Sunday, 25 December 2011

The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe. Review.

Dr Who, the Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, group shot


It's Christmas!

And that can mean just one thing.

That I've been watching Carry on Cleo, which I enjoyed immensely, especially the performance of Amanda Barrie as Cleopatra, surely one of the finest cinematic portrayals of a genuine historical figure ever.

But, of course, man cannot live by blockbuster historical epic alone, and so I've also watched Dr Who.

Dr Who, the Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, Claire Skinner and kids

In it, after crashing to Earth in a spacesuit that he's put on backwards, the Doctor's helped back to his TARDIS by Madge Arwell (Claire Skinner).

Later, during World War Two, he decides to return the favour by throwing a Christmas treat for her children.

Unfortunately it all goes wrong and they find themselves trapped on a Christmassy forest world that Bill Bailey and his loggers are about to destroy with acid rain.

As the spirits of the doomed trees take refuge in the children and then their mother, can our heroes escape before being dissolved?

Well, of course they can - it's a Steven Moffat script and it's a Christmas special, so you know everything's going to be fine.

But this is why I'm pathologically unsuited to be doing a review blog because to review things you probably have to have some sort of opinion about them and I really don't have any kind of opinion of The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe. I didn't particularly enjoy it. I didn't particularly hate it. Like The Queen's Speech, it was just sort of there.

Dr Who, the Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, Bill Bailey
I certainly preferred it to last year's effort - the sight of Katherine Jenkins warbling to a shark is a nightmare that'll haunt me forever - but I don't feel any urge to ever watch this year's special again. The kids were fine. Claire Skinner was fine with the lighter bits but struggled to get depth into the more serious bits. Bill Bailey and his team were too silly for some of us. The CGI at the start was good. The CGI for the loggers' harvesting tripod was terrible. But, ultimately, whatever its strengths or weaknesses, the whole episode felt a bit nothingy.

The one time it did threaten to become involving was towards the end when, having hidden from her children the fact that their father's dead - killed returning from what I assume is a bombing raid - Madge is finally forced to tell them what's happened. This is more like it, a bit of resonance and emotion threatening to break out amid the froth.

Dr Who, the Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, Claire Skinner goes walkabout in the forest and snow

Unfortunately, Steven Moffat's troublesome desire to protect his target kiddy audience from any of the harsh realities of life, exemplified by his refusal to leave any character dead for more than five minutes, means the scene's almost instantly ruined by the father being restored to life.

Because of that, ultimately the episode's only real emotional impact comes right at the end, with the Doctor's reunion with Amy and Rory for Christmas dinner. Even so, although it's the highlight of the episode, the sequence is a pale thing compared to the joy and sense of liberation of David Tennant's first Christmas dinner with the Tyler family. The truth is that, as a Dr Who fan, I tuned in hoping for a Christmas cracker but instead got something that felt no more substantial than a cream cracker.
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