Monday, August 25, 2014

Doctor Who--"The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe"

Let us start with the obvious, shall we? “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe” is based loosely on C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Outside of a high school reading of The Screwtape Letters, I have not read anything by lewis in about 23 years, so I cannot vouch for how deep the homage goes. Regardless, this year’s Christmas special is one of the best yet.

The episode begins with the Doctor escaping from an exploding ship far above 1938 Earth. He falls to the ground hard and is discovered by Madge Harwell. She helps him search around town for his lost TARDIS. They successfully find it after a false start, and the Doctor makes a promise that he will do anything Madge needs in the future. All she has to do is make a wish.

Three years later, her husband, Reg, is an Raf pilot lost over the English channel because he is flying blind with no way to know which way is land. Madge gets the telegram announcing her husband’s death, but she does not have the heart to tell her children, Lilly and Cyril, about their father until after Christmas.

Madge moves the family out to a country estate for the holidays. The caretaker turns out to be the Doctor. He has set up the place to satisfy their every whim. The children are particularly transfixed by a large, blue present under the Christmas tree from which a sound similar to the TARDIS emanates. Cyril cannot sleep that night wondering what is inside, so sneaks downstairs to open it. Inside the box is a portal to a snowy forest. Cyril pulls what looks to be an egg off a tree. It cracks open when it falls. Something crawls out and wanders off. Cyril goes looking for it.

Lilly approaches the Doctor in the attic. Something warns him cyrus has opened his present too early, so he and Lilly enter the forest to look for him. Whaever hatched from the egg is growing larger as it moves along. Cyrus may be in danger because of it. Eventually, Madge enters the forest, too, when she finds herself alone in the house. She is accosted by three soldiers who inform her acid rain is about to burn the forest down into usable fuel. Her kids will not survive.

The doctor and Lilly find the tracks lead to a spaceship manned--so to speak--by wooden figures. They have Cyril strapped to a machine. He is not being harmed. The wooden people want to place the spirit of the forest inside him to preserve it from the impending acid rain. It will not work with him, but when Madge finally arrives, the wooden people can store the spirit of the forest in her mind. As thanks, the wooden people guide the spaceship back to Earth.

Madge is forced to reveal to her children their father is dead, but she is interrupted by the Doctor. The spaceship arrived on Earth earlier than the Arwelles left. The light from the space ship crossed Reg’s path while flying, so he no longer crashed into the English Channel. The Arwelles celebrate Christmas together. Madge invites the doctor, but he has to visir Rory and amy, who believe he is dead from the ship explosion that opened the episode. It has been two years as far as Rory and Amy are concerned, but they have always set a place for the doctor just in case he shows up.

“The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe” has some peculiar plot twists and a contrived ending, but possess enough heart to make it highly enjoyable. So it is dangerous for Cyril to open the box and enter the forest before Christmas? Okay, but that danger does not include the planned acid rain. That is just the Doctor’s bad luck. It comes across as a little too convenient the wooden people’s ship just happens to save Reg, but we needed a happy ending, so there we go. I am just happy I did not get beat over the head with the subplot of a bumbling military taking over a planet just to exploit it for fuel. I was apprehensive there for a moment.

I still prefer last year’s inaugural effort by Steven Moffat, but “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe” stacks up quite well. It is certainly more enjoyable than any of Russell T. Davies’ Christmas efforts.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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