You know, I expect this Doctor to have weirder than most adventures, and I expect a Christmas episode to be at least a little Christmas-y…but this one seems to be inspired by a fever dream of C.S. Lewis’s, so draw your own conclusions.
OK, there’s an alien warship exploding above the Earth and the Doctor making a run for it. Yes, he is responsible. He sees a fellow dying and tries to grab him before both are flung into the void over the Earth, but both fall towards the planet. However, it’s, like, 1938 or something, and the Doctor manages to survive the fall by getting the spacesuit off the dead guy, something that allows him to hit the ground and be stunned but otherwise OK.
They don’t build alien spacesuits like they used to.
Regardless, aside from a backwards helmet, he’s fine. A woman passing nearby, married mother of two Madge, spots him and manages to take him back to the TARDIS where the Doctor, grateful, say he owes her one.
Fast forward a couple years and Madge’s husband Reg is a bomber pilot, and it looks like it’s going to crash just before Christmas. Sure, there’s some bright light ahead, but he doesn’t get back, and Madge gets a telegraph saying he died. She opts not to tell her two kids Lily and Cyril right away, but a message from a mysterious caretaker offers to give the three a wonderful Christmas in a giant manor house.
Yes, it’s the Doctor doing very Eleventh Doctorish things that will be sure to delight the kids but strike the adults as overkill. I mean, a kitchen tap for lemonade seems a bit much.
Regardless, he figures that Madge wants her two children to have a happy Christmas before they get the bad news about Reg, and he isn’t wrong. Why, that giant box under the tree sure seems nice.
So, obviously, this is a C.S. Lewis tribute, referencing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and we do have some of that stuff in the title. There’s the Doctor. The TARDIS is the Wardrobe. He has that in the attic, and the giant package that Cyril can’t resist opening right away has…a portal to Narnia?
OK, it’s really a portal to another time and place to a forest planet where a wood statue comes to life and guides Cyril to a wooden tower. The Doctor and Lily follow and find the tower, a place where everything is made of wood and the sonic screwdriver can’t affect that stuff. Madge follows separately and gets caught by some future humans looking to liquidate the whole forest since it’s made of a metallic wood and they need acid rain for that, so it would be best to get out of there.
Turns out the trees are alive in a nontraditional sense. They need a host body to carry their consciousness away, and while they can explain that through Cyril, he isn’t strong enough. Neither is the Doctor, to his chagrin. Lily is, but she’s too scared of these things. But then there’s Madge who takes over some kind of three-legged walker to stumble over to the wooden tower after listening to the whole conversation. She’s strong enough. Why? Because the tree people need someone to be a mothership to their disembodied consciousnesses, and for that, they need a literal woman. No man would do, not even the Doctor. And with Madge helping, they can blast off for Earth through a time vortex. Madge needs to remember Reg to do that, but that means remembering he died.
Or did he?
C’mon, are they gonna make a widow out of the Doctor’s temporary companion on a Christmas episode? I don’t think so. That whole time vortex saves Reg and the plane. Presumably it saves the other guys in Reg’s crew, but I don’t recall seeing them at the end of the show. Plus, since no one should be alone for Christmas, the Doctor decides to go let Rory and Amy know he’s still alive.
They knew. River told them.
He’s still welcome for Christmas.
So, that was sweet. It’s a very Eleventh Doctor sort of Christmas, with a lot of weird and whimsey, and if you can brighten the day of a couple children, something this Doctor seems uniquely qualified to do, so much the better.
As for me, I think I’ll step away from the Doctor again. I have two spin-offs to finish, and I think I’ll start with The Sarah Jane Adventures. There’s only six episodes of that left for me, and the actor who played Reg here is also the voice of Mr. Smith. That seems as good a reason as any to finish the series off.