Since Doctor Who was revived in 2005, the BBC TV show has consistently topped best drama charts. Aside from the 13-episode series there is normally a Christmas special, which features in the top-five most watched programs on Christmas Day, and this year was no exception
The Christmas episode, which has just been broadcast on BBC One (7 p.m. UK time), was another cracker from producer Steven 'The Moff' Moffat
and actor Matt Smith
(and first-time Doctor Who director Farren Blackburn).
The Christmas episodes have mixed a Christmas theme, with a little drama, fantasy and the requisite scary moments as the time-travelling Doctor saves the Earth from the latest menace. Last year's episode was a homage to Dickens' Christmas Carol; this year it was a tribute to C.S. Lewis.
The episode was entitled "The Doctor, The Widow and Wardrobe
" and included plenty of references to Narnia, not least the snowy visage (and the obvious play on the title 'The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe'). The episode was set during World War II and quickly set up a contrast with the brutality and threat of war against the magical escapism of a far-away-land.
The Doctor's long-serving companions - Rory and Amy - were not really featured in this episode (aside from a cameo), with the story taking place after the events of last season's closing "The Wedding of River Song", with the Doctor presumed dead and wandering the universe pending the next convoluted story arc. Instead the Doctor teams up with a single-parent mother Madge Arwell (played by the actor Claire Skinner), and some excellent child actors who play her two children: Lily (Holly Earl) and Cyril (Maurice Cole).
The story was set in 1941 and focuses on two children evacuated to a country house in Dorset from London, with their mother, to escape the Blitz. At the house they find the Doctor, posing as the caretaker. It isn't long until a "dimensional portal thingy" leads the children, mother and the Doctor a strange wooded alien world all covered in snow. Once there the team are menaced by giant baubles and creepy wooden monsters. I'll not reveal too much as it will spoil the story of those who have recorded it or where it has yet to be broadcast.
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.
Interviewed in The Daily Telegraph
recently, Weir explained what attracted her to the episode:
"I was thrilled was because it’s such a fantastic show, brilliantly written and produced, and here they were, wanting me to be part of it! I instantly said yes, without even reading the script. When I did finally read it, I got even more excited since it turned out I was to play an alien from the future alongside Bill Bailey and would get to wear a proper, full-on, metal-with-flashing-lights alien outfit and hold a shiny gun!"
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, as Dan Martin blogs in The Guardian
). 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. The specials also tend to lack a familiar villain - Cyberman or Dalek for instance - with the exception of David Tennant's farewell performance as the Doctor where he locked horns with his more dangerous foe: The Master.
That aide, Matt Smith has turned out to be a superb Doctor. As the eleventh actor to play the part in the show's 48-year history
, he captures the surface fun and tomfoolery of the 1960s Doctor played by Patrick Troughton, whilst keeping the inspired logic and interplanetary intellect which characterises the Time Lord.
So, another good outing for the Doctor and possibly the most the most Christmassy episode yet. As the sixth Christmas special in a row this is quickly developing into a Christmas television tradition. Viewers in other countries who have a to wait a little while to see the Doctor in action: you are in for a treat.