Monday, December 26, 2011

My Review of Doctor Who's 6x14: "The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe"

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Farren Blackburn

Madge: “Caretaker?”
The Doctor: “Yes?”
Madge: “You’re fired.”

Christmas really wouldn’t be the same nowadays without some sort of a seasonal adventure from the Doctor and it’s interesting that in the space of seven years, how used to them that we’ve become as viewers. We expect them every year and the results tend to vary but a lack of Christmas visit from the Doctor would be a less interesting occasion indeed.

Last year, Steven Moffat decided to riff off A Christmas Carol and this year, it’s The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe that Moffat pays tribute to as the Doctor’s attempts to thank Madge Arwell and her children for an act of kindness manages to go completely wrong for him and everyone concerned.

You do have to wonder why the Doctor thought a gift to a safe planet would be a good idea for the Arwell matriarch and her children and you also have to wonder why he couldn’t simply have done this with the TARDIS rather than the portal disguised as a present under the tree of the house the Arwells had been evacuated to as well.

It’s an extremely reckless thing for the Doctor to do and the consequences are felt rather quickly with Cyril being the first of the kids to go through the portal into a magical land and the Doctor and Lily having to follow him rather quickly. Taking some inspiration from Narnia, the trees here can whisper and grow baubles but it’s the Wooden King and Queen who have to be the noteworthy.

As villains, this wooden couple aren’t even that. Instead they’re desperate to save the people of their forest from a bout of acid rain and for an interesting commentary on the female of the species; it’s only a woman that actually guide them to the stars. Lily is the first to almost succumb to this before it’s Madge who actually has to do it in the end.

Madge’s destiny to help the forest and actually fly into the time vortex is visually quite neat to watch but it’s also the sort of solution that I think most people will have predicted for the entire dilemma and seeing as we’ve had these kinds of solutions in a fair amount of episodes from time to time, it’s a little bit of a disappointment to see it recycled.

Something else that is rather disappointed are the Androzani Harvesters that we briefly meet in this story as well. I know Droxil was stubborn, Billis too receptive to Madge’s needs and Ven-Gerr having maternal issues but as guest characters they were not on screen nearly enough to really make an impact and the fact that two of them were played by Bill Bailey and Arabella Weir makes that fact also a little more disappointing.

However, keeping with a feel good element of the episode, I don’t think anyone was really surprised that Reg was going to survive this episode, even if Madge had been put in the situation of having to actually tell her children their father had perished. Should Moffat maybe have left Reg dead, considering that he was also a rather underused character in this episode? No, I think on repeat viewing of the episode, Reg turning up alive was actually a good thing for this story.

As for the rapport between the Doctor and the Arwells – I think it further cemented that Matt Smith does really work exceptionally well with nearly everyone he comes into contact with her. Both the Doctor and Madge managed to make each other better and I’m glad that Madge was also able to make the Doctor follow a piece of advice by the end of the episode.

The rapport with Cyril wasn’t as developed as it was it with Lily though. Lily managed to be both impressed by the Doctor and also took the time to challenge his irresponsibility as well. If the character was a bit older, she would’ve been good companion material, wouldn’t she? And that brings me to the last bit....

Amy and Rory – unless you’re clever enough to avoid spoilers, it should’ve been obvious that we were going to see them yet again. I liked that Madge’s words got the Doctor to show up at their door to confirm that he was alive and I loved that he was touched when he realised the Ponds always set a place for him during Christmas Day. Knowing that it’s going to be another while before Amy and Rory depart for good, I really am going to miss them when they’ve left the Doctor’s life once and for all.

Also in “The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe”

Claire Skinner’s name was in the opening credits but Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill’s names were above hers in the closing credits for this episode.

Madge: “There’s a street lamp.”
The Doctor: “I got that impression.”

What exactly was the Doctor doing on that spaceship before he landed on Earth? In the prequel for this episode, he did call Amy as well.

Madge (re the Doctor): “That man is quite ridiculous. You must stay away from him.”
Lily: “I like him.”
Cyril: “I like him too.”

Lily (re TARDIS): “Why would you rewire a wardrobe?”
The Doctor: “Have you seen the way I dress?”

The Doctor used the name of ‘caretaker’ in this episode. I wonder what other names he’s going to use from now when meeting new people.

The Doctor (to Lily): “There are sentences I should keep away from.”

Droxil: “Please say we can tell the difference between wool and side arms?”
Ven-Gerr: “We can tell the difference, sir.”
Droxil: “Can we?”
Ven-Gerr: “Not always, sir.”

Apart from the Androzani references, the Doctor made a reference to the Forest Of Cheem as well. I miss Jabe, so thanks for that Doctor.

The Doctor: “Why is there honey in a honey trap?”
Lily: “Because it’s a trap?”

Wooden King: “You are not the one, you are weak.”
The Doctor: “I’m really not.”

This is the first episode of the new series not to have a Confidential for it. However, there are some online content for the episode on the BBC site.

Lily: “What’s happening?”
The Doctor: “No idea. Do what I do – hold tight and pretend it’s a plan.”

Madge: “Oh, Caretaker, what if I require you again?”
The Doctor: Make a wish.”

Because nothing for the seventh series has been filmed yet, we got a trailer for the second series of Sherlock, which also looks rather exciting.

Amy: “So you’re not dead?”
The Doctor: “And a happy new year.”

Chronology: 1938 at the start of the episode, 1941 for most of it with the Arwells and December 2013 when we saw Amy and Rory again.

As a Christmas special goes, “The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe” definitely had moments where it could’ve been better or a little less predictable but at the same time, it was a rather feel good episode, the Arwells continued a tradition of good one-off companions and it’s mainly EastEnders job to be grim on Christmas Day anyways, so for those reasons alone, this was a still an enjoyable episode if not a classic.

Rating: 8 out of 10

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