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18 September 2015 @ 09:04 pm
The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe  
Oh hi there Victorian Christmas Planet!! Obviously, set during WWII, this story isn't actually on Victorian Christmas Planet but it is mining the same nostaligic tropes to the extent that it might as well be. The episode has a lot in common with A Christmas Carol (unsurprisingly given it's Moffat's second Christmas Special, I suppose). It's bringing his fairy tale aesthetics to the fore, its exploring themes of family, loss and grief (though from a radically different angle), and it wraps it all up into a package that is almost saccharine. Obviously The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe is also deliberately riffing on the Narnia books, so much so, that I was momentarily surprised that there wasn't a lamp post on the other side of the box.

I think it is a better, tighter, and more coherent story than A Christmas Carol though that may largely be because A Christmas Carol is rather weighed down by the character of Abigail and the limitations of a guest star cast for her singing rather than her acting ability. I also prefer Claire Skinner's turn as Madge Arwell to Michael Gambon's turn as Karzan Sardick but it's a close run thing.

I had forgotten that this story introduces magical space trees, so much maligned for their appearance in In the Forest of the Night. This is interesting, in that they appear far less jarring here, than they do in the latter story, despite being very, very similar. I think there are several reasons: one is more forgiving of magic at Christmas; one is also I think more forgiving of magic masquerading as science when it happens on an alien planet rather than on the Earth; lastly these magical space trees have rather fewer randomly plot convenient magical powers. NLSS Child is, incidentally, currently struggling with the realisation that the Internet as a whole (and her cousins and school friends in particular) do not share her love of Eleven and Amy, Twelve and Clara, nor In the Forest of the Night. I've pointed out that there are plenty of people who do prefer Amy to Rose, but I think at the moment she feels a little like the world is ranged against her. Earnest conversations are being had at the dinner table about how you can't (generally) be wrong in liking something even if you disagree with some element of it; said conversations seems to be ranging out from Doctor Who to cover Feminist Criticism of Moffat's stories, Feminist Frequency and Gamergate (NLSS Child not a fan of either), and tame layman's love of Hudson Hawk.

I like the ending of The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe as well. The Doctor has been "home" for Christmas dinner before, of course, but in the context of redefining his relationship with Amy and Rory, it is good to see him forced into a realisation that he does not need to cut all ties indefinitely.

I'm moderately tolerant of Moffat's Christmas specials. Individually I think they tend to be fairly strong standalone stories. It's only taken as a group that they gain a certain homgeneity that doesn't do them any favours.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/170816.html.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on September 19th, 2015 08:14 pm (UTC)
I didn't like this much at the time, but thought it improved on a second viewing (I've actually found myself reappraising a lot of stories I disliked over the past couple of years, but I still found rewatching season thirty recently a struggle). I think it does have a potent atmosphere once you accept that it isn't a typical Doctor Who story, or even a typical atypical Doctor Who story (which often involve black or white voids).

I sympathize with NLSS child, as I seem to like lots of things in Doctor Who (and probably in other things too) that other people don't like much*. I guess the advantage of the internet is that it's easy to find other people who like the same things as you, but the disadvantage is that it's even easier to find people who hate the things you like. For what it's worth, I like the eleventh Doctor and In the Forest of the Night and prefer Amy to Rose. Anyway, it sounds like NLSS is turning into quite the fangirl!

* Also feeling that I'm allowed to like Thing A or to be in Group B, but I can't do both at once, when I want to do both at once.

Edited at 2015-09-19 08:14 pm (UTC)
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on September 21st, 2015 10:04 am (UTC)
I agree about the advantage of the internet, though I think its disadvantage is that it can magnify the voice of the majority and make it seem like everyone is ranged against you when, in fact, there are a substantial group who agree with you. You and NLSS Child are by far from the only people who rate In the Forest of the Night for instance, but I think one needs to be paying attention to notice them.