Wednesday 28 December 2011

The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe

Another year, another Christmas special, another story that I hate.

I am a massive fan of CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. I actually write fan fiction about Jadis, my favorite character. It was naturally of some interest that the latest Christmas special takes inspiration from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Doctor Who has often thrived when borrowing influences from other stories and genres. This works best when it is done almost unconsciously; this is quite the opposite. In The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, as with the previous Christmas special, the influences are shouted out over the rooftops.

It is quite clear to me that Moffat does not have a clue what makes the Narnia books so amazing and enjoyable. For a start, the Narnia books are a parent-free zone. The Pevensie parents only make a brief appearance at the end of The Last Battle, they are absent throughout the Chronicles of Narnia. The Narnia books are all about the children having adventures on their own. In contrast, the two evacuees in this story are accompanied by their mother. Their mother enters the strange forest world and the story turns out to be all about parenthood. The last season has shown that Moffat has a peculiar fixation with the theme of fatherhood. While it is a relief to see motherhood getting a mention in this story, it jars completely with the Narnian theme. For Moffat, the idea of children existing independently of a parental relations is simply anathema. In his fictional world, children can have no real existence except within the smothering confines of parental affection. In his book, children just need their daddy and then everything is right with the world.

The second failure to appreciate the Narnia books is in the way the fictional world is presented. Narnia was fascinating because of it's strange inhabitants. The forest world of this story is undoubtedly beautiful, but it feels empty and uninteresting. In fact, it creates no sense of wonder or majesty, but quickly becomes a place of melancholy and terror. On the plus side, the wooden king and queen look amazing, with their delightful folklorish quality, but they are not sufficient to make up for the otherwise hollowness of the forest world.

It is refreshing to see some attempt to deal with the pain and loss in warfare; but this is completely undermined by the resurrection of the children's father. While it came as no surprise and made for an happy ending, it seemed hollow, and almost a denial of the reality of death. I am sure it would have been very upsetting to children watching who had lost their parents and who could expect no return of their lost loved ones. Going back to the issue of motherhood, it also seemed to undermine the attempt to present Janet as a strong capable woman. She was presented as strong and determined, but there was still the suggestion that she was lost without her husband. If you are going to praise motherhood, why not show that mothers can be strong and bring up their children after widowhood as so many mothers had to do in the Second World War?

As for the Doctor, we are served up yet again another portrayal of the Doctor as a Mary Poppins figure who makes everything right for everybody and who appears whenever people wish for him. Does anybody else miss the days when the Doctor was bad-tempered, selfish and a bit scary?

Don't get your hopes up for the next season of Doctor Who.


  1. I haven't watched the episode yet. I'm not in much of a hurry. While intrigued with how Moffat (an athiest) would adapt the very Christian Narnia story, I could never really get excited for "The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe." Series six ultimately left me underwhelmed and to see more instances of The Doctor interacting with children seems to indicate Moffat is doing more of the same. I'm sure I'll get to it eventually, but hopefully when I'll be more pleasantly disposed toward it.

  2. I wouldn't get your hopes up. It was not very good.

  3. It seemed again there was too much. Lacking a solid major aesthetic vision he goes for a combination of minor ideas, and gaffer tapes them all together in the most artless way. This story had three endings -again- and that meant that any interesting body to the story was squashed up or edited to oblivion -again-. I don't even know the point of the trees, I don't know why the exist, I don't know why the doctor was taking them there specifically, I got no chance go get inside that world at all. Even if you accept that he is going smoosh together the lion witch and the wardrobe with some mother complex puke, then surely that is the major point that the thing builds to. Why was the father there at all at the end? Why the hell did he go and visit those nauseating cretins Amy and Rory -vomit-??? WHy OH WHY?? :'( That is not the DOctor's style at all, he always slips out the back door... Has Moffat ever watched a Pertwee episode...??? THE DOCTOR IS NOT A PEOPLE PERSON!!! AARGGHGH... (at least not on the surface)-and down the drain goes the tension- And why even have them thin the doctor is dead if he is just going to knock on the door the next episode and say hi-- IT MAKE NO SENSE!!!! -grunt fume foam at the mouth- At first I was excited about this change,at first I even liked Matt SMith but this corn ball catchy writing is more like something for the advertising industry. He says "I know" about 8 times... -vomit-... Moffat is good at making trailers, but about 3 min into each episode I am bashing my head with the remote... The DOctor is no longer an alien scientist, he is a little fairy princess leaving a tooth under your pillow... he now makes Harry Potter look cool... 2011: The worst year of Doctor Who ever. I am so depressed, I can't believe this tosser is going to make the 50th anniversary episode.

  4. ... wait... fairy princess don't deposit teeth... what am i on about??... more coffee required...

  5. I like fairy princesses, but I don't like the Doctor as one.

    It really was rubbish.

  6. and it really was rubbish again...and again and again. It is unrelenting. i would be happy with one or two moderately well written and vaguely interesting episodes a season. that would sustain me. it cant be asking too much. :'(

  7. In my opinion, the Doctor has been a magical storybook wizard/faerie since 2005. The new series writers cannot cope with dramatic writing or resolutions.

    I take all that into consideration before I watch any BBC Wales Dr Who. In the Pertwee era I expect moralizing and chase sequences, in the Baker era mugging for the camera, Davison inevitably has grandiose ideas that may fail to come together and the BBC Wales version seldom makes a lick of sense.

    I didn't hate this one... but the 'I Know' sequences, the plot, the vague relation to CS Lewis material, the Androzani subplot that makes no sense and the miraculous arrival of dad from the jaws of death were awful. Additionally, the reason behind Madge being able to contain the souls of trees is because she's a mother??

    Someone print off the meaning of subtlety in 50 point bold font and staple it to Moffat's door.

  8. You hit on two of the strongest and worst offenses of Nu Who:

    1. "As for the Doctor, we are served up yet again another portrayal of the Doctor as a Mary Poppins figure who makes everything right for everybody and who appears whenever people wish for him."

    2. "... it seemed hollow, and almost a denial of the reality of death."

    Very sad. The character was once a seeker of knowledge, adventurer and champion of the good at times, but the new Doctor is Mary Poppins.

    Ugh... you are right.

  9. Makes you shudder to imagine what, for a random example, Brain Of Morbius may have been called had it came out in the modern era. "Frankensolon's Monster"?