GuardianMoffat becomes quite unashamedly romantic at this time of year. It gives little away to say that this second world war-set, Narnia-inspired tale is one of the smallest stories we've seen on Doctor Who in recent years. But it also delivers the most effective emotional suckerpunches.
After the events of The Wedding of River Song, The Doctor is, in the eyes of the universe, dead; to kill time before the next storyline arc, he's larking around on doomed spacecraft and doing favours for random evacuated families. When wartime yummy mummy Madge Arwell helps him out of one of such scrapes, he goes to exceptional lengths to return the favour, and inevitably the whole thing ends up going calamitously wrong. Supported by a pair of unusually tolerable child actors, Claire Skinner carries the episode with a soulful performance, while Bill Bailey and Arabella Weir clock on to balance things out with the laughs.
Admittedly it lacks, for instance, a gigantic Cyberman stomping across Victorian London, and the story feels ludicrous even by festive Who standards. But only the stoniest-hearted viewer will finish watching this without finding something in their eye.
From the depths of a silent forest beckons a wintry tale of wartime pluck. Steven Moffat's latest festive panto is a typically lavish affair, with the Doctor and a resilient 1940s widow (Claire Skinner) embroiled in an ingenious take on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The Spielbergian sentimentality (dead pilots, preternaturally sensible youngsters) gets a bit Sensodyne Extra at times, but there are proper chills (time portals, talking trees, pulsing bauble things) and larks (Bill Bailey) and, as with all the best Christms specials, the sense that all is well with the world.
Telegraph"Whopremo" Steven Moffat's suitably seasonal take on The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe. It’s a witty, wintry wartime adventure with added spaceships and Lancaster bombers. As cockle-warming as mulled wine, merrily magical and a real family treat.
Belfast TelegraphLast year, EastEnders knocked Dr Who into second place, with viewing figures peaking at 11.7m, but Sky Bet spokeswoman Helen Jacob said the science fiction family favourite might well be the dark horse to sneak through with most viewers on Christmas Day this year.
The show fronted by livewire and 11th Time Lord, Matt Smith, appeals to all age groups. Quirky comedian Bill Bailey is just one of the stars drafted in to ensure Dr Who fans enjoy this Sunday’s one-hour episode and its exploration of a magical wintry world.
Los Angeles TimesIn Great Britain, this event amounts to a national tradition; but for followers here, it is no less of a calendar moment, a candle in winter coming months after the end of the last season and months before the beginning of the next, when the days are actually at their darkest.
Like Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," Moffat's "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" — something of a giveaway, again — is set during World War II and concerns children evacuated to a country house, where a "dimensional portal thingy" leads to a wooded world all covered in snow. (And Lewis' description of heaven as a place that grows larger the further in you go has always reminded me of the Tardis, the Doctor's bigger-on-the-inside time machine.)
In the spirit of the season, its signal images are of trees and lights, and by Moffat's usual time-twisting standards, it's a relatively straightforward narrative, a sci-fi fairy tale catalyzed by a wish and watered with the old magic of human tears. Moffat is all about the old magic.
ScotsmanMatt Smith excels as usual, but he’s ably supported by Claire Skinner from Outnumbered as a mother who’ll stop at nothing to protect her kids – the episode is fundamentally a touching paean to parenthood – and Bill Bailey and Arabella Weir as comically ineffectual “antagonists”. It also pits the sonic screwdriver against its ultimate foe, finds the Doctor gaining a nifty new soubriquet, and tosses in the obligatory throwaway reference for old-school fans to go “Ooh!” at. It’s not just the spirit of the season making me giddy – this is truly beautiful television.
Watch out tomorrow for a roundup of what the papers have to say about the festive adventure post-broadcast, and you can also read our own review of the episode later tonight.