Or, “What We Learned About Christmas From Doctor Who”.
Although we’re utterly evil and enjoy nothing more than spoiling your day, we can’t handle people moaning about it. So be aware that this recap of the Doctor Who Christmas episode “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe” contains SPOILERS. And common sense.
As you’d expect from a Christmas-themed family TV show, the episode begins with the wise, pacifist hero blowing up a spaceship headed for Earth. However, as we never learn anything about this spaceship or its inhabitants, it’s entirely possible that it was a Tourist Ship just flying past Earth to take a few nice photos out of the window until the Doctor showed up and killed them all. Apparently, when you’re a “hero”, this is known as “saving the day,” rather than “murdering an entire spaceship full of unnamed, probably completely innocent holidaying aliens”.
What follows is one of the most insanely impossible scenes in the History of Everything Ever, which is saying something given that we live in a moon-sized superlaser that can travel at faster-than-light speed and explodes planets. The Doctor is not ripped to shreds by this explosion. Instead, he’s propelled into the cold vacuum of outer space, which of course he can survive in for some time without any kind of protective suit because shut up.
In space, the Doctor wrestles himself into a spacesuit (that also conveniently escapes the explosion) and plummets to Earth, landing in England in 1938. Rather than being burnt to a crisp during reentry, or exploded into a Doctor-shaped Rorschach meat splatter pattern during his crash landing, the Doctor is largely unharmed. Yes, he survives a 100KM-PLUS UNCONTROLLED DESCENT TO EARTH IN JUST A SPACE SUIT BUT IT’S OKAY BECAUSE HE CALLS IT AN “IMPACT” SUIT LATER ON.
Unfortunately, in his hurry to crawl into the suit, the Doctor has climbed in backwards and can’t see, nor escape the suit whilst it’s “repairing” him. Help arrives in the form of Madge Arwell, wife and mother of two precocious children (Lily and Cyril), a woman so cheerful and unflabbale that she’s willing to help the Time Lord find his blue box despite the fact that for all intents and purposes he appears to be a SILVER ROBOT ALIEN WITH A FACE MADE OF THICK, LUSTROUS BROWN HAIR. What even VAGUELY SANE person would not find that UTTERLY FUCKING TERRIFYING?!
Not Madge, it seems. She assists the Doctor in returning to his TARDIS and receives an offer in return. Should she ever need the Doctor, Madge need only make a wish and the Doctor will be there. Because people always just magically appear when you wish for them, right? (We’ll believe it when Amy Pond apparates into our living room.)
Cut to three years later, 1941, in the middle of WWII and Madge’s pilot husband, Reg, goes down in his Lancaster Bomber over the English Channel. He’s missing, presumed dead but it’s Christmas and Madge can’t bear to break the news to Lily and Cyril just yet, for fear of ruining Christmas for them forever. So, she does what anyone would do in these circumstances: takes them to a castle.
Of course, every gigantic castle needs a Caretaker and this one is no exception. Except that this castle doesn’t actually have a Caretaker anymore because he’s been replaced (presumably killed and his body shoved into a small compartment underneath some stairs – to be confirmed) by the Doctor.
The Doctor, as “Caretaker”, escorts his guests/victims on a guided tour of the old mansion, showing them some of the improvements/death traps he’s made to make their lives better/extremely dangerous. The chairs in the sitting room now whizz around and crash into one another at high peed, there’s a “Lemonade” tap in the kitchen (enjoy your EARLY ONSET DIABETES, kids) and a host of insanely advanced alien technological devices in the bedroom. Basically, the Doctor has done everything imaginable to turn the castle into a James Bond villain’s lair and then said, “Have fun, kids!”
And just in case turning the mansion into a House of Death isn’t enough, there’s a gigantic present underneath the Christmas tree, which of course turns out to be a time portal to another planet filled with snow, sentient trees that can grow time travelling space ships and possess people, towering mechs, armoured and heavily armed miners and acid rain strong enough to melt metal. BECAUSE RECKLESSLY ENDANGERING CHILDREN’S LIVES IS THE BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT EVER.
It doesn’t take long for Cyril (notice he’s wearing the dressing gown equivalent of a RED SHIRT) to get tempted through the portal by the sentient trees, with the Doctor and Lily in hot pursuit, closely followed by Madge.
Some other stuff happens but it’s all pretty simple, really: the trees are alive and basically magical and have the ability to grow giant tree people and time travelling tree tower spaceships and can leave their trees and become souls which can inhabit people but only women apparently, but also apparently not the woman from the mining company. The tree souls need to leave the planet because it’s due to be melted down by acid rain, but they can only do it by jumping into Madge’s body, which makes the whole growing a giant king and queen tree person seem kind of redundant because you’d think as giant tree people they’d be able to carry the tree souls but actually, their only job is to provide some exposition to the Doctor about all of this stuff.
Although the sentient trees aren’t smart enough to figure out a way to get themselves off their planet without having to rely on the off chance of a human adult female happening to pass by their tower and being able to convince her to put on their crown and suck down their combined consciousness, they are smart enough to essentially grow their own TARDIS (TREEDIS?) from wood.
Madge, coached by the Doctor and full to bursting with tree souls, pilots the TREEDIS back to Earth using THE POWER OF LOVE, which apparently is the only training and qualification you need to be able to drive a highly advanced giant mechanised walker through a forest or an experimental organic time machine across trillions of kilometres of space time.
The Doctor, Madge, Lily and Cyril awake on Earth and Madge is just about to explain why she’s been a horrible mother who’s been lying to her children for days when M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN CHRISTMAS MIRACLE! It turns out Reg is alive and well after all!!! You see, THE POWER OF LOVE helped Madge guide the ship back to Earth and because she was thinking of Reg, she somehow instinctively knew EXACTLY WHERE AND WHEN HE WAS ON THE NIGHT HIS BOMBER WAS SHOT DOWN and was able to suck his plane into the time vortex after her own.
Hooray! The Doctor saves the day again! Except he didn’t, really. Madge took in the tree souls, piloted the TREEDIS back to Earth and saved all of them from being melted by acid rain. The Doctor simply brought all that danger down on them in the first place and then stood around ineffectually until someone else harnessed THE POWER OF LOVE and fixed everything, pretty much completely without the Doctor’s help, just like in “Closing Time” or “Night Terrors” or every third episode.
To summarise, this is what Doctor Who taught us about Christmas:
- Blowing up other people’s spaceships is the traditional way to commence Christmas festivities
- Time Lords enjoy being thrown from spaceships into the cold vacuum of space without a suit
- Christmas involves veering wildly between loving, and being incredibly enraged at, your children, preferably whilst keeping a horrible secret from them.
- The best Christmas presents for children involve recklessly endangering their lives on multiple occasions.
- Christmas is a time when people come together to use acid rain to destroy native fauna. And also sometimes there are sentient trees that can possess people, grow to giant size in minutes and build time machines. Which makes forests and just about anywhere with trees pretty damned terrifying, if you think about it.