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11 January 2012 @ 07:41 pm
The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe  
While I can see that The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe was, basically, emotionally manipulative schmaltz, I rather enjoyed it. Ultimately, I suppose, I don't in principle think there is anything wrong with stories that are predominantly fluff, especially when they have the faint undertone of steel that Madge Arwell brings to events.

Until he actually took the reigns of series producer, Stephen Moffat had, arguably, failed to ever actually kill a character in a Doctor Who episode he wrote. Interestingly in The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe he not only fails to kill anyone but also fails to supply a villain/monster, or even an antagonist. Arguably the trees are the antagonist, but their agenda isn't really sufficiently opposed to the Doctor's own viewpoint to make them satisfactory in that role. The villains of the piece would seem to be the Andronzani Majorians, but given they are represented by three comedians in a manner best described as cuddly, it's hard to treat them seriously in that role. The end result is something very gentle, a story in which the Doctor mostly reacts to the events around him and in which Madge is far and away the most dangerous character on the screen. You are left in no real doubt that she is clever, determined and ruthless and even the Doctor doesn't really dare cross her.

In fact Madge is basically the protagonist here. The Doctor does very little, if anything he is just another of the strange forces that are threatening her children. That might account for the strangely muted reaction we see from him when he learns that the planet is to be turned into a giant battery. That's the kind of issue that you would expect to fill the Doctor up with anger but it passes almost without comment and you get the impression the denizens of Androzani Major need fear no repercussions for almost wiping out an entire sentient species. But then, I suspect, these issues were of little concern to Madge herself.

It's a shame, in some ways, that the homage to C. S. Lewis is primarily visual: the doorway into a wintery world. Perhaps that is just as well, I'm not sure C. S. Lewis' christian fable would have translated well into Doctor Who's essentially atheistic worldview, certainly its themes would have been twisted drastically in the attempt. On the other hand, drawing such an explicit comparison in a way which turns out to be entirely superficial makes it tempting to assume the whole story is superficial. The themes the episode was examining, of motherhood, family and a rather British attitude towards grief, were delivered with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer but it wasn't entirely superficial. The only real subtlety is the essential narrowness of Madge's awareness and concerns. She barely seems to question anything unless it impacts directly upon her family, and while she is clearly extremely resourceful in their defence, it is not obvious that any other issue could raise her out of her aura of mild dottiness. For this, Androzani Major should probably be relieved.

I think, actually, I mostly thought Madge was awesome and interesting and the forest was pretty, but still that was plenty to keep me happily occupied for an hour or so.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/60201.html.
fredbassettfredbassett on January 11th, 2012 10:23 pm (UTC)
I ended up being seriously irritated by Matt Smith in this episode and just wanted him to slap him very hard when he was rushing around the house. I have reached the conclusion I just don't 'get' him as the Dr at all. I now think I dislike him intensely in the role.

Bill Bailey was amusing, though. The rest was emotional schmaltz.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 12th, 2012 11:45 am (UTC)
It's an interesting interpretation which reminds me most of a hyperactive, slightly autistic child. In a radical swing in the opposite direction this Doctor is, if anything, frightened and disgusted by sex. He also seems to have far less understanding of people than any previous incarnations. So he's also more up-front alien, I guess.
fredbassettfredbassett on January 12th, 2012 06:07 pm (UTC)
I find him remarkably irritating. He reminds me strongly of Tom Baker who was the first Dr I really disliked.
reggietate: river-doctorreggietate on January 11th, 2012 11:00 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed it too. Yu don't expect a Christ episode to be much more than happy fluff, and it fulfilled that role admirably.

The more I see of Mtt Smith's Doctor, the more I like him.
louisedennis: Christmaslouisedennis on January 12th, 2012 11:48 am (UTC)
I think, in the past, they've generally tried to take the Christmas action blockbuster route - though come to think of it, last year's tale was another literary homage fluff piece with no real villain (debatably - he's at least presented as sympathetic though I actually think there's relatively little excuse for his actions). I can see this kind of thing fits Moffat's personal preferences much better than the high octane stuff though.

I like Matt Smith's Doctor, it's very much won me around, but then I was into Doctor Who before he was supposed to be a romantic love interest, or indeed particularly sympathetic or understanding of humans. Smith's performance harks back to Tom Baker and before more closely than anything that's come since, I think.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on January 16th, 2012 11:14 pm (UTC)
I know I'm late commenting (again), but I agree with your assessment of Smith's Doctor. He is as eccentric and alien as Tom and also has an 'old man trapped in a young man's body' aspect which I think they tried with Davison and Tennant, but couldn't get to work. I find it an irresistable combination.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 17th, 2012 09:44 am (UTC)
It is a very mannered performance, of course, which is unusual on TV these days, people are used to a much more naturalistic style. I think that is also offputting for some.