It’s said that the Doctor has a fondness for humans, but I’ve come to believe the fondness is more for putting humans in mortal danger than for the people themselves. And truth be told, the Doctor is kind of a dick. Take, for instance, his misguided plans to help grieving widow Madge Arwell (Claire Skinner) on Christmas Eve. She’s just lost her husband in WWII, so the Doctor decides the best way to take her mind off that is to recklessly endanger her children. Dead husband doesn’t seem so bad now that the kids are about to be melted by acid rain, does it, Madge? (Don’t get me started on the wisdom of chemically burning a forest as a means to harvest the wood.)
A friend of mine threatened to defriend anyone who didn’t like this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special, “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe,” so to prevent my defriending, I will say that I liked it. It took three viewings, but I did honestly like it. In my first viewing, I found Madge’s character to be all over the place; the kids to be inexplicably illogical plot devices; and the Doctor to be criminally negligent at best, intentionally malicious at worst. After subsequent viewings, I’ve forgiven the inconsistencies and appreciate the arc of Madge’s story. However, the Doctor is still kind of a dick. Not as much of a dick as he was in last year’s Christmas special, where he drained the life out of poor Katherine Jenkins without checking to see why or how her coffin kept ticking down the days of her life. But a dick, nonetheless, since he puts out an incomplete portal to another planet in a shiny, glowing box in order to dispatch the younger Arwell child, while flirting with the elder (but still minor) Arwell child. Never mind that he has no problem with Madge going back in time to save her hubby, but would never do the same for any of his doomed allies over the years.
Near the end of “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe,” the Doctor reflects upon the episode’s adventure and says, “Got a bit clinchy in the middle there, but it sort of worked out in the end.” That pretty much sums up the episode, too. The most effective part comes towards the end, where fans are treated to a brief appearance by Amy and an even briefer appearance by Rory. It’s a testament to the power of those two characters, and the sentiment the audience has for them, that those brief moments could be so endearing and rewarding.
While we’re supposed to be left feeling warm and fuzzy over the Doctor learning (or remembering) the humany-wumany “happy tears” phenomenon, I was really left wondering how he was going to endanger Amy and Rory over Christmas dinner. Would he offer to cut the Christmas goose with his sonic screwdriver, but inadvertently open a rift to some hell dimension? Or would he take the easier route and just poison their Christmas pudding?
I guess we’ll find out next Christmas.