SPOILERS if you haven’t seen it yet. And if that’s you, why are you looking at this article already? Come back later!
The Christmas specials are one of the best reasons to look forward to Christmas once you’re over the age of santa and huge piles of presents, and this year didn’t disappoint.
The Doctor is rescued after falling from orbit by a nice lady named Madge, and a few years later, he plans to give her and her kids the best Christmas ever in payment for her help. Madge isn’t in the spirit, though, because she’s just learned that her husband has gone down in the War (World War II) and she hasn’t told the kids yet. The Doctor, calling himself The Caretaker, shows off the modifications he made to the house, but before anyone even settles in, Cyril, the youngest of the kids, goes missing through a portal inside a present under the tree. He finds himself in a wintery wonderland where the trees grow their own ornaments. His older sister Lily and the Doctor go looking for him, and Madge goes looking for everyone, and for most of the story, they’re separated, finding out individual parts of the story: Cyril finds a big building with a wooden king and queen in it/ Lily and the Doctor find that the forest produced the king and queen and grew the building to lure them all there, but why does a forest need people? And Madge finds that they’re way in the future (possibly on Androzani, since it’s referred to as the Androzani forest), and the forest is actually a tree farm that’s about to be harvested with acid rain.
Turns out that the woods know what’s coming and don’t want to be killed and taken away, so they need to escape. They need a vessel to carry all the souls of the trees somewhere safe. Cyril isn’t strong enough, and much to his surprise, the Doctor isn’t either. Lily is strong but too young, and Madge (who arrives in a mech like a bamf to save her kids) is exactly what they need–a literal Mother Ship. With the whole forest inside her head, she pilots the escape ship into the time vortex and gets them home, managing to save her husband from death along the way.
When it’s all done, she tells the Doctor that no one should be alone on Christmas and tells him to go somewhere where people love him–so he goes back to Amy and Rory and is (eventually) welcomed in with open arms.
It was a great show. Just enough Narnia to be fun, and a whole lot of new things to make it unique. Madge is wonderful and resourceful through the whole thing, and I firmly believe she’d make an excellent next companion. The kids were exactly what they needed to be. The house was gorgeous. And the adventure was charming and strange and genuinely moving at the end–I’ll admit I cried from the moment she realized what day they were passing through to the moment the credits rolled.
Moffat can sometimes get carried away and put too much into an episode, but in this case, it was just enough. The cast was limited to the four of them and three soldiers and the trees for most of the rpisode, and it felt close and homey. It felt smaller than it really should have, in a good way–we could relate to everyone in the episode. There wasn’t really a bad guy, exactly, but that didn’t damage the story in any way at all; by now, we’re getting used to the Moff’s style of making badguys really just other normal people doing their jobs.
I do think it would have been cute if Cyril turned out to be CS Lewis, writing about wardrobes and wintery kingdoms, but the story is so complete that it’s not necessary. And the reunion with the Ponds was amazing. Exactly what they needed–and it’s been two years again. The Doctor really needs to work on his timing.
What did you think of the special? Is it enough to tide you over until next fall and the new season?
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