It’s Christmas special review time and as ever it falls to me, the editor of Kasterborous to do the honours, as it were. Lest we forget that it is Christmas, a time of year for faith, hope and charity, so don’t be surprised if you feel I’m over-kind to the episode.
In fairness, The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe isn’t without its faults, but at the same time it is a lot of fun, like a slightly drunk dad or uncle dressed as Father Christmas. The Grand Moff certainly ticks all of the Yuletide boxes and does an admirable job of not retreading the path of 2010’s special episode – that of closely following the source material – by introducing the lost husband/gateway/sentient trees/Androzani Major forestry commission operatives/Sontaran-esque spaceship in the vortex progression.
Really, you’ve never seen anything like it.
This works both ways – if you’re a fan of Doctor Who Christmas specials then you’ll have been sat with your eyes glued to your TV, mouth agape and drinking sherry or brandy with some extra Christmas pudding on the side. On the other hand, if you’re not a fan of these episodes then you might have been sat with your eyes red with anger, mouth agape with rage and throwing things at your haunted fishtank.
Over the past few days I’ve seen a lot of positive and negative criticism of The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe. For me personally my life has changed considerably since last Christmas; I’m now a father to young twins and coupled with the imbibing of food and drink throughout the day transformed me for the first time from rabid fan into the target audience. There I was, an appreciative dad watching with his baby girl swaddled and drifting to sleep on his knee after a hugely exciting day, the very picture of the typical “stuffed-and-drunk” licence fee payer to whom Steven Moffat (and before him Russell T Davies) has pitched this type of festive fun.
I bloody loved it!
A long day of touring in-laws to share presents and take cute photos of the babies was topped off perfectly with an episode that combined madness, comedy and tragedy in equal measures. Yes, you could argue that Bill Bailey et al were criminally underused (and in possession of lines surely written by the late Robert Holmes) or that Alexander Armstrong was virtually anonymous (despite being over six feet tall and the bearer of a very distinctive face); you might even contend that Claire Skinner was slightly obvious for the part or that the children were trying too hard to be cute.
But you would merely be revealing your cold, metal heart. This was an episode with warmth, one of the celebration of motherhood and rebirth (to almost pagan standards, appropriate/inappropriate for the time of year depending on your beliefs and understanding of tradition) and tearful reunions.
Ah yes, the tear.
Matt Smith has shown again and again what an exceedingly perfect Doctor he is. After two Christmas specials no one was calling for the return of Christopher Eccleston, so why do I find online chatter making the same old unfavourable comparisons with David Tennant? What is wrong with these people? Well I’m going to stoke the fire, right here, right now. I’m going to say what a lot of people have been thinking and feeling over the past few months after letting the new chap bed in and get a series under his belt and grow into the character.
Matt Smith is the best Doctor since Tom Baker. In fact Matt Smith might even be the best Doctor ever.
Yeah, go on, read it again. I’m deadly serious. This guy barely puts a single word out of place, never over-enunciates and is perfect in every single scene he appears. Compare those words with the latter stages of Age of Steel from 2006, when David Tennant pitched his performance badly in the confrontation with the Cybercontroller.
The guy playing the Eleventh has never done that and shows no sign of doing so.
But back to Christmas. You might have found a couple of plot-holes in The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe – I couldn’t possibly comment because as far as I’m concerned everything that might cause, for instance, cause a regeneration (fantastic CGI spacecraft at the start don’t you think?!) was explained away with typical Whoniverse science. You’ll also find that Madge’s gun was perfectly within the context of the episode and her background.
With a rip-roaring opening, a Superman-esque encounter and some sentient trees – not to mention AT-AT walkers and World War II bombers – you’ll find that The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe recalled tropes from some of popular culture’s biggest successes but at its heart it was a story about family. As far as the Eleventh Doctor is concerned, his family are the Ponds and despite their departure just a few weeks ago the Time Lord was finally reunited with them for a Christmas roast two years after they last met.
If seeing the Doctor’s realisation of their place in his hearts and his in theirs wasn’t enough to bring a tear to your eye, you’re less human than a time-travelling alien.