After the positive previews of the story, Boxing Day introduces us to the media aftermath of The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe
- below are some of the thoughts of reviewers of the festive adventure (click on the their names for the full reviews).
You can read our own review of the episode here
Please note that reviews contain plot points that may be considered spoilers for those who have yet to see the episode.
Welcome back, merry Christmas, and straight into the reason you're probably welling up right now. Putting aside the now-mandatory doomed spaceship that now must surely always feature, this was the smallest – yet perhaps the most enchanting – Christmas special we've had to date. A story where the threat is not to the universe but to the happiness of one family, and the only real enemy are some misguided and underdeveloped polluters. Any other time of year I would gnaw holes all over this, but it's Christmas, and today it felt perfect.
Oh good, our own planet is involved, and the past. I feel more comfortable there and then. There's also a door into a different world, a snowy winter wonderland where magic sparkling baubles hang from the pine trees. Yes, there's more than a nod to Narnia, but without all the God-bothering, as far as I can see. The message, if there is one, is an eco one.
It's warmhearted and twinkly, and Matt Smith is ever so slightly annoying. But the kids like him, that's what counts.
Every year the Christmas special comes back with something vastly different to the previous year and usually it proves to be on par if not stronger than the one before. The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe
had the perfect recipe for a Christmas special. It had a simple story that could be easily understood without too much concentration and as specials go, it avoided being sickly sweet. By the end audiences were likely to be left with a warm glow created by the mixture of comedy, tragedy and general festive cheer that never became overly sentimental.
This was packed full of festive magic, with ingenious use of Christmas trees, angels, stars, baubles, even woolly winter cardigans. The only problem? It was too busy being cute and clever to create a sufficiently memorable monster. The wooden Pagan king and queen weren’t quite hide-behind-the-sofa scary, more the sort of thing you’d see down the garden centre.
Still, The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe
succeeded in being the kind of broad fairytale fun that unites the generations. "A brilliant idea for a Christmas trip,"
as the Doctor himself said.
THIS year’s was not a classic Doctor Who, but a good one and a perfect piece of Christmas English whimsy."Crying when you’re happy!"
the Doctor puzzled. "That’s so human!"
- this is Doctor Who
at its best, tapping into/manipulating our emotions.
Whether we were born before the war, or decades after it, we all feel like we know what it's like to have survived on rations and be evacuated to the countryside - romantic dramatisation of the war is part of our national common experience, even if actual wartime isn't.
Moffat captured this perfectly as he took us back to war-torn Britain, where we met eponymous widow Madge and her children Lily and Cyril, whose escape from Blitzkrieged London to rural Dorset paved the way for a suitably Christmassy tale.
By virtue of there being so many of them, Doctor Who
Christmas specials have some stiff competition when it comes to deciding which is the most gripping festive Timelord adventure of them all. However, fans of the series will probably agree that The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe is up there with the best of them.
When I heard Marge Arwell (Claire Skinner) saying, "This Christmas is going to be the best Christmas ever,"
I got a sinking sensation. Not just because by nature I’m a bit of a Scrooge, but because I’ve had enough of being promised "the most Christmassy Doctor Who ever"
. As if that were a good thing and something I’d want once in every 14 episodes. Bah!
Well, I should have had more faith in Steven Moffat, Matt Smith and co, who have pulled a cracker, and almost - almost, I say - given this Ebenezer a Christmassy glow. How can anyone resist The Doctor, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Scottish Daily Record
Unashamedly emotional, but always just cynical enough to keep it away from stale stilton, The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe
is the riskiest story Moffat has created – he referenced Star Wars
, the Battle of Britain and Narnia in the first five minutes! But the Doctor once again delivered. This episode didn’t just have a great ending, it had two weepy finales – even the Doctor was teary. And Matt Smith continues to make it seem like he has played the part for 49 years. Doctor one, Downton nil.
Newcomer director Farren Blackburn brings style to spare, conjuring a 1940s rich in period atmosphere and dripping with People's Friend
nostalgia, all home-knits, rainy lanes and hazy streetlamps. He also has a fine eye for the evocative visual: whether it be a Lancaster Bomber soaring into the time vortex or Halo-style armoured warriors walking the snows of a Narniaesque forest, this is, ultimately, an episode that trades in the kind of brilliant, reality-mashing juxtapositions that feel uniquely and unmistakably Doctor Who.
Den of Geek
The Doctor Who Christmas special, as both Moffat and Russell T Davies have noted over the years, is a slightly different beast. Accepting that a large bulk of people watch it after a bloated day, and not short of either sugar-laden or alcoholic beverages, its tone tends to be just a little lighter. Moffat works that very much in his favour, but doesn’t shy away from the darkness in the background. Madge’s choice is never far away.
It was a treat to have a gentle, well told, standalone story, that proved you don’t have to veer away from an emotive and adventurous story, just because it’s Christmas time. A lovely piece of television, and a smashing way to spend a Christmas night in front of the telly. Pass the turkey sandwiches...
Assignment X (United States)
There’s a solid pro-nature element that fits very well with the best of socially and ecologically conscious Doctor Who (Green Death
, anyone?), but ultimately this story’s strongest theme is the celebration of the power in a mother’s love. While some have already found problems with the notion, I think it’s important to remember that every individual character in every story does not have to represent every other member of their gender. In this one instance, it’s a lovely, inspirational message for this very family-oriented time of year, and it doesn’t detract at all from any other strengths that female characters might and should exhibit.
io9 (United States)
You know the story's a bit underwhelming when the characters have to keep commenting noisily about how cool it really is. Every few minutes, Matt Smith puts all his formidable gusto into announcing that Madge Arwell is flying a forest through the time vortex with her mind, and that this is really really cool. Really. Even though to all appearances, we've just spent the last half hour listening to characters stand around discussing plot devices inside a harvester set and a tree-castle set.
Luckily, because this is a Moffat episode, even the slow middle part is crammed with quotable, memorable dialogue that would be in your .sig file if anybody still had .sig files.
Of course, the task of a Doctor Who Christmas special is generally to be entertaining fluff, without much in the way of darkness or complicated plots to overtax the brandy-soaked gray matter. And "Wardrobe" moves fast enough, and is inventive enough, that you can sort of slide past some of the muddled bits and enjoy Matt Smith doing what he does best. And it's nice that, coming so soon after the tribute to Craig's fatherhood, we get an extended tribute to motherhood.
This year there was plenty of action, some good scenes and witty dialogue. There is less 'toing and froing' back and forth in time as the story is played out in a more linear fashion than recent episodes of the last TV series. Possibly a bit too much Spielbergian sentimentality, but hey it's Christmas. The comic elements were provided by Bill Bailey and Arabella Weir.
Personally, although I've enjoyed the Christmas Doctor Who episodes I've also been slightly disappointed with them compared with the regular series (many Doctor Who fans are often a little disappointed with the festive fare). I think it is because the something is sacrificed in aiming for the general viewer, who will tune in whilst munching a minced pie, whereas the series can develop a more intricate story and cater for the ardent fan.