Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe

Spoilers for the Doctor Who 2011 Christmas Special!

This year, I have access to BBCA. And that means that I can watch the Doctor Who Christmas special as it airs in the U.S. It was a fantastic episode. There was a nice element of fantasy, some clever lines, a heart-warming story, an nail-biting deadline — everything a Christmas special needs — and yet my favorite part was the last few minutes. 

It begins with the Doctor running (and sonic-ing). Classic Doctor. “I’m blind!” “I think you’ve just got your helmet on backwards. How’d you manage that?” “I got dressed in a hurry.” In a hurry, indeed. Hurtling-through-space-toward-Earth in a hurry. “Suddenly the last nine hundred years of time travel seem a bit less secure.” Seriously? The TARDIS could keep out the assorted hordes of Genghis Khan but not a lone woman from the 1940s with a hairpin? Actually, no. Wrong police box. Well, that’s good to know.

“Usually I’m called the Doctor. Or the Caretaker. Or get-off-this-planet. Though, strictly speaking, that’s not really a name.” “These are taps. Hot, cold, lemonade.” Child: “Where are the beds?” The Doctor: “Well, I couldn’t fit everything in. There had to be sacrifices.” And “I know.”

The mother: “Why do I keep yelling at them?” The Doctor: “Because every time you see them happy, you remember how sad they’re going to be, and it breaks your heart.” A great line — so sad, and yet it feels like a comment on human nature.

The children’s room is fantastic. I love the hammocks (and the Doctor’s failed attempt to show them how to get into it). “You were lying about the panthers.” “Famous last words.” “Why would you rewire a wardrobe?” “Have you seen the way I dress?” I love the Doctor commenting on how he dresses.

I love the way the Doctor spins in a circle: he’s in such a rush, but he doesn’t yet know exactly where he’s going or what he’s doing. “Do you know the difference between wind and trees talking to each other? No wind.” He looks slightly like the rebel flesh Doctor, the Ganger. “This was supposed to be a treat! This is one of the safest planets I know. There’s never anything dangerous here. . . . There are sentences I should just keep away from.” There are definitely statements that the Doctor should never say. It’s just tempting fate too much.

“Please tell me we can tell the difference between wool and sidearms.” The poor woman. The poor Doctor — he tries so hard, but things just don’t go the way he thinks he will. The building is actually trees. Very cool. “The thing about people is, we can never resist a door.” The Doctor holds the girl’s hand; I love the Doctor holding people’s hands.

“Ma’am. Please stop crying. I can’t interrogate you if you’re crying.” The soldier with mother issues and the woman with “she is a crying, unarmed, female civilian” and putting the gun down (“respecting her as a woman”). It’s nice when when the soldiers are people.

“Yes, I know, it’s wood. Get over it.” The Doctor speaks to his sonic screwdriver. I am so not surprised. “Crying when you’re happy. Good for you. That’s so human.” I love that the Doctor loves humanity.

“Anyone out there in five minutes is going to burn.” Right, that’s a much shorter timeframe than usual. Twenty minutes (“The Eleventh Hour”), 42 minutes (“42”) . . . but five? Yikes.

“Aliens made of wood! This was always going to happen, you know.” And again with the Doctor talking to his screwdriver. “They’re turning your brother into a lifeboat.” “There’s no such thing as foretold. Trust a time-traveler.” “And the good thing is, I look great in a hat.” Stetson, fez . . . you do like your hats.

The children’s faith in their mummy . . . and their mother makes it happen. Doctor Who has a thing for parental love. “You go, girl” — Oh, Doctor, you say some ridiculous things (“Who da man?” “Correctamundo”). And “Caretaker” makes me think uncomfortably of The Doctor’s Wife. I don’t like the Doctor being called the Caretaker.

Ridiculous comments like “It’s funny. One can’t imagine being a forest, then one can!” Puns — “How else does life ever travel? The mother ship!” “Do what I do. Hold tight, and pretend it’s a plan” — so Doctor. “Your mother is flying a forest through the time vortex! Try to be at least a little impressed.”

“There were no stars to light the way.” Oh my god. “Mother Christmas.” So fantastic. I mean, I was kinda calling it since she started into the time vortex, but I don’t care because it ended the way I wanted it to. And the light was a nice touch to bring it all together. “Happy cry. Humany-wumany.”

“My spaceman angel with his head on backwards.” The Doctor has been called many things, but I think that’s a first. “It’s a long story, but they all think I’m dead.” I love how Madge is concerned for his friends — most people are concerned that the Doctor is alone on Christmas, and Madge is worried about the people who think the Doctor’s dead. And then she’s all “off you go” and instructing him to go tell his loved ones that he’s alive. A nice twist on the “invite the Doctor to Christmas dinner” theme.

I love that Amy’s door is TARDIS blue. “Two years.” He’s bad at time, especially when it comes to Amy. It was two years last time.

Amy: “River told us.” The Doctor: “Of course she did.” Amy:”She’s a good girl!” Despite all the complicated age issues, Amy is still a proud and protective mother — and of River, not just baby Melody. I love this. I love the little hints that Amy, River, and Rory are managing to be a family together, despite the fact that River is so much older than her parents now and that she was stolen from them as an infant.

“Mr. Pond!” Yay for Rory being called a Pond. And then the Doctor questioning why they would set a place for him, even though they didn’t know he’d be there. “Because we always do. It’s Christmas, you moron.” And the Doctor looks so confused, like it’s so incomprehensible to him that he actually belongs to a family again. And then the tear!! Happy crying. So human. I love that it ends with the Doctor returning to the Ponds. Love it. Finally, the Doctor has family, instead of always being alone once his companions/friends go off to their own families. And the fact that Rory and Amy are his parents-in-law, not just his current best friends, makes it seem somehow more concrete and lasting.

2 responses to “Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe

  1. Lots of lovely touches here. As writer and actor, Moffat and Smith do both verbal and physical humour brilliantly, which serves a Xmas special well.

    Sadly, I thought the episode dragged too much in the middle – not enough jeopardy, by-the-numbers adversaries, not enough Bill Bailey. But it was still good fantastical family entertainment of a type which only Who can really do. Not the best Xmas special by any means, but still lots of fun.

  2. “I love that Amy’s door is TARDIS blue”
    I loved that too. Enjoyed the first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes, otherwise the episode was sadly just Blah for me. Plenty of physical humor, plenty of family adventure. sighh…. i’d gotten really spoiled on the darker more serious Tennant seasons.

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