Sunday, December 25, 2011

Deeper Magic From Before the Dawn of Time

Guess what everyone? It's Christmas!  Which means it's time for the Doctor Who Christmas Special!  You know the drill - Spoilers below the video for "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe"

(Not one of my better efforts, but okay in it's own right)

It is well-known that my Geek Cred was initially born from a deep and abiding love of fantasy, not science fiction.  Something I've noticed in the past (and maybe the divide is shrinking to an extent) is that sci-fi geeks and fantasy geeks don't often mix well because one group gravitates towards things that are just outside the realm of possibility for the current time period and the other group gravitates towards things that are so far out there that serious science just laughs at it (I suppose that's the Star Trek vs. Star Wars debate, though I could be tarred and feathered for suggesting Star Wars is light and fluffy fantasy.  Then again, I know comparatively little about Star Trek).

I will be brutally honest - I like to think of places where anything and everything can happen, not just things that are within the realms of real-world science and technology.  Plus, I'm not a big fan of long and involved explanations of how some thingamashootit teleport/light speed/shrink ray device works.  If the story tells me something works, I can accept that it works within the realms of the story and I don't get terribly nit-picky about it.  Besides, the beauty of fantasy stories like Harry Potter is that magic is considered a science - there are rules of what can and cannot be done.  And often in those stories, new things are discovered that make impossible things possible - which is what science (by and large) is really about.

I've come to accept science-fiction, of course.  I'm watching Doctor-freaking-Who, for cripes' sake!  But this Christmas Special embodies something that I've long thought about and accepted for myself - science and fantasy can co-exist in peaceful, lovely, storytelling harmony.  Sometimes, there are talking trees in a fantastical wintertime forest that can only be accessed by a dimensional gateway into Fairyland Androzani Major disguised as a Christmas package.  And sometimes, the fish just like the singing (now shut up!)

I've got to get this out of the way first - Some people got their panties in a wad over Steven Moffat using themes from CS Lewis' Narnia series for this year's special because "OMG - it's a Christian allegory even though Lewis said it wasn't but who cares it's religious and we can't have religion in a SCIENCE fiction show - RAWR! *frothing mouths*" To those ninnies, I raise a dubious eyebrow and snort a derisive "Seriously?"  I wouldn't have brought this up and it actually would take much longer for me to address this to my own satisfaction, but I'll give you the short version - In my own personal beliefs, religion and science mesh quite well together.  There are some things that many mainstream Christians hold to that I don't (the whole deal about the Earth being 6,000 years old is but one of many), but it would take too long for me to delve into it here.  Suffice it to say that science is the way God created the universe and we little humans are learning to figure out even a slice of what He does in His creations. Everything science "discovers" is something God did first.  And that's all that I have to say about that.

Back to Doctor Who -  combining Doctor Who with Narnia is actually quite a genius idea and I'm not just saying that because I am a fan of CS Lewis and the "Narnia" series.  Come on - the TARDIS is basically a sci-fi'd up version of the "Bigger on the Inside" wardrobe in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."  It doesn't take it a genius to figure that one out (though this does NOT take away Moffat's "genius" card).  Add in a mystical snowy forest (which doesn't stay mystical for very long) and the souls of trees with some Halo-esque military people to point the way and you've got a pretty solid Doctor Who story.

There has also been talk of how "alien" Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor is.  I will agree with that from sunup to sunup - but he isn't completely alien.  He understands human emotion, if almost accidentally and by scientific means.  In "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" (I'm just going to abbreviate it as DWW for this post - that's a stinkingly long title), he gets Madge to pilot the pseudo-Epcot globe through the Time Vortex by helping her remember her home and her family.  Much the same as he tried to do with Amy in "Cold Blood" when Rory was being erased from time.  Well, that one didn't quite work the way he hoped, but he eventually got it when he rebooted the universe in "The Big Bang."  Another part of that is understanding kids - one thing Eleven gets is kids - from Amelia Pond to young Kazran Sardick to Cyril and Lily.  He connects with kids'  emotions, even if he hasn't cottoned on to why he's done that.  It often takes him a few minutes to figure out that something is wrong with The Big Picture, but it's usually after he's rambled about fish fingers and custard and girls and crisps and remodeling the house with revolving Christmas trees.

Another thing I liked (and it's likely the "Moffat is a Misogynist Pig" crowd is going to be be ape-nuts over this, but they can all go stick their noses in the air about it) is how the "Strong Mother" trope came into play in this story.  Especially a mother who has only recently found out her husband was killed in war and she hasn't told the kids yet because she doesn't want to ruin Christmas, so she is keeping everything together by the skin of her fingernails.  I don't care who you are or what feminist gospel you subscribe to, THAT is true strength and it makes sense that the trees of Androzani Major would choose Madge to pilot their tree souls to wherever they ended up in the end (and I could even overlook the Green Aesop crap in the end).  Beyond biology and the whole "Mama Bear" thing and what-have-you - that is a pretty solid way to resolve the story line.

Of course, this would not be a review from me without a grand List of Things I Liked -

- The Return to Androzani - Even though this is Androzani Major rather than Androzani Minor where the Fifth Doctor bit the dust *sniffle*
- The Doctor: "There's never anything dangerous here." *beat* "There are sentences I should just stay away from"
- Halo Dude - "There's no crying in baseball military engagements!"
- The fact that the sonic screwdriver doesn't work on wood actually became a major plot development!
- Cyril's giant Christmas present was wrapped in TARDIS Blue wrapping paper.  I'm seriously doing that next year!
- Call back to "The End of Time" with the Forest of Cheem ("One of them fancied me.")

And, of course, The Return of the Ponds! Who both know the Doctor isn't dead! Which means the Doctor was staying away from them for no real reason (though that almost became moot in the first five minutes during the Doctor's swan dive to Earth and recreating - rather badly - his own version of an Impossible Astronaut).  And as if to put the exclamation point on the fact that Eleven is indeed conscious of his own humanity, he gets a little misty-eyed as he walks into La Casa de Pond for Christmas dinner.

Bottom Line: Solid Christmas Special for Doctor Who.  Doesn't beat out "A Christmas Carol" for TEH BEST EVAR, but still pretty good.  I liked the fantasy elements in it and didn't mind that science got thrown in there for good measure.  Hopefully it's good enough to tide us over until next fall (holy shiz - that's a long time!)

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