February 22, 2012

Blu-ray Review: Doctor Who - The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe

When it comes to Doctor Who, I must admit to large amounts of ignorance. I have been aware of the show for a long time, I can probably track it all the way back to my early childhood. I recall stumbling across episodes on PBS or some such network and I would watch; however, I never really absorbed it. I liked it but it never attracted me in the way that, say, Star Trek did. I never felt compelled to seek it out, I would watch but I never went out of my way. Then the series was revived in a rather substantial fashion in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston and it was good and I loved it. Then David Tennant stepped into the TARDIS in 2006 and I enjoyed the first few seasons but then lost track. Now, with this release I am officially introduced to the Matt Smith version of the Doctor.

The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe is the 2011 edition of the Christmas special, an annual tradition of the universe, and the second one to feature Smith. The story is a little bit inspired by the CS Lewis novel, the similarly titled The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It is a sweet holiday tale that does not feature a villain, but does have a good dose of genuine emotion, some good special effects, comedy, drama, and pretty good acting. As it turns out, I now think I need to go back and check out some of the most recent season.

As the special starts, the Doctor is on a spaceship orbiting the Earth. He is running and the ship is starting to explode. He is able to get off the ship while wearing a spacesuit. He crashes to Earth of the late 1930's where he meets Madge Orwell, who kindly helps him find the TARDIS.

A few years later, World War II is raging and Madge learns that her husband is lost over the English Channel. She takes her two children, Cyril and Lily, to a friend's home in Dorset where they meet the quirky Caretaker (aka The Doctor). Christmas is around the corner and Madge wishes to protect the children from the knowledge of their father's fate.

The story takes us into a Christmas gift, which is actually a portal, to a snowy forest on an alien world where they meet wood creatures who are looking for help from someone they deem to be strong. This leads too.... well, I don't want to give you everything. Let's just say that you should take a little time to watch it, if you haven't already that is.

I found the story to be rather sweet with the mother's wish to retain her children's innocence and ability to enjoy the holiday. I liked the Doctor respecting the wishes and the inadvertent adventure. There are some rather funny lines and the wood creatures are pretty cool too.

What else is there to say? You either like the quirky brand of Doctor Who science fiction or you don't. It may be a little disconcerting when just jumping in, but it is nothing if not inviting.

Audio/Video. The video is presented in its original broadcast ratio of 16:9 and looks exceptionally good with this high definition transfer. The detail is fantastic, the closeups reveal some very nice detail level. I found no evidence of artifacting or other digital issues. The colors are all bright and sharp, this show really plays up the primary colors and is better for it. Blacks are deep without loss of detail in the shadows. It is a very pleasing visual presentation.

The soundtrack is a DTS-HD Surround track that sounds good enough to match the brightly colored visuals. Dialogue is crisp, music is nicely represented and it is just a nice bright listen. Nothing to complain about, but not really a lot to talk about either.

  • Prequel to the Special. This was released online prior to the episode airing. It is a teaser that shows just what was going on prior to that spaceship blowing up.
  • Clip Shows. A trio of clip shows are included that chronicle the best bits and pieces of the latest doctors adventures. They all run around 43-minutes a piece and are broken down between the Doctor, the Companions, and the Monsters. They were very good for me, who has not seen the latest adventures to tease me about what I need to catch up with.
Bottomline. This was a very nice watch. It is an uplifting episode that gives a madcap adventure and plenty of holiday quirk with a dose of heart. I heartily recommend giving it a spin.


Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Doctor Who - The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe on Blogcritics.

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