The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe, is not a movie per se. It’s a made for T.V. special, but, considering the fan base that Doctor Who has managed to retain over the past half century, (the Doctor seems to have more staying power than Spock or Luke Skywalker), it’s safe to assume that the special was as highly anticipated as any movie slated to come out in the near future. Besides, has anyone noticed that my reviews have been excessively dark lately? The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Human Centipede 2 and Red State ranged from mediocre to mind blowing, but it’s time for something a little sunnier.
Here’s some quick background on what’s happened on the regular series so far: The Doctor is a member of the benevolent race known as the Time Lords who reigned from their home planet of Galifrey making sure time and space and history ran the way that they were supposed to. When the warlord Davros corrupted an alien race known as the Daleks, taking away their ability to experience any emotion other than hate, it spurred a Time War that resulted in a genocide of the Time Lords. This had the effect of throwing space time into a state of flux and sending the last TARDIS (an acronym for a time traveling vehicle, Time And Relative Dimensions In Space) hurtling through space with the last time lord (The Doctor) in tow. The TARDIS, equipped with a chameleon circuit that disguises it in any environment, was broken, causing it to become stuck in the form of a London police box from the 1940s. The Doctor, grief stricken and alone after losing his home planet, then takes to kidnapping humans from earth to take them on intergalactic sight seeing tours in the TARDIS. Many of his guests (or victims, depending.) have magical and enlightening experiences, enriching their lives and giving them a new appreciation for the beauty of the cosmos. Others die bizarre and grisly deaths. (Here’s an approximate body count.)
This particular story finds the Doctor crash landed in the early days of World War II, which seems to be the second most popular time period for the show after the Victorian era. The Doctor meets a wholesome family, there is an untimely and heart wrenching death, and from there the beat goes on. A few of the more sentimental moments seem a bit freeze dried. An eight year old boy asks when daddy is coming home on Christmas eve, and the prematurely jaded twelve year old girl scoffs at the idea of magical portals and forests, only to rediscover an enchanting world for herself! As implied by the title, there are some plot devices lifted from C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the second book of The Chronicles of Narnia, but the writers were smart enough to play this as homage. It doesn’t feel like a rip-off.
There’s nothing terribly innovative here, but there really doesn’t need to be. Personally, I was happy to see what was essentially a slightly better than average episode of Doctor Who highlighted by some rosy cheeked optimism and the title character’s charm. There was an Avatar style environmental message packed in there somewhere that felt more than a little forced, but Matt Smith tirelessly makes it all work with a wink and a smile. I’ll always be a Tennant man deep down, but Smith portrays the Doctor about as well as anyone could hope to.
I’m giving The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe three and a half stars; three stars for quality, and half a star because it’s nice to see a little Doctor Who when we have a year long hiatus ahead of us. Luckily, I have a lead on a fix for fans. Misfits, a show on BBC Entertainment, has helped to fill the sci-fi-comedy shaped hole that the good Doctor left in my heart. It was recently recommended to me by a friend of mine, my co-creator on the Guardian series. (The first book of which can be purchased here, plug plug plug plug plug.) I burned through the first season in about a day. It’s not as family friendly as Doctor Who, but it’s funny, sincere, and surprisingly three dimensional. In summary, watch The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe with the kids, put em’ to bed to watch some Misfits, then check back here next week for more human centipedes and serial murder.