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Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe(TV) (2011)
It's Christmas Eve, 1938, when Madge Arwell comes to the aid of an injured Spaceman Angel as she cycles home. He promises to repay her kindness – all she has to do is make a wish. Three years later, a devastated Madge escapes war-torn London with her two children for a dilapidated house in Dorset. She is crippled with grief at the news her husband has been lost over the channel, but determined to give Lily and Cyril the best Christmas ever. The Arwells are surprised to be greeted by a madcap caretaker whose mysterious Christmas gift leads them into a magical wintry world. Here, Madge will learn how to be braver than she ever thought possible. And that wishes can come true...
For more about Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe and the Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe Blu-ray release, see Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on February 16, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Alex Kingston, David Tennant, Christopher Eccleston
Narrators: Nicholas Briggs, Marnix Van Den Broeke
Directors: Adam Smith, Ben Wheatley, Jeremy Webb, Toby Haynes, Graeme Harper, Euros Lyn
» See full cast & crew
Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe Blu-ray Review
"It's not a phone box, it's my... wardrobe. I've just painted it to look like a phone box!"
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, February 16, 2012
Livelier and zanier than last year's Doctor Who Christmas special -- the delightful Doctor Who Christmas Carol, which gets better and better with every viewing -- The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe continues the annual holiday tradition of serving up a frothy cup of spirited interdimensional, timey-wimey cheer. And while the resulting pre-War time-hopper isn't as tight or poignant as the best of the Who Christmas specials, it doesn't disappoint either, reveling in everything Whovians love about Matt Smith's Time Lord, putting a loose but lovely little spin on C.S. Lewis' beloved classic, and pulling together a great standalone episode that works wonders on its own terms and builds an intriguing bridge between Series Six and Series Seven, set to air later this year.
Set two years after "The Wedding of River Song," or seventy-five years in our past, or at an undisclosed time on a wintry planet, or all three, or... curse you and your time-warping, Doctor Who. Alright, let's try this again. Our story begins in 1938 as the Doctor (Matt Smith), alone and Companion-less, crashes to Earth in an impact suit where a happily married woman named Madge Arwell (Claire Skinner) comes to his aid. Before being whisked away by the TARDIS, the Doctor, never one to leave kindness hanging, promises to repay her someday for her help. Fast forward three years. December, 1941. Madge has just learned that her husband (Alexander Armstrong), a pilot in WWII, was shot down and killed during a bombing run; information she decides to withhold from her young children, Cyril (Maurice Cole) and Lily (Holly Earl), for fear the two will forever associate Christmas with their father's death. A few days later, traveling to a friend's home in Dorset for the holiday season, Madge, Cyril and Lily meet a strange man claiming to be the house's caretaker. It's the Doctor, of course, and he has a surprise for the grieving widow and her oblivious children: a mysterious present that contains a portal to another world.
It isn't long before Cyril and Lily, having ignored the Doctor's instructions, crawl into the package and find themselves in a snowy forest on another planet. There they discover a tower, two wooden creatures and, to the Doctor's surprise and dismay, a fleet of miners tasked with stripping the world of its resources (and subsequently destroying everything on the surface in the process). As I'm sure you can tell, The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe doesn't cling to "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" as closely as A Christmas Carol clung to Dickens' tale. But the trimmings and trappings are intact, and the writing is as sharp, exhilarating, and witty as any, making the Doctor's time with the Arwells that much more captivating, enjoyable and, yep, heartwarming. If you like your Who black -- no cream, no sugar -- you're in for a letdown. This year's special isn't as monumental or devastating as The End of Time or... well, dark and genocidal as The Runaway Bride. But if you like your Who seasoned with a dash of hope and just a little bit of good-natured optimism, you're in for another seasonal treat. The Widow and the Wardrobe is warmer and wackier than every previous Christmas special, even if its heart is tinged with sadness and loss, and there isn't a single, mean-spirited package tucked beneath its tree.
Showrunner Steven Moffat continues to favor external bleakness undercut by internal sentiment (as opposed to former showrunner Russell T. Davies, who favored external sentiment undercut by internal bleakness), and longtime fans, some of whom will no doubt scoff and roll their eyes, will spot Moffat's happy ending coming while it's still seven light-years away. To be honest, though, I prefer Smith's softer Doc and Moffat's lighter take on the mythos. I'm pretty sure I'm one of the few Whovians who like Smith's run as the Time Lord much better than Tennant's tenure, and find Moffat's take on the series more engrossing. Likewise, aside from The End of Time, Part 2 (which is nothing short of magnificent), I prefer A Christmas Carol and The Widow and the Wardrobe to Davies' specials. My only gripe is that dear Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) are largely absent from the proceedings, which drains some of the twinkle and electricity from Smith's performance. It makes complete sense, given Amy and Rory's relative estrangement from the Doctor at the end of Series Six. But without Companions, the Doctor, no matter the actor who's playing him, loses some of his mystery and appeal. An argument could be made that the Arwells are fine temporary Companions (and I'd be hard pressed to disagree), but it doesn't quite work out as well as Moffat and his writers presumably intended. Ah well. The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe delivers in almost every other regard, and embraces the same humor, pathos and sense of adventure that have made Davies and Moffat's Doctor Who Revival such a rousing success.
Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe spreads some post-Christmas cheer with an excellent 1080i/AVC-encoded presentation that's on par with the video quality of Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth and Sixth Series. Color and contrast are dead on, primaries are sure to grab your attention, skintones are chilly but natural, and black levels are nice and deep. Detail is terrific too, with wonderfully resolved fine textures, crisp edge definition, little to no ringing, and decidedly decent shadow delineation. Closeups, in particular, are nothing short of striking, and I didn't encounter anything that might lead me to believe the encode wasn't a near-perfect representation of the special's photography and source. As is the case with every episode of the show, grain-like noise is apparent throughout (and a bit uneven), but it rarely undermines the integrity of the image and never stands as a distraction. Artifacting, banding and aliasing are kept to a bare minimum as well, and the presentation is an exceedingly proficient one. As usual, Doctor Who leaves a lasting impression on Blu-ray. Fans of the series will find themselves grinning from ear to ear.
Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Like previous Doctor Who releases, The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe also features a solid 2.0 Mbps DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 surround track (not to be confused with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio mix). Dialogue is bright, festive and crystal clear, without a line lost to the WWII bombers, planetary acid storms or commandeered walkers that raise a ruckus from time to time. LFE output is bold and beefy too, even if it doesn't quite have the low-end oomph associated with a more robust lossless mix. Meanwhile, rear speaker activity is light and airy one minute, agile and aggressive the next, creating an engaging and entertaining experience that almost provides as much fun as the special itself. No, directionality isn't as convincing as it could be I suppose, and yes, a few scenes seem more subdued than they should. But the soundfield is enveloping nonetheless, enough so to draw listeners deeper and deeper into the at-times madcap adventure as it barrels along. All things considered, Whovians won't find much to complain about in the Doctor's wardrobe.
Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe isn't as blazingly brilliant an adaptation or as mesmerizing a holiday special as Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol, but it delivers. Smith is endearing as ever, newcomers Skinner, Cole and Earl are terrific additions, and the Doctor's latest is a compelling continuation of The Sixth Series. BBC's Blu-ray release would make for a great stocking stuffer too, if it were December. With another strong Who video presentation, another solid DTS-HD High Resolution audio mix, and more than two hours of special features, it should give fans something to munch on while waiting for Series Seven to begin broadcasting later this year.
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Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow, and The Wardrobe Blu-ray - December 16, 2011
BBC and 2Entertain will bring Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow, and The Wardrobe to Blu-ray next year. The series' 2011 Christmas special, this hour-long program finds the Doctor (Matt Smith, Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series) traveling back to England - ...
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