Mark Watches ‘Doctor Who’: The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe

In the 2011 Christmas Special of Doctor Who, The Doctor helps fulfill a Christmas wish of a grieving widow, but in the process, he sort of screws everything up. Just a bit. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.

There are two things in “The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe” that I have come to enjoy on my own terms, but had I seen this five years ago, I probably would have been an asshole about it. For many years, I did not like Christmas. I realize this is blasphemy, BUT HEAR ME OUT. I grew up poor for most of my childhood, and Christmas for a while held a very specific meaning for me: that was the day I felt inadequate to everyone else around me. Everyone else had mounds of presents, and I didn’t have anything close to that. When I grew out of that notion of needed lots of presents, though, it wasn’t much longer before I ran away from home and was supporting myself through high school. This meant that I spent Christmas day as a temporary member of families who always sort of kept me at a distance. It wasn’t that I was disliked or anything, but I wasn’t part of their family, not in any significant sense. So Christmas started to remind me of my fractured family, my atypical upbringing, and it all just made me so sad.

Not long after this, I realized I was an atheist and this firestorm of experiences and ideas made me want to swear off Christmas forever. I was being a bit of a bitter asshole about the whole thing, but the truth is that Christmas didn’t hold the same meaning to me as it did for most of my peers. However, I feel like I’ve come around the last couple years to enjoying the holiday again, knowing that I finally have the power to make Christmas mean what I want it to mean. It’s a chance to decorate a pine tree! (OH GOD I LOVE THAT SMELL Y’ALL.) It’s a chance to see my immediate family and be silly and catch up on the stuff I’ve missed. THERE IS SOY NOG AND ALL IS RIGHT WITH THE WORLD. I had peach pie with vanilla ice cream this year. My mom got me a LEGO spaceship that SPINS and MAKES NOISE, and my brother got me that ridiculous Tantive IV LEGO set that will allow me to partially replicate the opening of A New Hope in my bedroom whenever I damn well please. I got to see my adorable nephew; I got delicious food, saw friends I’d not seen in a while, and enjoyed myself.


On the same token, I went through a super heartbreaking and conflicted period with C.S. Lewis, especially after I read Mere Christianity and wanted to bang my head into the wall. I’m sure all of us have gone through this: you worship and adore someone who creates art, then you learn things about their personal life or beliefs, and then everything is destroyed and you’re lost and there is no meaning in life for a while. It happened to me with H.P. Lovecraft (HOLY RACISM) and Joseph Conrad and Metallica and Orson Scott Card (F U DUDE, WILL NEVER FORGIVE YOU). And it’s a genuinely difficult thing to deal with! First, you start wondering if you’re that poor of a critical thinker. Then you feel betrayed, as if you were tricked into liking something that was racist or misogynist. Then you get really fucking mad. Like, “HOW DARE YOU WRITE THIS I AM GOING TO WRITE YOU AN ANGRY LETTER WHICH WON’T DO ANYTHING BECAUSE YOU’RE DEAD.”

I don’t want to turn this review into a post about C.S. Lewis or Mere Christianity, but suffice to say that I am greatly displeased with both, more so the latter for being ridiculously prescriptivist, misogynist, and downright foolish at times. Plus, when I was a child and I read the Narnia books, I did not pick up on a single Christian theme at all. Reading them again after reading Mere Christianity caused me to see everything I missed!

But I’m at a point in my life where my own thoughts on this sort of stuff aren’t so black-and-white, either. I’d like to think that because of what I’ve done on Mark Reads and Mark Watches, I’ve been able to find ways to enjoy things that are immensely problematic. It’s a personal process, first of all, and while I personally find a lot of what C.S. Lewis believes to be revolting, I can’t deny how wonderful the Narnia books were to me. I can engage with that series on whatever level I want. And you know what level that is?

TOTALLY GEEKING OUT ON ALL THE NARNIA REFERENCES IN THIS EPISODE. Because taking C.S. Lewis’s beliefs aside, the world he created in Narnia is just so goddamn wonderful and magical, and there will forever be a soft spot in my hedonist, atheist heart for those books. I love just how well these references work in a Christmas story as well. What could be more magical for the holidays than being able to crawl through a box and travel to a planet where Christmas trees are harvested in 5345???? VERY FEW THINGS, THAT’S WHAT.

And I’ve found my favorite thing about a lot of the Doctor Who Christmas specials is how the various writers have been able to create these bittersweet, emotional family dramas amidst the joy and celebration of the holiday. That’s not to say there isn’t a problem with this story (and I’ll get to it), but there really is a lot to like about “The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe.” It’s easy for me to say that Madge Arwell sells this story so completely. I didn’t anticipate how sad the opening of this special would be until it jumped forward to World War II. But I know that my face lit up the second Matt Smith’s bizarre mug appeared on screen, and I knew that I HAD MISSED HIS FACE SO MUCH. It made me wonder what he’d been doing in all that time since the close of “The Wedding of River Song.” What adventures had he been getting into? How was he concealing his identity in the process? These questions aren’t answered, of course, but the episode reminds me why I’ve grown to love Eleven so much.

He cares. He cares so much, so completely, so wholly, that it shows in every action of his. When Madge helps him back to the TARDIS and he tells her that she can call on him for help, he makes sure to fulfill that promise. It really is heartbreaking to see Madge fear telling her children the bad news about their father, so when they arrived at Uncle Digory’s estate, it made the Doctor’s appearance so much better. I honestly think that the entire scene where they all meet the Doctor and he shows them how’s he’s made the house the most perfect Christmas environment imaginable is going to go down as one of my favorite segments with Eleven. We got to see him interact with children a lot in series six (STORMAGEDDON!!!!), and there’s truly a unique type of energy he has when he’s doing something…well, childish. And I don’t mean immature when I say that! But the dude strung up hammocks for the kids to sleep in! LOOK AT HOW AMAZING THAT HOUSE IS.

Of course, Madge doesn’t recognized the Doctor and has no clue that he is helping her with her wish for a good Christmas. Instead, this man’s just a bizarre and kind of presumptive caretaker who’s doing just a bit too much. However, there’s a subtext to Madge’s reaction: she’s overwhelmed. She’s overwhelmed by the death of her husband; she’s overwhelmed by the thought of possibly ruining Christmas for her children; she’s overwhelmed by her situation as a widow during World War II; and she’s overwhelmed by the fact that despite all of this, someone just did something nice for her, as if it’s all a cruel joke.

But she obliges her children once she sees how happy they are here, even if they are mistaken in believing that their father is on his way to them. The Doctor’s done an undeniably good thing here. But…well, he makes mistakes, too, and this one is a doozy: Cyril discovers that the giant Christmas present underneath the tree is a portal to a planet of Christmas trees. Look, y’all, I just think that set is so goddamn gorgeous, one of the coolest things this show has ever done. The bulk of this episode is also dimly lit, something that’s rare for the show, and I love the wintery color tones that permeate the screen. This is how a Christmas special should look.

There are so many awesome details that make up this world, from the hilarious Harvest Rangers, to the fact that these are ANDROZANI TREES, to the Wooden King and Wooden Queen WHO LOOKED FANTASTIC. The giant robot looked so silly and magnificent in that place. AND WE GOT TO SEE THEM TRAVEL IN THE TIME VORTEX IN THE ACTUAL EPISODE. Plus, there was this brilliant line:

“Everytime you see them happy, you remember how sad they’re going to be. And it breaks your heart. Because what’s the point of them being happy now, if they’re going to be sad later? The answer is, of course, because they’re going to be sad later.”

Steven Moffat, just whisk me away, I swear.

I didn’t really find anything in the episode that I didn’t like, which was nice. However–and you knew that was coming–something just felt off about this episode. It felt incredibly short, as if an entire plot had been removed or a bunch of scenes were cut. Which is not to say it wasn’t good, or that I didn’t enjoy what I saw on screen. I thought it was a very Doctor Who Christmas special, about what I was expecting from it. Yet there does seem to be something missing from this, and I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. Perhaps the story just seemed rushed to me because I watched it without commercials, or maybe in my brain I thought the Christmas special was 90 minutes long.

That being said, as much as I enjoyed the story of a mother saving her children and an entire forest of trees and her husband just from her sheer courage, the final five minutes of “The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe” destroyed me. No one had spoiled the fact that Amy and Rory appeared in this episode at all, so when Amy opened to the door to see the Doctor standing there, a look of fear and reluctance on his face, I was simply undone. Also, can we talk about the fact that Amy Pond, in all her brilliance, thinks it is perfectly acceptable to shoot carolers in the face with a water gun? Bless her heart. 

The truth is that….look, there are problems with season six. I know that. But I missed Amy, Rory, and the Doctor being together. This is such a tender moment for these two, though, because Amy never knew if the Doctor would return to her. He’s supposed to be dead to the universe, yet he’s standing right there on her doorstep. Moffat doesn’t let the Doctor off the hook, though, and it’s the reason Amy doesn’t leap into the Doctor’s arms. Yes, he had to do what he had to do, but it’s been two years since they’ve seen him at all. I mean, how crushing is it that Amy and Rory always set a place for the Doctor for Christmas?

I seriously just wanted to roll into a ball of cuddly cuteness and never leave once they hugged each other. Oh god, you all, these three characters bring out so many feels in me that it terrifies me sometimes. The year-long wait for a new episode will be agonizing, for sure, but those last five minutes? That’s a pretty fine image to go out on.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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113 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Doctor Who’: The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe

  1. Maya says:

    I had no clue that Amy and Rory (MY RORY ILU) were going to be in the episode. Best Hannukah present EVER. That and the Downton Christmaa ep MY CREYS

  2. echinodermata says:

    So I thought this was just a nice good episode with beautiful settings. I laughed, I cried though that was probably the cold medication more than the episode (no really, I randomly cried during one of the Bill Bailey and co scenes and not the true sentimental parts of the episode), and I had a jolly fun time for all the non-sad bits.

    Ponds Ponds lovely Ponds lovely reunion – even had the first 50 or so minutes been terrible all would be forgiven because of that scene. Amy Pond with a watergun she uses on carolers and the Doctor. Oh I love her and I love her and the Doctor interacting and I love Amy and Rory together and I love the whole family. And it is his family.

    And I'm glad we get a mother on Doctor Who who we can unequivocally root for – there's been a lack of mothers given the same sort of strength of characterization other characters get on this show (although Amy counts as one now), so I'm grateful for Madge and I totally love her! Great guest character.

    • Elexus Calcearius says:

      Did you get the sense that they're setting up Madge to return? That whole bit where the Doctor said she just needs to wish to find him…

      I would love if she returned, although I'm still hoping for a slightly more different companion if she does.

  3. cartoonmoney says:

    Y'know, if everything had actually gone according to that 'plan' thing of his, they'd have visited a melted-down planet in the morning.

    Merry Christmas, *tree sludge*!

  4. chikzdigmohawkz says:

    I love the part where the Doctor's all 'well, I'm alive' and Amy's like, 'yeah, we know. River told us.' And then the Doctor goes 'River told you? Nevermind, this is River we're talking about, what was I thinking?' And Amy's response to that is 'of course she told us, River's a good girl' – which just strikes me as such a mom thing to say. That, more than anything in the second half of season 6 convinced me that Amy is River's mother.

    Also, Amy calls Rory 'Mr. Pond'. It is now officially canon – they are the Ponds. Done and done.

  5. I liked this episode a lot, but I do agree with you, Mark, it felt like something was ~missing.~ I have no idea WHAT, however, lol. I loved the last few minutes with Amy and Rory, maybe that's what was missing?? Idk, I don't think they can ever beat last year's special <3

    • whedonzombie says:

      I agree on all counts. I think what made it feel "off" for me was that it felt like a bigger story that required more time than it gave us. The pace seemed a bit… disjointed? Almost as if they had written a 2 hour episode and then clipped bits away, to make it fit in its timeslot. Still, it is a Doctor Who Christmas episode, and there was no real possibility I wouldn't love it anyway.

  6. CharliePond says:

    I cried so hard at the end with the Doctors happy tears.

    To be honest though, I think it was a bit of a cop out that the father didn’t die. I feel the episode would have been much better if he did. That’s just my love for tradgedy speaking though.

    • calimie says:

      Hello, fellow lover of tragedy! It was totally a cop out. I mean, I understand why: it's a Christmas special, you probably don't want your audience bawling (which I did anyway) but I would have liked him to stay dead.

      • Nerdfoxy says:

        I had the exact same thought. THough if you're going to cop out on killing a dad on Christmas, doing so with a WWII plane surprise landing on the front lawn is a pretty awesome way to do it.

  7. NB2000 says:

    I don't quite love this special as much as last year's (because Abigail's Song will forever own my heart) but I did enjoy this episode a lot.

    A lot of the love had to do with the production design which I LOVE SO MUCH. I spent most of the episode trying to work out whether the forest was a set or an actual forest. I mean logically I know they probably couldn't find a forest with that much snow (especially considering they were filming in summer/autumn) and they wouldn't do that much night filming but IT LOOKS SO REAL! And then we get the spookily empty tower and control room with the Wooden King and Queen (who I seriously hope they make action figures of) which change the look of the planet without being completely different and I'm rambling.

    Throughout the episode I thought Lily, or rather the actress playing her, felt familiar but it wasn't until after the episode aired that I found out she was in The Greatest Store In The World and I'm possibly the only one who remembers that Christmas special but it was a nice moment of "Oh it's HER!".

  8. stellaaaaakris says:

    So…the Wooden King and Queen live in the EPCOT ball, yes?

  9. Michelle says:

    In the very beginning when he's flying through space without the TARDIS and without the space suit on and YELLING… I had my doubts about this episode.

    But then I was a bawling mess when mum was screaming "Don't make me watch him die!" in front of the kids. Oh, man here they come again.

    • Elexus Calcearius says:

      Pfft. The Doctor's so awesome that he manages to make sound waves move even in a vacuum.

      (No, that bothered me, too).

  10. Tauriel_ says:

    To be honest, I don't think this Christmas Special was as good as last year's, but it was okay. It felt a bit uneven, though – certainly, there were many great moments in it, but the storyline didn't flow very smoothly. I found the scenes with the harvesters rather silly (and not the "good silly" kind, I'm afraid…) – that particular plot line wasn't very engaging (and Bill Bailey was bloody underused!). Also, the ending could've used a lot less schmaltz (not talking about the epilogue with the Ponds, of course, because that one was PERFECT). And my biggest gripe: HOW THE HELL COULD THE DOCTOR SURVIVE THE VACUUM OF THE SPACE FOR SO LONG, AND MANAGE TO PUT ON THE SUIT???!!! AAAAHHH DOESN'T MAKE SENSE!!! WHAT HAVE THE LAWS OF PHYSICS EVER DONE TO YOU, THAT YOU VIOLATED THEM SO BADLY???!!! GRRRR!!!! *grumblegrumble*

    On the other hand, the Doctor introducing the house to the Arwells was MAGICAL (I so want the Doctor to design my bedroom! <3 ), the forest was amazing, the Trees were gorgeous, and Matt Smith was brilliant. And the ending with the Ponds – oh my God, that was so sweet without being sugary (you know what I mean), genuinely touching and just perfect.

  11. Starsea28 says:

    I just want to point out this

    "Your coming was foretold. We had faith, your coming was foretold… We waited and you came."

    Hmmm, who else could this apply to?

    Oh, that's right: AMY AND RORY. XD

    Your coming was foretold – River told them he was alive.

    We had faith – the Ponds are faithful to the Doctor, they 'keep the faith'

    We waited, and you came. – well, DUH, their titles are The Boy Who Waited and The Girl Who Waited!

    I love Steven Moffat.

  12. Suzannezibar says:


    So…I never read Narnia as a child *ducks*. Blasphemous, I know, especially since I am so obsessed with things like LOTR, Harry Potter, Star Wars, etc…but by the time I got around to potentially reading it, I knew about all the Christian allegory and it turned me off to no end. Maybe I would enjoy it now as an adult…but, regardless, this means that so many of the references of this episode went over my head. Also regardless, I really enjoyed it!

    But I do also agree that something felt…off, I don't know why. I loved the kids, I loved the Doctor's playful interactions with them, I loved the world, and I thought the actress who played Madge was beautiful and heartbreaking all rolled into one. But even as this was a very emotionally charged story…the emotions felt displaced, somehow. Something I couldn't quite connect to on a gut level, and I don't know why that is.

    Until, of course, that last scene with Amy, Rory, and the Doctor. In which Amy SQUIRTS HIM WITH A SQUIRT GUN and tells the Doctor that they had set an extra place for him every Christmas. MY HEART.

    <img src=""&gt;

  13. The tower reminded me of the Water Tower on Margaret Island in Budapest.

    <img src="; height="50%" width="50%">

    <img src="; height="50%" width="50%">

    I'm not sure why. But it's this big tower among all the beautiful greenery, and I remember walking the winding steps to the top. Maybe it's just me.

  14. Partes says:

    Good Guy Doctor
    <img src=""&gt;
    Saw this on Reddit and had to post.

    This episode was great, but I can't deny that my favourite scene was almost straight at the start: showing the kids the room. Well, outside of the Ponds of course. But that's a given.

  15. Quizzical says:

    my firstborn has suddenly become the most passionate of whovians. it is overwhelming. i watched this one with her, though and agree with your thoughts.

    i also found it a little offputting that madge talked about her husband just stalking her basically, without any comment within the piece.

    otherwise delightful for the reasons you mention, yes. <3

    • msnaddie says:

      i also found it a little offputting that madge talked about her husband just stalking her basically, without any comment within the piece.

      Yeahhhh that kinda got an eyebrow raise from me as well.

      • Quizzical says:

        i ended up talking to the kids about. put it in context of the 'times' and how stalking wasn't really a known concept but how there are way better ways to express your feelings. also respect a boundary when someone draws it. jfc. /o\

        • msnaddie says:

          Kind of sad that we'd have to spell this out to kids – honestly I wouldn't have picked up on how wrong the whole concept was when I would read this sort of romance-by-stalking in books when I was younger if I wasn't "educated" about it by communities such as Mark Reads. That's how deeply ingrained the whole thing was in society nowadays, that I once thought it would be sort of romantic if it happened to me as well. *shudder*

  16. nextboy1 says:

    Where can I start the 'Madge for next companion' campaign?

    I really liked this episode, despite feeling that I shouldn't, if that makes any sense. It was all a bit easy and light (which says a lot for an episode about a grieving mother, and a lot of the emotion was signposted with BIG RED LETTERS AND SLUSHY MUSIC, but it was a fantastic slice of family entertainment, with some brilliant moments:

    “Everytime you see them happy, you remember how sad they’re going to be. And it breaks your heart. Because what’s the point of them being happy now, if they’re going to be sad later? The answer is, of course, because they’re going to be sad later.”

    as Mark quoted above, just beautiful, and Matt Smith's serious 11 is always magical. His zany I can take or leave sometimes, but man this was good. The ending was beautiful, and I'm really happy to think that this means we get more Ponds. They should probably never ever leave, right?

    I think the only reason not to be completely sold on the episode was that I'm completely hooked on finding out what happens next, and how everything will pan out into what will hopefully be an amazing 2013 50th anniversary, and one-off episodes like this obviosuly don't contribute much to that. Again though, this is part of the beauty of Doctor Who, it can be so many things at the same time.

    My s1-4 boxset arrived today, time to start again…

  17. Mary Sue says:

    Ohmigosh I forgot I couldn't read the last half or Season 6's Mark Watches because I hadn't seen them yet but now I have because my parents TiVoed them for me and NOW I SHOULD GO READ THOSE.

    (What reminded me? STORMAGEDDON. I am going to have a baby and name it that. Well, I might just borrow someone's baby and name it that while I'm babysitting. Well, I might just refer to all babies I see from now on as Stormageddon. ANYWAY off to buy the yarn for my 4th Doctor scarf.)

  18. Pan says:

    The day I've discovered that there is LEGO for 16yrs/o was one of the best in my life.

    "Plus, when I was a child and I read the Narnia books, I did not pick up on a single Christian theme at all."
    Thank you. Me neither.
    I've read these books more than a decade ago and I don't remember much of them. The only scene that is still vividly present is Aslan's sacrifice. The denial of reality I went through, when everything just got worse and no plausible solution was left to save anyone. Because… books don't end in "Oh, yeah, and then, the Evil Forces won." RIGHT?! Right. Aslan came back to life because he could. Also *~magic~*. I buried the books in the darkest and loneliest corner in our house to punish them for intellectually insulting me. How on earth could anyone expect me – or anyone else – to believe this?!
    Years later, I read about the christian stuff and felt stupid for not having seen it myself. Nevertheless, I left the books in their dark grave, because if there's anything I like even less than kidding me, it's proselytization.

  19. Ronni says:

    LEGOs for the win! I just dropped $ on some today for my son's birthday! 😀

    I really enjoyed this episode. It was a nice, feel good holiday episode. And yes, the rooms the Doctor built. And him planning that huge present. I just think of him doing that and I want to hug his neck.

    This is my favorite Christmas special because EVERYBODY LIVES. That rarely happens on this show!

  20. Elexus Calcearius says:

    This was a nice episode! Not my favourite episode, not even my favourite DW Christmas special by far, but…y'know. Still sweet.

    I love how its all centered around giving. The Doctor wants to repay and give a gift to Marge. Marge wants to give her Children the best Christmas ever, even though her heart is breaking. In the end, she gives the gift of life to the entire forest, as well as her husband. I know what you mean, Mark, about Christmas genuinely getting overshadowed by the gift thing, but I feel that despite the Doctor's rather ridiculous presents (BEST CARETAKER EVER), the heart of the episode was family and love.

    There were some…odd stuff. I can't even put my finger on what, exactly. Maybe my annoyance that women were essential to carry the pod, despite the fact that trees are both male and female, but I recognise that was just a way to get the mother carrying the ship instead of the little boy. Maybe it did feel short, or scenes seemed cut. IDK. It was weird, but since I can't formulate why, I'll just enjoy it for what its worth.

    Also, that end scene with Amy and Rory? JOY forever. I really want to read a fanfic with them celebrating Chirtmas.

    • chikzdigmohawkz says:

      Maybe my annoyance that women were essential to carry the pod, despite the fact that trees are both male and female, but I recognise that was just a way to get the mother carrying the ship instead of the little boy.

      I get the feeling that Moffat wanted to use the term 'mothership' and then just reverse engineered an explanation from there. I did side eye him a bit during that explanation, but on the other hand, it was nice to have the female as the 'strong' one for once.

      • @RebelKels says:

        Yeah, the 'mothership' explanation did seem kind of weird and convoluted and shoehorned in. It just left a bad flavour in my mouth. And any points he got for having the women as the 'strong' ones were kind of undone by the jabs at Madge's driving ("Well done Madge, a complete write-off" WELL EXCUSE ME MR DRIVES WITH THE HANDBRAKE ON AND CAN'T NAVIGATE FOR SHIT THOSE WOMEN DRIVERS AMIRITE) and the use of the 'we got married because he was stalking me, isn't it romantic' trope.

        THAT SAID, I forgive a lot because MADGE ARWELL YOU ARE AWESOME. She was so merrily unflappable and then the actor really knocked it out of the park on the intense scenes. "Don't make me watch him die, I can't watch him die!"

        I'm even cool with the happily ever after ending because that shot of the plane following the TARDIS through the time vortex was so beautiful I thought my chest was going to explode.

        • @thejayeless says:

          omg, the "he stalked me until I married him isn't that romantic" trope pissed me off so badly. It's the kind of thing I'd hope that it would be obvious it's bad, but (some) fiction seems intent on legitimising it, and it's like whyyyyyyy. Unwelcome in my <cite>Doctor Who</cite> 🙁

          And the mothership stuff just felt very awkward and crowbarred-in and… not compensatory for that earlier stuff at all.

          But overall, I guess I just took the episode as light, fluffy entertainment and I don't really dislike it. Just the stalking part. I liked Madge and her children, and any scenes of Eleven interacting with children are just love, so the episode had plenty of redeeming features!

  21. amyalices says:

    I was another one who felt the main episode was somewhat off-kilter – still good, but missing something (and I'm sorry, but everyone in the room saw saving the Dad and his plane from miles off) – but, oh, that ending scene. My heart!

    I do think Amy and Rory are growing into the parenting thing in their own way, and as a massive fan of atypical or found/adopted families, I'd love to see that dealt with and brought into the mix more often. If Moffat can restrain himself from throwing every single family-member-archetype (particularly mother-daughter ones) into the mix, that is. Subvert that shit, guys! I promise it's fun!

  22. While I'm going to agree with others that I liked last year's Christmas special better, this one did warm my heart and make me tear up and put me to bed contented. But yeah, something was definitely missing. I don't know if we're just so used to Moffat cramming everything and the kitchen sink into his episodes at this point, or if it was the pacing of the thing, or what, but it definitely seemed off. I can't believe the harvesters played such a small part. I loved their comedy bit, but wasn't expecting them to beam out so early! I would've thought they would have been more caught up in the situation and have to think twice about how they make a living, but I guess not? I also don't think the acid rain was threatening enough. I know in 12 minutes you can do a lot, take a bath etc- but whereas in the Big Bang I felt that ticking clock, here with less than half the time the danger didn't really… loom, you know?

    I loved the beginning and the end and OMG the Doctor crying with happiness I die– the middle was a little undercooked, you might say?

    And just one more thing because it's REALLY bothering me: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE OTHER GUYS IN THE PLANE. Couldn't they have thrown them in the background somewhere? Made a reference to them in the dialogue? It's driving me nuts!

    • Hotaru_hime says:

      OMG the guys in the plane! The fact that the children didn't grow at all in three years! Those were the things I really picked at.

  23. Rayne says:

    I LOVE that Amy and Rory's door is painted TARDIS blue!

  24. Chelsey says:

    Those last five minutes turned me into a bawl of D'AWWWWW. Their shifty eyes! That hug! The water pistol!!!


  25. Leenie says:

    Out of curiosity, what is the heinous thing that Orson Scott Card thought/did?

  26. notemily says:

    I was raised with secular Christmas, so I never had any righteous Atheist fury about it or anything. To me it always meant presents, pretty lights, family, good food, pretty music, pine trees, togetherness. We always just kind of ignored the whole Jesus aspect (although I do really like religious Christmas carols).

    In the past few years it's become kind of a stressful thing, with "family togetherness" turning into "family bickering" a good portion of the time. The worst was the year my sister was angry at the entire family, and she got us all… reusable polyester shopping bags. This year was nice, though. I made a conscious effort to NOT let myself stress too much, and I figured, even if it was awful, it'd be over in a few days. And it was actually kind of nice. Plus, my baby niece had her first Christmas this year, and she's adorable and it was lovely to have her around.

    Also, this year is the first time I've ever watched Doctor Who as it was airing! My parents have BBCAmerica, the lucky bastards. I even managed to convince my mom to watch it with me, AND SHE LIKED IT. She was delighted with Eleven and how he ran around saying "I KNOW" all the time. Maybe I'll make a fan out of her yet. One of us! One of us!

    Eleven is the best Christmas doctor, I think, because he's basically Santa and a little kid at the same time. Ten's Christmas specials were OK, but not really filled with Christmas spirit the way Eleven's are.

    One thing that totally cracked me up is when the Doctor says he "recognizes the driving" and you can see that the tower the Doctor and the kids are trapped in resembles the pole that Madge drove into at the beginning of the episode. Those little visual touches kill me.

    “Everytime you see them happy, you remember how sad they’re going to be. And it breaks your heart. Because what’s the point of them being happy now, if they’re going to be sad later? The answer is, of course, because they’re going to be sad later.” I think this is the moment that sold my mom on the show. What a great line.

    Someone in the liveblog comments pointed out that the episode jumps forward three years and the kids don't age at all, and I didn't notice that at all at first but now I CANNOT UNSEE. ALSO, what happened to the dudes in the back of the plane? HOW WAS THEIR CHRISTMAS?

    All in all I think I liked "A Christmas Carol" slightly better, but this one was still fun. And AMY AND RORY OMG. I can't believe the Doctor actually willingly went somewhere to spend time with people who love him on Christmas. Character development! And he cries happy tears because he's humany wumany just like all of us T_T

    • arctic_hare says:

      Eleven is the best Christmas doctor, I think, because he's basically Santa and a little kid at the same time. Ten's Christmas specials were OK, but not really filled with Christmas spirit the way Eleven's are.


  27. Karen says:

    So this post made me finally get around to watching this Doctor Who Christmas special because my Christmas Day was consumed by watching and obsessing over a DIFFERENT show's Christmas special (WHICH I AM STILL NOT OVER BTW).

    So here are my thoughts: Mostly this episode was just boring. The opening was pretty LOL WUT WITH THE DOCTOR FALLING THROUGH SPACE AND NOT BURNING UP IN THE EARTH'S ATMOSPHERE AND PUTTING ON THE SPACESUIT AND IDEK. What WAS that opening scene even? I guess it looked cool, but surely Moffat could have come up with another way to have Madge help the Doctor and also not see his face (although why did the Doctor never adjust the helmet all the way through that first meeting? idgi.)

    I didn't believe for a hot second that the dad would be dead. I mean this IS Steven "Everybody Lives" Moffat and it IS Christmas, so of course the dad is saved in the end. So, fare thee well dramatic tension! Which, I understand that we always know the Doctor is going to save the Earth or whatever. But there's a difference between that and trying to hang all these emotional moments with kids losing their dad when we know that it is never going to happen.

    Can we talk about how weird it was that the point of this episode is that a woman is "strong" due to her ability to carry children? That's just… weird. IDEK. Like great. I'd like to think that there is more about me that makes me strong than the ability to bear children. But um, whatever you say Moffat. The part where Madge's husband stalked her until he agreed to marry her made me lol about bit because of the episode of Buffy Mark watched earlier this week where Buffy says to Angel, "You know, being stalked isn’t a big turn on for girls ".

    Good on Madge for making sure the Doctor told the Ponds he wasn't dead because yes, that was a dumbass plot point. WHAT IS THE POINT OF LETTING AMY AND RORY THINK THAT YOU ARE DEAD, ELEVEN, YOU COLLOSSAL ASSHOLE? No. Seriously. Do you think they are going to run and tell the Silence or…? IDGI. UGH. Which leads me to the one thing I can say I flat out enjoyed was Eleven going to see Amy and Rory. Yay for familiar faces! And Amy was super cute with her water pistol so that was nice and all. But yeah, I'd put this Christmas special above last years, but slightly below The Next Doctor (and all the other Christmas specials. #Team Runaway Bride!)

    • notemily says:

      I think the Doctor couldn't adjust the helmet because the suit was still healing him and so it was "locked" or something? I dunno.

    • vermillioncity says:

      Can we talk about how weird it was that the point of this episode is that a woman is "strong" due to her ability to carry children? That's just… weird.

      THANK YOU FOR SAYING THIS. I've been waiting for someone to say this and I thought probably Mark's site was my best bet, but this BOTHERED ME. A LOT. And I thought I might be being oversensitive about it. But, um, can we talk about women who can't have children? Would they be able to fly the ship home, or am I supposed to believe that they don't have that inherent Woman Strength? And what about transwomen? What if a woman just DOESN'T WANT to have children, does she still count?


      • Starsea28 says:

        Lily was able to wear the crown and I don't think she was meant to have gone through puberty yet. Simply the fact that women have the ability to carry life (even if they don't CHOOSE to). As someone who doesn't really want kids yet (if ever), I was not offended by this at all, and neither were my child-hating female friends.

        • Genny_ says:

          Okay, but what about the women who CAN'T carry life? What about the people who can *who aren't women*? I have friends that are women who *can't* have kids (it's not always a choice!). I'm genderqueer and I can.

          It's like… they're not saying, 'having kids is a strong thing many women do'. They're saying, 'women are strong BECAUSE they have children' and nothing else is even brought into it- the only thing that is said to make Madge stronger than her female child is, er, the fact she's old enough to actually get pregnant. That is so so so gross.

          When women have historically been valued on their ability to have kids, and women who *can't* have historically been insulted for it, making a grand point about women being strong because they can have kids is… not good.

          • Karen says:

            THIS THIS THIS. Moffat has issues with his female characters being either "wives, mothers or lovers". I don't think he hates women or yearns for the good old days when women didn't work outside the home, but he has some major issues when it comes to writing women (especially when it comes to gender relations).

          • notemily says:

            the fact she's old enough to actually get pregnant

            I just thought it was that she was already a mother, and so had the "mama bear" strength that they were looking for. Calling back to earlier in the episode, when she said "I'm looking for my children" after they asked her what could possibly make her use the gun. Maybe an adoptive mom would have the same "strength," but who knows.

            • Genny_ says:

              They made all these comments about 'nature' and 'carrying life' that make me really doubt that. And if it was that, then why would it specifically be *mothers* (as opposed to parents)?

              And I swear Lily's age was actually brought up. I'd have to check, though.

              Editing to elaborate because I don't think I explained myself well- if it's *nature* recognising a woman's ability to have/create/nurture for life… well, either way it's going to be very gender essentialist, but I'm really thinking that implies something about, well, biology.

        • Karen says:

          Yes, But Lily wasn't able to actually hold all the souls yet because she was too young because she hadn't gone through puberty and thus didn't have the ability to bear children yet. Therefore women are only strong if they can have kids.

          SORRY ALL YOU WOMEN OUT THERE WHO STRUGGLE WITH INFERTILITY AND ALL YOU TRANS WOMEN OUT THERE. I guess you guys can just try to pump iron or something and hope that makes you strong. Probably not though. Women are only as good as their uteruses. 🙁

          (P.S. the above was heavily sarcastic. Just in case that was not abundantly clear.)

      • Karen says:

        I was surprised that no one had brought it up in the comments yet when I made mine. I GUESS I AM JUST THE RESIDENT MOFFAT BUZZKILL.

        It's really funny because I get the feeling that Moffat is aware of the criticisms of his work as being sexist and I felt like this was his attempt to answer that (see: the scene where the Doctor is all "women are strong! men are weak!"), but no. Just… no. That is not how it is done. Reducing the worth of women to their ability to bear children is NOT how you defeat sexism.

        • tardis_stowaway says:

          I get the feeling that Moffat is aware of the criticisms of his work as being sexist and I felt like this was his attempt to answer that (see: the scene where the Doctor is all "women are strong! men are weak!"), but no. Just… no. That is not how it is done. Reducing the worth of women to their ability to bear children is NOT how you defeat sexism.

          THIS. Having a character say women are strong doesn't undo all the times Moffat has written women as maybe not weak but definitely limited to certain roles. Stating that women are strong because they can bear children just makes this another item on the list of evidence for Moffat's problematic treatment of women.

    • Genny_ says:

      YES. YES. YES. To the 'children' thing. On the one hand, it's true that traditionally feminine/female skills/abilities like childbirth are rarely held up as 'strong', and I have no problem celebrating them as such. On the other hand… calling women strong *specifically because* they can have kids, with no particular distinction outside that- that isn't celebrating the many women over the years who have been strong and borne children, that's implicitly saying women are *worthless* without them.

      Not even mentioning the cissexism involved.

      • Karen says:

        YEP. I mean, celebrating motherhood is GREAT! It really is. But when the script says explicitly that the REASON that women are strong is their ability to bear kids… Um… No thank you.

        As you said, there's a lot of cissexism in that,. I mean, I don't think Moffat is trying to be offensive. I get the impression he was trying really hard to be pro-women with this episode. But he really is incredibly privileged as a straight, white guy, and I just think he doesn't see his privileges at all and thus the fact that the idea that women are only as good as their uteruses could be hurtful to trans women wouldn't even occur to him.

        • Genny_ says:

          Oh, I definitely don't think he's *trying* to be offensive- quite the opposite. But I think that as someone who doesn't actually experience all this stuff… it's kind of like he'd have gleaned stuff from second hand sources, and therefore didn't understand the whole story. And I think he'd probably figure that was enough, when it's not. 😐

          • arctic_hare says:

            Yeah, I can see what he was trying to do, and I can see some positives in celebrating motherhood and femininity, even if I don't myself desire children, but… yeaaaaaaaaaaaaah, it just came out as a bit of a mess. I meant to say something about it in my own comment, but I was frazzled and unprepared and it ended up on the cutting room floor by accident. 😐 I enjoyed the special, but side-eyed that bit.

  28. Lady X says:

    I think it’s so interesting that mostly everyone here read the Narnia books without being aware of all the Christian themes, because being raised with a very, very religious mother and going to a Christian school these books were pushed sooo much. But the thing is none of that matters because they are absolutely wonderful books and I loved every bit of them. Well, except for the Last Battle. Anywho, MATT SMITH. And water guns. This probaly was my 2nd favorite christmas special out of New Who, which makes me feel kinda like a horrible person because it was still SO GOOD. I wasn’t expecting to be as good as last years’ because ya know…flying fish. But what I really liked about it was how pretty it looked. Can’t every episode of DW look so pristine and snowy? I really liked Madge as a character and I felt myself caring for her and the kids more than I usually do in a Moffat episode. Also, the piloting through the vortex was awesome and all, but they were looking into the vortex since there was windows so shouldn’t everyone go all Bad Wolfy? But then there was that ending that left me not caring what had actually happened in the episode because MY CREYS.

    • arctic_hare says:


      • Karen says:

        I actually like Lewis and Narnia, but LOL I AGREE.


        • arctic_hare says:

          RIGHT??? I had enjoyed pretty much everything up to that point and then it was all "WHAT. NO. I DID NOT SIGN UP FOR BAD END!"

    • notemily says:

      They didn't look into the HEART of the time vortex? OR SOMETHING? I dunno.

    • Karen says:

      I was aware of all the Christian themes too when I read the Narnia books as a kid. I was raise din a Christian home and went to a Christian school and idk. It was pretty obvious to me. And I too loved all of them except The Last Battle. STILL BITTER ABOUT THAT.

      Idk. I think Lewis has some shady theology and it comes through in the Narnia books occasionally. But generally I'm not as bothered by Lewis as others here because I'm still a practicing Christian. I hadn't actually read Mere Christianity, but I did read a collections of essays and lectures that Lewis gave a while back and there were a couple of things in there that made me raise an eyebrow. But there were other things in there were Lewis just so eloquently expresses an aspect of Christianity that I kind of forgive him for a lot of things.

      • lula34 says:

        Practicing Christian here, too–just wanted to ask what essays/lectures you've read that raised your eyebrows, 'cause I love constantly learning about stuff like this. I've only read Mere Christianity, Till We Have Faces (which I love), and the Narnia books. (And like you, The Last Battle still has me shouting, "WHAT. NAY." ) I actually have a degree in religion–Biblical studies, to be precise. However, in this day and age I have to preface my educational background with, "Leave your homophobic and racist crap at the door because I AM NOT THE ONE." Anyway, hope you don't mind me asking.

        Also–Mark, I'm glad I'm not the only one who is obviously NOT jumping for joy over the movie adaptation of Ender's Game. Orson Scott Card does NOTHING for me. I mean…no. Just…no.

        • Karen says:

          I'm a pacifist, so there's a lecture of his about just war theory that I'm just like "…no". And some of Lewis's theology in Narnia is a bit sketchy. But Lewis never claimed to be a theologian, so… The collection of addresses I read was… which does have some really beautiful essays in it. And yeessss Till We Have Faces is SO GOOD. And I've heard good things about the Space Trilogy (well the last two books, I've heard the first one is pretty meh).

  29. msnaddie says:

    I really liked the episode, although it's not my favourite.

    My favourite part were the soldiers though.

  30. arctic_hare says:

    ARGH, how did I miss that this went up today!?

    I have pretty much the same issues with Lewis that you, Mark. Granted, I haven't read Mere Christianity, but the quotes I've seen from it are enough to convince me to not ever go near it. Likewise, knowing what I do about Orson Scott Card, Lovecraft, and Joseph Conrad have made me actively choose not to read anything they've done. Also not so fond of Metallica, blech. But… at the same time, I too still like the world he created, and certain books in the series (if I ignore the religious stuff, which granted comes easiest with Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I can just stop reading before the nonsense at the end and enjoy ~high seas hijinx~ till then), and the references here just work because the specific book Moffat is referencing is so Christmassy. Which – yeah, I've found things to enjoy about the holiday even as an athiest too. Mostly food, and pine smell, and some favorite songs/movies (like, I have to watch the Rankin-Bass Rudolph every year because MY CHILDHOOD). So we are pretty much on the same page here, Mark.

    We're pretty much on the same page about the special, too. The pacing was off, and the plot felt a little short, but – you know, I loved it anyway. I have no idea what my favorite Christmas special is, but it's either this one or last year's. This one had so many wonderful moments, like Eleven showing them around the house, MADGE IS JUST FREAKING AWESOME, I got to squee at the trees being ANDROZANI TREES, the Harvest Rangers were really funny, I liked the king and queen, the robot was cool, THAT ENDING… etc. etc. I was especially struck by Madge begging to not have to see her husband die, that was heartbreaking, great acting from her. I loved Eleven's line that you quoted there, too. And again, that ending. Oh, Amy. Oh, Eleven.

    I saw it pointed out somewhere how much of a contrast this special is to "The Next Doctor" in one aspect, and it made me appreciate this one even more. Back then, Ten was all alone, and when asked why he was alone bemoaned how companions leave him, or forget him, and in the end break his heart, and all Jackson Lake could do was make him stay with him for Christmas dinner. Here, Madge – the one who actually saved the day this time around – got him to go back to his own family (lol he IS their son-in-law!) and make them happy. So he does. I think when looked at in that light, it's a very natural progression from the arc we saw this season that concluded in The Wedding of River Song. The warrior Doctor has been laid to rest; and from the ashes of that persona arises the Caretaker Doctor. Someone who heals. Healing is exactly what he does in this special: he tries so hard with the house, and the presents, and helps Madge and her family, and makes Amy and Rory happy by coming to see them. He's learning, and growing, into a more emotionally mature person. Remember in Amy's Choice, the words of the Dream Lord? How he sneered at the Doctor's use of the word "friends" and said that his friends never hear from him after they "grow up"? At this point, the Doctor has given up Amy and Rory as companions due to the danger he feels he poses to them, yet here he is on their doorstep, coming to Christmas dinner for them, because they shouldn't be alone. They are hearing from him after he's left them. To top it off, he's actually shedding tears of happiness, another moment that brought me to tears (there were quite a few near the end of the special). This episode may not have had the deepest of plotlines, but it nevertheless leaves me intrigued and excited for seeing where the Doctor will go next on his personal journey during the next season.

    • t09yavosaur says:

      "if I ignore the religious stuff, which granted comes easiest with Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I can just stop reading before the nonsense at the end and enjoy ~high seas hijinx~ till then"

      It dissappoints me that that one is the most preachy of the movies so far.

      I like the idea of the Warrior Doctor being replaced by the Healer but I know that won't be completely happening yet as we still haven't reached the Gamma Forest (if we are ever going to get that). I just hope that we don't have to much drastic flip-floping between the two.

      • arctic_hare says:

        Really? Ugh. Though, I'm not that surprised, I heard the movie wasn't that good, so I've stayed away from it. Disappointing, since I generally liked the first two (and am sad there will probably never be a Magician's Nephew movie, I wanted that one just for MOAR JADIS and CHARN, REALM OF CREEPY).

        • t09yavosaur says:

          Basically it is your generic kids movie blunder. The messages are good for kids and straight from the books (Everyone is pretty in their own way, stealing gets you dragonified. etc.) but they are incorporated in with the swashbuckling adventure in such a way that things seemed…off.

          It doesn't help that I could identify each deadly sin seperatly as it was covered; but the swashbuckling and special effects were pretty cool besides all that. If I shut off the analyst in my head it could be an ok kids movie.

  31. DaveTheAnalyzer says:

    Now I feel really silly for not expecting the Dad to return.

    I agree, Mark, i felt this episode was missing something. it felt kind of shallow, like reaching into a pond and finding it's not very deep! *no pun intended*

    I thought Madge looked so young in the trailers, but now i saw the episode, she looks older, but there's something about her that makes her look young.

    The part of me that's facinated about life wonders how the tree spirits and the wooden King and Queen worker. That's part of what I like about Who, offering possibilities about life that I haven't thought about.

    I wish the husband was given a annoying but endearing trait that drew Madge to him that wasn't stalking.

    The son looked a bit much like my younger brother (Not little brother since he's taller than me), which is weird.

    I liked Lily.

    Since there would be no new episodes until Autumn, maybe you can occupy yourself with some other Who-related stuff in the meantime. Like Sarah Jane Adventures. *nudge* *nudge* *wink* *wink*

  32. masakochan says:

    Completely late to the party, even though I don't have that many thoughts on the special besides the last five minutes which can pretty much be summed by: POOOOOOOOOONDS, I'VE MISSED YOU. brb tearing up because of Eleven being happy.

    I'm going to forever love whoever came up with the tag on tumblr that said something like: #River is in the back of the house going "Mum, you know you can borrow my plasma gun if you want to! :D"


  33. Darren F says:

    Hello everyone, my name is Darren, long time lurker, first time poster. You know it's Christmas, here in New Zealand, when you turn on the TV, and there is a Tim Allen movie on…all of them. Therefore, what has become a Boxing Day tradition for me, is to get up early in the morning and stream the Doctor Who Christmas Special live from the UK…because new Who's, nu-who, takes its time getting to our screens.

    I was going to post this in "The Wedding of River Song" topic, but I'm glad I'm the man who waited, because this year's Christmas episode illustrates more clearly, what I think Moffat's grand plan could be. So since there is a bit of a vacuum now, before we get anymore new Who, I thought I'd share with you some random musings.

    The best way to look at this "grand plan" is to put front and centre, the speech. The Speech.

    "People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non linear, non-subjective viewpoint- it's more like a big ball of wibbly, wobbly…time-y wimey…stuff."

    Watching a single episode of Moffat's Who for me is like playing a slot machine that pays out in jigsaw pieces. As each piece comes out, you look at the pattern and begin to group them in piles, as you would in solving an actual puzzle. You look for the corner pieces (And I hope to Moffat that this puzzle only has four corners) and you look for reoccurring ideas, themes and motives.

    I have now reached a stage where I'm beginning to put those pieces on the board, creating the overall picture. I'm not going to pretend that my picture is going to match Moffats…I'll be happy if I'm 50% correct. But I do get the impression that a lot of these jigsaw pieces are being missed by a lot of people.

    So before I get stuck into "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe", I am going to give you a riddle to demonstrate the level that Moffat may be operating on.

    Aside from their shape, what do the following have in common?

    A Home-Box
    A Hypercube
    George's cupboard
    A Pandorica
    A box containing a wedding ring
    A Rubik's Cube
    And a diary

    Answer to follow.

    Thank you Mark, season's greetings everybody.

    I'll catch you, in a bit

    • Mandi says:

      A place you put a secret/scary thing?

    • sporkaganza93 says:

      They're all cuboid-shaped?

      • Darren F says:

        Darren here again…happy new year.

        Answer to the riddle.

        They are all physical, tangible representations of memory.

        A Home-Box- carrying the memory of River Song on the Byzantium
        A Hypercube- carrying the memories of a lost family and a lost home
        George's Cupboard- containing the fears (memories) of imagined monsters that happen to be real
        A Pandorica- containing a remnant of the universe that was
        A box containing a wedding ring- carrying the memory of a forgotten Rory
        A Rubik's Cube- a memory game, shown once unsolved, then solved
        A diary- containing the shared memories of the Doctor and River. It was also TARDIS blue.

        I can add in a few more examples;
        An apple with a smiley face
        A Fez and a Mop
        A distaste for the taste of wine

        Memory is one of the obvious and strongest theme in Moffat's Who. The Silence hide their presence in peoples memories. The Doctor's superpower is, really his memory (Or, should that be, used to be his superpower. Hint)
        The "roving eye" in "The Eleventh Hour" was a memory recall technique the Doctor applied, to find Rory using his cell phone. The Doctor is always talking to Amy about her memories; her memories bring back her family and the Doctor in "The Big Bang". Madge uses her memories to navigate the mother ship through the time vortex. Foreknowledge is only a memory you have not experienced yet, but someone else has (Blink). The list goes on and on; false memories, suppressed memories, lost memories, stolen memories (Baby Melody), conflicting memories. Memory is a major corner piece in the jigsaw puzzle.

        For me, when I watch an arc heavy storyline whether it was Buffy, Babylon 5 or currently, Fringe; I would go in with a certain mindset. i.e. Expecting the expected, while watching out for the unexpected. When the unexpected happens…that is usually, but not always, the arc narrative appearing.

        Unfortunately for me, I have come to realise that Moffat has hidden his narrative in the "Expected Part".

        I had a few advance spoilers for "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe", (I'm a creature of habit) so I wasn't surprised when certain loved characters turned up. But, boy was I still floored by Moffat's …deliberate ridiculousness in this episode. (Another Hint)

        So, I'll be back with my breakdown of "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe", I promise, and be gentle.

        I'll catch you in a bit.

        • Darren F says:

          Sorry I'm a bit late…but if I was to write down everything that I saw from this episode, I would still be writing.

          So I'm going to do it like this…

          The Doctor arrives in the TARDIS where he is supposed to be, Christmas Eve, 1938 in an English village, when something unexpected happens…again
          So what he does, and what he always does, is rope in another innocent bystander into his adventure…and this bystander, I'll call him Rege Arwell. What follows is a lot of running, explosions and an ingenious plot twist. Then the Doctor tells Rege "I can take it from here. You take the TARDIS back home and I'll blow their ship up. By the way, can you bury that thing in your back garden."
          Rege replys "What if they come back? What if I get into trouble?"
          "Make a wish" says the Doctor with a smile

          Then everything pans out as it does in the beginning. The Doctor lines up his re-entry so he can land near where he parked the TARDIS. Not perfectly for obvious reasons. Then he meets Madge…and not willing to ignore a coincidence, and because he likes to keep score, looks up the Arwell family later in the records. And to his great sadness he sees that Rege dies getting lost over the channel three years later. That's not a happy ending.

          So the Doctor decides, OK it worked at last years Christmas, I'm going to guide Rege home. But this is the important bit. The TARDIS won't let him. I'm sure the Doctor tried and tried, but he could not get the TARDIS
          to go where he wanted her to. So the Doctor says fine, take me to the safest place in the universe if you think its too dangerous for me to save the Arwell family. The TARDIS takes the Doctor to the Planet of Trees. The Doctor does a bit of research, and sees the planet is destroyed ten thousand years in the future. So the Doctor hatches a plan, if the TARDIS won't let me save Rege, I'll find another way to do it without her.

          This is my take. I wondered why the Doctor didn't just fly the TARDIS and guide Rege home. The obvious reason is, because he couldn't. I think this has implications beyond this episode, if the Doctor is not entirely in control of his destiny, like he said he can't feel it any more…what the hell is going on?

          More in a bit.

  34. ladililn says:

    Oh god, you all, these three characters bring out so many feels in me that it terrifies me sometimes.

    My feelings exactly, Mark. My feelings exactly. <3

  35. TCJ says:

    Hooray!!!! Thanks for the review Mark!!!

  36. Genny_ says:

    The only thing I really liked was… the end, to be honest.

    A few giggles, a few smiles, but- everything else was painfully forced, horribly gender essentialist (look, Moffat, you mean well and I get what you're trying to do, but less of the FROM WOMAN ALONE SPRINGS LIFE bullshit, okay?), and also there was the creepy mention that her husband had been *her stalker*.

    And maybe I could have enjoyed it anyway, but the rest is just… nondescript in my mind, tbh. Stuff happened. The pacing kinda sucked. That's about all I took away from it. Oh, that and 'huh, Bill Bailey'.

    Ugh, it makes me so sad to be saying all this :

    • Karen says:

      MTE. I liked Amy with a water pistol, but other than that, I was either bored or thinking, "SERIOUSLY, MOFFAT? SERIOUSLY?????????"

  37. Murray Johnson says:

    The only thing that bothered me in the episode was, What happened to the other 2 guys on the plane? Wasn't one of the severely injured and dying? Shouldn't the first concern be getting him to a hospital not having Christmas dinner? Or did the trip through the Time Vortex change that? I NEED TO KNOW! It is making me CRAZY!!!!

    Madge unlocks the Tardis with a bobby pin!! !!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    OMG! how much do I LOVE Droxil, Ven-Garr and Billis! I want to be on their crew!!!!!

    Droxil: Ma'am, please stop crying. I can't interrogate you while you're crying. This is a military engagement! There's no crying in military engagements."

    Billis: Um, sir, uh, with regret. I'm going to have to lower my gun.
    Droxil: Why?
    Billis: She is a crying, unarmed, female civilian. I'm thinking of the visual.
    Droxil: Nobody's looking.
    Billis: Doesn't mean there's no visual.
    Droxil: That's exactly what "nobody's looking" means. It means there's no visual!

    Ven-Garr: Sorry, sir, she's wearing wool, sir. Natural fabrics, they interfere with…
    Droxil: Please say we can tell the difference between wool and sidearms
    Ven-Garr: We can tell the difference, sir.
    Droxil: Can we?
    Ven-Garr: Not always, sir, no.

  38. tardis_stowaway says:

    I have a number of problems with Moffat as a showrunner, but one thing I like about him is that he seems to appreciate the Christmas spirit. RTD's Christmas specials tended to be major angst fests, filled with snow made of the ashes of dead aliens. I think he may have some bitter atheist issues with the holiday. Moffat gives us things like flying sharks and Narnia for Christmas. Even when I don't think the episode is especially fantastic, it's much more what I want to watch this time of year. This year's Christmas special was pretty lightweight and has some problems (saying that women are strong because they can bear children is not a "get out of all past and future accusations of sexism free" card, Moffat), but it was pretty to look at and filled me with happy emotions. PONDS!

    There are LotR spoilers in the following rot-13'd comment, so anyone reading along with Mark had best avoid: Jura V fnj gur sberfg dhrra, nyy V pbhyq guvax jnf "Ybbx! Jr sbhaq na Ragjvsr!"

    • hymnia says:

      "Jura V fnj gur sberfg dhrra, nyy V pbhyq guvax jnf "Ybbx! Jr sbhaq na Ragjvsr!" "

      Yep, my thoughts exactly.

  39. alan says:

    Oh god that last scene with the Ponds though

  40. lula34 says:

    The final 5 minutes of this episode, OF COURSE.

    But before that, we had Cyril. Bless you, Steven Moffat, and the casting department of Doctor Who. That beautiful child was a fantastical combination of Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley. In an episode of Who. In a Narnia-like setting. On Christmas evening. With Eleventy at the helm. PERFECTION.

    When the episode ended, my husband and I had tears in our eyes and enormous smiles on our faces. That's what Christmas is all about, Doctor Who.

  41. Joeldi says:

    Just a note, Mark. Doctor Who is intended to be shown commercial free. There are no commercial breaks on BBC1 because it's tax-payer funded.

  42. Didgy says:

    Bit late here, but I've got some thoughts I want to share.

    I'm not really annoyed by the first scene, just because I thought it was so terrible that it was hilarious. I was literally roaring with laughter.

    The 'women are strong, men are weak' bit, I just found patronising. As a woman, it just seemed to me like Moffat was trying to find an easy way of appeasing sexism accusations.

    Alexander Armstrong as a WWII pilot just felt like an in-joke for the BBC, Bill Bailey was great but it felt like the whole character was created in order to give Bill Bailey some funny lines, and Claire Skinner had some wonderful moments, but some of her lines felt a bit clunky – which could well be the script not her. Also, Claire Skinner in a lead role meant that I kept expecting Karen and Ben to turn up and be awesome.

    Despite all this, I really did like the episode – I just feel like it could have been better. Except for the last 5 mins. Those were perfection :') Mind you even then (spoilers rot13ed – related to things Moffat has said in interviews) Zbssng unf gb or n gebyy. V jnf pelvat jvgu unccvarff naq gura erzrzorevat jung ur fnvq nobhg n gentvp raq sbe gur Cbaqf :'( Npghnyyl, gung'f fbzrguvat gung V'z dhvgr areibhf nobhg, whfg va gung gurl unq fhpu n ornhgvshy naq fngvfslvat 'qrcnegher' va GTP gung gurl zvtug abg chyy vg bss nf jryy ntnva. Nu jryy..V'yy or gbb ohfl pelvat gb abgvpr

  43. freetheradicals says:

    My mom gave my husband and I legos this year. It was fantastic! I could not help but play with them, and ended up building a little TARDIS while watching the Christmas special.

    Incidentally, my parents had never seen any Doctor Who, but they watched this with us, and really enjoyed it, though we had to keep explaining things and references.

    Because we watched it on TV, there was a special on afterwards about the previous Christmas episodes that we watched a bit of. There were a lot of clips from "The Runaway Bride." My mom decided that she liked Matt Smith's Doctor better than Tennant's, because "Smith seems like a pleasant if eccentric man, but Tennant just makes strange faces all the time." I tried to explain that this was half of Tennant's charm, but I suppose I should just show her some of seasons 2-4 so that she will understand.

    I enjoyed this special a lot, but I found that I was distracted, because I kept expecting Moffat to end the episode with tragedy.

  44. Ahavah says:

    I tried to read “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” in high school, but when I got to the part when *Santa Claus* showed up and refused to give the girl a sword because “girls shouldn’t fight,” or some such nonsense, I put it down. Ugh. There are some things an Orthodox Jewish girl (who considers herself a feminist) should not read. ;P

    Annnnyway, I *loved* Madge, and thought her quirky, lovable, unpredictable nature matched Eleven’s well, especially in the first scenes between them:

    1. She didn’t bat an eyelash when she found the Doctor, and the way she described the situation to her son was perfect! “Maybe he’s a spaceman, or an angel, or both!” LOL!

    2. The way she drives can be compared to the way the Doctor drives the TARDIS~not perfectly, that’s for sure.

    3. Her desire to deny a negative reality bothered me at first (“Don’t read about the war, it might really happen!”) But the Doctor sometimes acts the same way about things, doesn’t he? Especially Eleven.

    4. I totally didn’t expect her to pull a gun on the miners! That’s behavior worthy of a Doctor’s Companion, “Mama Bear” or not! (As in, don’t let yourself get into a situation that you need someone to save you from. I prefer my damsels to *not* be in distress, thank you!)

    5. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cheered “girl power!” at the “women are strong” part. I found out later (on other boards as well as this one) that people were offended at the implication that mothers are better than women who can’t/choose not to bear children. I don’t know what the writers were thinking when they wrote it, so I won’t try to defend them. I personally don’t think that, and one of my favorite aspects of Series 5&6 was Rory. In “Amy’s Choice,” we see Rory (literally) dreaming he were a doctor rather than a nurse. In “A Good Man Goes To War” Rory meets the Sontaran who was forced to become a nurse, and argues that he’s no longer a warrior *because* he’s a nurse, but through Rory we see that a person can be a nurse *and* a warrior, have all these aspects of supposed femininity of nurse and masculinity of warrior and be a complete, whole, wonderful person. I also think that Madge was characterized so well in one episode that she would’ve been great companion material whether she had children or not. And I’d like to believe that Rory could’ve carried those trees just as well as she did! 😀

    6. That was The. Best. Christmas. Tree. Ever! It had a toy train going around a track in the middle! Wasn’t that cool?!

    7. I knew dad would be alive because the letter Madge got mentioned that he had disappeared. No body, no death (in comic books, fantasy, sci fi, etc). So “Widow” didn’t apply in the title. Neither did “Wardrobe,” because the gateway was disguised as a present, not a wardrobe or the TARDIS. That kinda bugged me.

    8. I’m glad that the dad didn’t die because I saw “Voyage of the Damned” recently and why, why did so many awesome characters have to die?! That episode was painful! At least I *think* nobody died in this ep, they never did mention what happened to the other 2 guys in the plane! That was the most annoying part of the whole episode!

    9. The Doctor surviving in space didn’t bother me because: A. I already knew that Time Lords can bypass their respiratory systems; B. The space suit *was* healing him; C. Okay, surviving in a vacuum makes no sense. I’m sure there’s some Time Lord biology explanation…

    10. The Ponds! I only wish we saw more of them! And I wish River were there! Other than that I was completely surprised and it was perfect! Happy endings FTW!

    • I think it was something like 'wars are ugly when women fight', which I largely put down to the era it was written in. From the age of about five onwards, I would stop at that line and turn it over in my head, decide I disagreed with it but it was probably a 'days of yore' thing and generally move past it.

      9) I figured the Doctor survived because the shields of the ship extended past its visible edges, and there was some oxygen inside. Then he managed to wiggle his way into the space suit before he exited the shield.

  45. Hotaru_hime says:

    The second I saw Amy's and Rory's door I just went "RORY BETTER BE THERE!! I CAN'T HANDLE IT IF THERE'S NO RORY!"
    But I have to say, this is the first Christmas special I completely and totally enjoyed without nitpicking at details and sweeping things under rugs since Donna's Christmas special. So that was really nice. And it was fantastic that I got to stream it on Christmas Day and then immediately follow up with Downton Abbey! And then go to my friends' house and watch it again with them! I don't celebrate Christmas, not being Christian and all, but this was the third year that I was genuinely excited for it and it's purely for Doctor Who.

  46. Smurphy says:

    *CLOSING MY EYES AND SCROLLING* *OPENING EYES* I can't wait until I can watch this without being spoiled!!!! Come on Season 4!

  47. Zack Condon says:

    When the doctor gave his speach about why Madge didn't tell the kids I started to cry.

    In the very first episode of Doctor Who, he is traveling with Susan, who calls him grandfather. There is no implication anywhere in the show (and not too much in the expanded universe) that she is anything but his biological granddaughter.

    And her parents are never mentioned, or shown in any way. When the Doctor is talking to Madge he is speaking from personal experience. Imagine a younger 1st doctor trying to hide his child and child-in-laws deaths from Susan and try not to cry.

    I don't mind the dad surviving thing at all. I thought he was going to die, and I thought it a mistake- because the psychic signal should have brought them to his death. It made sense to me.

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