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Doctor Who: 6X “The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe” Review

Steven Moffat’s first Christmas special was Doctor Who’s version of a familiar festive tale. Last year we had Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, this year Moffat continues this trend with The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe. Here, he has been inspired by a C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, as if the title wasn’t a big enough clue. Although unlike last year’s outing, it’s a fairly superficial take on the Narnia classic.

The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe opens with a particularly memorable sequence. For reasons that are clearer if you watched the episode prequel, The Doctor is once again running for his life aboard a spaceship that is exploding. He makes a daring escape that leaves him hurtling through space towards earth whilst attempting to get into a spacesuit. It’s the kind of outrageous scene that only Doctor Who could get away with and a spectacular way to kick off the episode.

From there we are introduced to Madge Arwell, played by Claire Skinner. Madge finds the space-suited Doctor injured in a crater. She can’t see his face though because he’s put his helmet on backwards as he “had to get dressed in a hurry”. After helping him out, the Doctor promises to replay her kindness and the pair go their separate ways.

Fast forward to 1941 and the war has already taken its toll and left Madge a widow. However, she doesn’t want to tell her children Lily (Holly Earl) and Cyril (Maurice Cole) because it would ruin their Christmas. The three of them are evacuated to a new house and introduced to the The Doctor, posing as the caretaker.  He is keen to give the family a gift they won’t forget but, as ever, things don’t work out quite so smoothly. When Cyril decides to open the present early, he is transported to an alien planet full of trees, snow, giant baubles and creepy wooden monsters. It’s up to the Doctor to find out what is really going on in this strange world.

Anyone expecting Moffat’s trademark “timey wimey” storytelling will either be disappointed or relieved, depending on your preference. He tells a much simpler tale here. Although the episode moves through several periods of time, the plot is, for the most part, told in a linear fashion. It’s sharply written, very funny and there are some heart-warming moments towards the end. Moffat is known for his scary monsters and though they are certainly creepy to begin with, there’s more to them than meets the eye. They’re not your usual universe-conquering evil and remain in the background for most of the drama.

Visually, this is a sumptuous episode. Moffat promised that this episode would be the most Christmassy episode yet and first time Doctor Who director Farren Blackburn certainly delivers on that front. He has done a great job at bringing the forest to life and making it feel spooky and magical at the same time. There are also some marvelous special effects, from the aforementioned explosive opening in space, to an exciting ride in a giant space harvester (and there’s a nod there for classic fans too).

Matt Smith, as good as ever, spends most of the episode bouncing off the Arwell children and in particular Lily, who essentially is the companion of the special. Holly Earl does a great job here and it’s nice to see someone new challenging the Doctor and asking all the right questions. Maurice Cole is good too, as the wide-eyed kid whose curiosity gets the better of him.

Claire Skinner is perfect as the super mum with a heart of gold. Her latter scenes really tug at the heart-strings. Alexander Armstrong, as husband Reg, is only in a handful of scenes but he plays the part straight-up and does a decent enough job for the little time he’s in it.

Bill Bailey, Arabella Weir and Paul Bazely are fun but, sadly, wasted as a comedic trio of futuristic space harvesters. Their total screen time clocks up to around 5 minutes and, after that, they literally vanish from the plot. It seems a terrible shame to cast someone like Bailey in what amounts to little more than a cameo.

Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill are still listed in the opening credits so it’s not a spoiler to tell you they do appear in this episode for a cameo. It is a lovely moment that seems bittersweet now that we know the Ponds will be departing for good during Series 7.

One problem with this episode is the resolution of the main plot. It hard to say without spoiling, but the solution retreads some particularly well-worn ground and is a little corny. It’s a small niggle on an otherwise treat of an episode though. And this is certainly one of the best Christmas presents you could ask for this year.

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  • Anonymous

    Sounds great! :D 

  • Anonymous

    I knew it. Bet the end makes me cringe. Still, looking forward to the rest!

  • Pardon

    It’s Christmas – we can tolerate a corny ending. 
    I mean, Christmas is meant to be corny……….. 

  • Platypus With a Fez

    That’s good enough for me, can’t wait to see it :)

  • Anonymous

    So…music saving the day in “A Christmas Carol” wasn’t corny? ;)

    Considering I loved the ending last year, I’m fairly certain l’ll like it this year as well.

  • Anonymous

    Bill Bailey, Arabella Weir and Paul Bazely are basically there to increase the viewing figures and the sole reason for their cameo roles. 

    • Pdurston

      Yeah, I’m not too happy about that. Before reading this, I was expecting them to have alarger role to play, but going by the review, it seems not. I find that a bit odd and dissapointing really, the fact their just reduced to really small cameo roles. I was at least expecting more substance with their roles. What a shame, it would have been a cracker (excuse the pun) to see Bill Bailey in it more.

      • Anonymous

        Bailey sounded great in that sneak preview on the website. But they should start giving these special guest stars more sustance to their characters rather than it being a stunt to increase figures in Christmas.

  • Oli

    this is a review which is trying to say in a nice way that it’s not very good tbh

    • Anonymous

      How on earth did you get that? This basically says that it’s brilliant but the ending is a bit silly. 

      • Oli

        all the way through it’s trying to be nice, to me it seemed like a friend who is trying to subtly tell the other friend soemthing bad. that’d sometimes the bad thing about massive dr who fans, they’re sort of biased

        • michael boon

          No doubt about it. You’re an idiot.

          • Oli

            that’s twice now so seriously back off I’m allowed an opinion

          • Rory McKeon

            Calm down, that’s a bit harsh don’t you think?

          • Pdurston

            I agree. I don’t think its right to call Oli an idiot just because he shares a divided opinion from everyone else. I may agree and disagree with him, but I have no right to bluntly call him an idiot.

        • Rory McKeon

          Are you saying that just because you don’t like Steven Moffat?

          • Oli

            no this time I really did think it came across as they didn’t reckon much to it but now I’ve learnt I need to keep my mouth shut because I’m not allowed an opinion

          • Anonymous

            You are allowed an opinion, but you *are* wrong in saying that this review is negative. It just isn’t. As I quoted earlier: “It’s a small niggle on an otherwise treat of an episode though. And this is certainly one of the best Christmas presents you could ask for this year.”

    • Anonymous

      “It’s a small niggle on an otherwise treat of an episode though. And this is certainly one of the best Christmas presents you could ask for this year.”

    • Pdurston

      You’re really not rooting for this year’s Christmas Special are you? You’re being way too judgemental and harsh on something we haven’t seen yet. Please, cut it some slack and let it deliver the goods before you start breaking it down into pieces.  

    • Anonymous

      How on earth does a review of 4/5 imply that it’s not very good? 

      • Anonymous

        Where does it say 4/5?

        • Pdurston

          Yeah, I was looking around for that too?

          • Anonymous

            I had a scatterbrain moment and was thinking of a review on a different site. It happens to us Time Lords. Ask the Doctor.

          • Pdurston

            Don’t worry, I can relate to those sort of moments. We Time Lords ain’t exactly the master race on some occasions ;)

    • Anonymous

      The reviewer also has an opinion and is not being too nice, just objective. There’s no evidence of that – stop trying to force your opinion to reflect that of the person who wrote this.
      Try actually reading this article first before commeting.

  • Pdurston

    *2nd pic of the Doctor*

    “It wasn’t me, I swear! I’ve done nothing this time! Oh God, perhaps I have! What do I do?! What do I do?!”


    • Anonymous

      He looks so funny in that picture! LOL

      I really want to see that in the episode.

      • Pdurston

        That expression on his face is so definitive! It looks like he’s seen a ghost lol.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve seen the trailer for this and it seems like it’s going to be a really good and classic Christmas special, one we might never forget. I’m getting excited already by having read what it’s all about, i cannot wait for Christmas Day, wooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • TomBlack

    Why is this on Cultfix and not Doctorwhotv?

  • DoctorWhovianBex

    *2nd picture*

    The Doctor has seen a squirrel with The Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, and wearing The Doctor’s bow tie and fez! Haha! I’m in a random mood! :D

  • Bad Wolf Jen

    Only 3 day’s to go.

  • Anonymous

    Christmas themed stuff is ALWAYS corny. Of course the ending’s going to be cheesy, it’s Christmas! I’m pretty sure Stephen Moffatt looks at the script and goes, “We have to make this super-cheesy, because it’s the only time of the year I’m allowed. Also it’s for the kids.” And I say that with the utmost affection. Both of Matt Smith’s Christmas specials, he’s had kids for companions. They’ve also both been based on classic stories. Putting those things together is charming enough that you almost EXPECT the cheesy ending. I’m pretty excited.

  • Mariolittlemixwhovian

    A child as the companion, nothing better for a xmas special

  • TardisTraveler10

    Question–can the Special be seen without knowledge of Series 6, or would bits seem confusing or raise questions?  I’m asking because some friends may be joining us to see the special on Christmas and they haven’t seen Series 6.

    • Anonymous

      best to watch Series 6 first.

  • Jerry the Time Tomato


    I loved this special, it was really sweet and alot better than last years, IMO

  • Anonymous

    I watched it yesterday, it was a really good special, but i thought it could have been better towards then end, although thats just my opinion!


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