After last year’s sensational (and shark-filled) Dickens-inspired A Christmas Carol, the Who Crew mine the great C.S. Lewis and his classic The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe to bring one of the long-running series’ funniest, exciting, and emotionally powerful adventures yet. The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe is a wonderful gift from Steven Moffat and the rest of the BBC, making this one Christmas gift you won’t soon forget – or should.
Things start with a bang, both figuratively and literally with the Doctor (Matt Smith) narrowly escaping an exploding spaceship and crash landing into 1938 earth. A woman passing by the crash site named Madge (Claire Skinner) helps him back to the TARDIS, backwards helmet and all, and he goes about his way. Three years later, Madge’s husband dies in the war and she has yet to tell her son Cyril (Maurice Cole) and daughter Lily (Holly Earl). Luckily enough for them, the Doctor or ”the Caretaker” as he’s called in this episode, never forgets those who help him, transforming the family’s holiday getaway house into a magical Christmas getaway for Madge and her children. During the night, Cyril notices a giant, glowing present under the tree and decides to open it while everyone is asleep, leading him through a time-warp portal to a winter wonderland filled with alien tree people, acid rain, and bumbling space soldiers.
When the Doctor and the daughter realize what has happened, they begin an amazing adventure to find Cyril and bring him back, all while Madge enters the winter world and finds out the fate of the tree aliens rests in her hands, er, head (you’ll just have to see for yourself).
I’ve always enjoyed the Doctor Who Christmas specials, but this one really does capture some of the best things about the holiday, which are family and friends. Sure, there’s aliens and even a giant mech thrown in for good measure, but when viewers get to the end of the episode they’ll see just how emotional the series can be as the Doctor finds something that he had lost and forgotten a long time ago. I won’t say what happens, but if it doesn’t make you cry or feel something then you might want to check and see if you have a heart or not. It’s definitely the most emotional scene I’ve ever witnessed on the show, and that’s saying something considering all of the emotional stories from this past season.
I also enjoyed how giddy and Willy Wonka-ish the Doctor was near the beginning of the episode, which is sure to go down as some of the most silly and bizarre moments in Who history. Matt Smith is obviously having fun here and it’s infectious, or as he might say “I know!” The effects were also especially well-done, especially with the giant mech machine and the living tree folks that were sometimes CG while most times using people in suits for more realism. Fellow hardcore BBC fans will be giddy over the hilarious little cameo by Bill Bailey (Black Books) they snuck in there
The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe is a wonderful Doctor Who Christmas Special, as it really does feel like a gift from the BBC to the entire world. A self-contained adventure that’s inspired by the magic of C.S. Lewis, only taken to new heights of strangeness and wonder as only the Doctor Who universe could. There’s so much to love and cherish here, from Matt Smith’s giddy Wonka-like performance to the great use of practical – and CG – effects that it’s bound to become a quick favorite among fans. But most of all is how it resonates emotionally, demonstrating just how powerful this series can be in reminding us that the most important things in the universe are friends and family. Grab some cocoa, get comfy by the fireplace, and watch this special with someone you love, as I’m sure you’ll agree it’s one of the greatest gifts you’ll see this year, or any other for that matter.