and a war is on.
Now about the episode...no real spoilers here, it's about the spirit of family and I suppose, conservation, taking place in England during World War II. A mother and her children leave the city which is under fire and heads to an Uncle's estate in the country. They do not encounter a wardrobe, but they meet the Doctor and adventure ensues!
A great holiday film for the whole family and a gateway episode for non-Whovians!
The Doctor is very whimsical at Christmas and his present is one of the best I could think of to give someone if you are an interdemensional timey-whimey space traveler.
The wonder of what The Doctor must see every day is really shown well here.
Also, never, mess with the momma.
The ending brings a tear to my eye and I've watched it several times.
If you are a Doctor Who fan this is a must for your collection, if you are looking to add a new movie to your Christmas tradition, again this is a must have.