Doctor Who: The
Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe (2011/BBC Blu-ray)
Picture: B+ Sound: B+ Extras: A+ Episodes: A
BBC and lead Who writer Steven Moffat score again in this whimsical
sci-fi send-up of the C.S. Lewis classic, The
Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe.
It’s WWII and Madge Arwell (Claire Skinner) and her children Lily (Holly
Earl) and Cyril (Maurice Cole) flee the bombings in London for safer quarters
in rustic Dorset. All the while Madge
withholds a terrible secret. Her husband, an RAF pilot, has been shot down and
reported killed in action.
Enter a lone Doctor (Matt Smith), who awaits the fraught family as
they arrive at the grand old house where they intend to ride out the
bombings. It’s Christmas time, and as
this is the Doctor Who Christmas Special for 2011, Mr. Smith’s Time Lord has a
very special present lined up for the Arwell family. Capricious and inquisitive Cyril gets a bit
jumpy, and “opens” the present early, transporting himself into a wondrous
world of trees and snow.
Having designed countless alien environments, the Who creative crew
just keeps upping the ante. The “magical” forest that Cyril enters, and where
the Doctor, Lily, and soon after Madge, follow looks incredible. Still, timing is everything, especially with
a Time Lord on the scene, and the seemingly sentient forest has some trouble
ahead of it.
Mr. Moffat and director Farin Blackburn manage to deliver just the
right bits of sentimentality, action, and mystery in this latest installment in
what is fast becoming a holiday tradition of special Christmas stories. Mr. Smith’s performance as the Doctor is
always strong, but it is Claire Skinner’s turn as the distraught, but
ultimately powerful Madge that steals the show. Determined to hold her family together
in spite of an unspeakable loss, the Doctor manages to give her and the
children the ultimate Christmas gift.
Extras include “The Best of
Doctor Who” features and a prequel piece, but the strength of this Blu-ray
lies in the main content. This story and
the way it was put together mark the most overtly holiday-themed effort yet,
and while not as strong as 2008’s The
Next Doctor, will likely score high on many fans’ lists of favorite single
episodes. Although arriving sometime
after December 25, The Doctor, The
Widow, and the Wardrobe marks a merry present indeed for Who fans.
- Scott Pyle