Christmas in the Closet | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Christmas in the Closet

When I first heard the title for the Christmas episode of Doctor Who what feels like a long long time ago I have to admit I was dubious

When I first heard the title for the Christmas episode of Doctor Who what feels like a long long time ago I have to admit I was dubious. “The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe”, with its obvious connotations and promos depicting snowy white Narnia-like scenes could have easily been an unoriginal, easily forgettable throwaway episode.

A huge adventure through a snowy planet; with precocious children, living Christmas trees and the mad doctor bringing danger along for the ride was all that was required for a hugely successful Christmas special. But it turned out to be so much more.

The episode would have been one of the most watched on Christmas day, as everyone collapses on the sofa from a food overdose, despite the content. With a literal explosive start the episode begins ridiculously, with the doctor chasing a lifesaving spacesuit through well, space.

But the doctor soon takes a backseat as the episode centres around the Arwell’s; a family evacuated to the countryside for Christmas, who, whilst committing the cardinal Christmas sin, opening a present early, cross a time dimension into another, exceptionally more snowy world. The doctor, appearing as the madcap caretaker of their new home, tries to arrange the perfect Christmas for the family but as is always the way with the doctor something has to go wrong.

As they cross from a box under the tree into “one of the safest planets” the doctor soon realises something is not quite right. As the trees of this forest planet, taking their cues from the Ents of the Lord of the Rings, come to life it seems as if the family are in great danger. It is revealed that the “living” trees are not trying to harm but only trying to save, as the forest is about to be melted down by acid rain.

Once again the doctor is forced to save the day. However in this story it is not the doctor who comes to the rescue, but the mother, or rather the “mother –ship”, Madge Arwell who is deemed strong enough to save the souls of the tree creatures. As Madge carries the whole forest to safety through the time vortex, (in what could be said to be one of the few plot holes to ever be discovered in a Moffat episode, how the hell did they get there in the first place?) but also carries her pilot husband to safety through the time vortex the plot comes to a happy conclusion, without the heartbreak of most Doctor Who episodes.

Following in the footsteps of Katherine Jenkins David Morrissey and Michael Gambon the episode was packed with famous faces. Claire Skinner stepping out of her usual comedy role in Outnumbered to provide a heartbreaking performance as Madge Arwell, a mother trying to give her children “the best Christmas ever” whilst trying to hide the death of their father. Bill Bailey’s comedy genius seems wasted, appearing for only a few minutes as Droxil but I suppose they did have an awful lot to pack in to 60 minutes.

With snow, magic presents under the tree and a mother saving Christmas what more could we ask for in a perfect Christmas special. The episode concluded with a long overdue (two years too late) trip back to the Ponds on Christmas Day and an invitation to Christmas dinner, leaving not only the doctor but most viewers shedding a “humany-wumany” tear of happiness.

By Lucy Mulgrew


30th December 2011 at 2:27 pm

Last Updated

30th December 2011 at 2:29 pm