The first half of this story is very slow and painfully so. The first 10 minutes or so are ok because of the funny stuff with the Doctor is the space suit and putting the helmet on back to front then it’s a slow and prolonged section before we enter this Narnia-like world. When it moves into Narnia then I think it feels a bit more Christmassy than it did before. There were things that were typically Moffat and by that I mean things which are bonkers. Trees that sprout ball balls which before you know whats what turn into these wooden people. The story seems to be taking a rather sad end as the children learn that their father has died however in keeping with the festive time and realising that all the misery and depressing stuff should be kept until Eastenders, we are told that the light coming from the ‘ship’ helped Reg’s plane land and he is in fact alive. I thought that this was a rather nice thing to do and actually one of the more sensible things that Steven Moffat has done since he took over.
I did like the mention of Androzani Major. That did get a little chuckle of me which got an odd look of my mom and dad who were watching it with me. I really liked the tree people which did seem to be borrowed from the Lord of the Rings films but I thought they looked very good and the scene where the male one is stomping up the stairs was very good indeed. Bill Bailey and Arabella Weir were two other big names that were in this story and they were needed to help bring some comedy to the story. Sadly they weren’t in it for very long and I felt that was a shame but by that point the story had picked up.
It was nice not having Amy and Rory to clog up the story. The one thing that was refreshing was that the Doctor was on his own and just had to deal with the Arwell family. I thought that Claire Skinner was very good as Madge Arwell. Surprisingly she got her name on the credits alongside Matt Smith which was the right thing to do. Madge has a lot to deal with in this story and Skinner’s performance makes us believe that she is a strong yet at times frightened person. She is trying to do the best thing by not telling her kids that their dad is dead but deep down knows it’s the wrong thing. I know her best from her appearance in the BBC show ‘Outnumbered’ and at first I did think of her in that but after a while that changed. Alexander Armstrong was a nice piece of casting as the dad. He is best known in Doctor Who circles as the voice of Mr Smith in ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’ as he plays Reg Arwell who as we are led to believe has died but despite his relatively brief involvement it’s a very good one. The kids are slightly annoying and are the only things that I would replace.
We couldn’t have an episode of Doctor Who without Amy and Rory and thankfully it was kept to a minimum. I did think it was a bit of a cop out that they already knew that the Doctor was alive as I think it robbed us of a very enjoyable dramatic moment. The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe is an odd story. There are things that are quite good about it but then there are things that don’t quite work. Safe to say that compared to some of the more complicated stories that we have had over the last twelve months its certainly straight forward. It perhaps doesn’t have the same punch that ‘A Christmas Carol’ had twelve months ago but I think that its perfectly fine.