Dear Steven Moffat: The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe

Dear Steven,

I hope you’re having a pleasant Yule. It can’t be bad, sitting down with your family to watch your handiwork broadcast throughout the land. I’ve recently started to produce and direct artistic, high quality pornographic films and it’s my hope that one day I can sit down with the fair Mrs Whitfield and our children, Masmouder and Punch, and enjoy the likes of I Wanna Hold Your Gland and Cleft and Wright. A pipe dream perhaps but…

I’ve now finished digesting your seasonal slab of Gallifreyan ganglinoid action, The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe and can I just say how refreshing it was to see C.S Lewis made over sans Christianity. It was an omission that perfectly captured the spirit of the season and immeasurably improved the material. In place of a furry Christ we had an all-together more enjoyable metaphor, a mother ship. This was the greatest visual pun since John Simm’s Master Race, and although you built your story around it, just as your predecessor Russell Dust did with his, in The End of Time, when he realised it could be both a play on words AND a plot device, your conceit worked better, primarily because it didn’t involve a multiplicity of Simms.

Alright, it was all a little saccharine and inconsequential, and you do love your modern idioms, no matter when the bastard is set (“this will be the best Christmas ever!”) but you stuffed this bird with plenty of good humour and inventive fuckery. I enjoyed Claire Skinner’s undercutting of Smith’s hyperactive shtick, “that man is quite ridiculous”, and lines like, “he’s turning your brother into a lifeboat”; something you won’t hear on any other show, and not just because it would violate the BBC’s copyright.

I won’t lie Steven, because you’d see through it of course; I was a little bored. I’m jaded and childless so I don’t feel any warmth watching parables about kids that open their Christmas presents too early, nor do I punch the air when Mum arrives to save her saplings. The mother inadvertently saving her pilot husband from death and returning him to his two strongest ejaculations was pure 50’s Hollywood, and a nice scene for Christmas Day, but I worried that all the kids watching with Mother, whose Dads were off fighting Hitler over the channel, would be given a ray of false hope. Those men have been gone a long time now; I don’t think they’re coming home.

The real reason to watch this guff was, naturally, to get to the final scene where perennial plotting was put to one side and we got our one bona fide series moment; the reunion of The Doctor and Amy. I think I saw Rory in the background too. My loins nearly had a heart attack when that Scottish beauty opened the door with her bubble gun. There they were, together again, and one wondered why you couldn’t leave them to it and let them enjoy the occasional reunion, rather than ruining my TV girlfriend’s life in the next series. I know, she’s a major character and must have a dramatic conclusion to her story but isn’t there some way she could simply leave Rory and her strange child, some twenty years her senior, and come to live with me, perhaps in a Notting Hill townhouse where we could live like Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg in Performance?

Yeah, you won’t do THAT for me, will you, ya bastard?

The responsibility that comes with festive specials

We wage slaves are simple people, Steven, who can’t hope to understand the rigors of producing an hour of Christmas Day television for a demanding, seen-it-all-before viewership, who look at the finished product and imagine it was as easy to write as it was to watch.

Morecambe and Wise spent half the year impotent, laden with sexual and psychological dysfunction, over active thyroids, groin sweats and subnormal, violent episodes, producing each year’s yuletide hour. We now know, courtesy of a BBC light entertainment whistleblower, that Eric and Ernie used to sit by the phone with a cyanide pill between their teeth, waiting for a call from the duty office and the report that summarised overnight reaction from viewers. If they’d brought us sunshine they could live, if we thought it okay, about as good as The Two Ronnies, they’d bite down. We can thank some creative lying for their longevity.

I’m not suggesting you’re under that sort of pressure, Steven, but you must worry that the BBC, in deliberately filling the festive schedule with repeats, terrible films, underwritten sitcoms, miserablist soap and Blackadder the Third transmitted in the wrong aspect ratio, in order to create a bountiful stock of goodwill and indeed, hope, for you to mine, have left you dangerously exposed.

If your episode is good then this strategy, known as the jewel in the dung gambit, ensures reviews laden with superlatives and twitter users drunk with relief, but if it’s poor, you’ve ruined Christmas for the nation’s children; you’re the Father that got drunk after dinner and announced his intention to leave his wife and kids over the crackers and mince pies.

Perhaps you’re not sent a memo sometime around the end of August, requesting that the episode be upbeat, celebrate festive values as they’re imagined to be and end on a mawkish note; after all you’d be acutely aware of the BBC’s expectations. However, given the show’s popularity, and indeed your, one imagines, unassailable position as Emperor Dalek, could you not, y’know, use your privileged position and access to the nation’s youth, to drop a satire bomb on the country’s attempts at making this appalling, contrived family festival of consumption pass like a fairy tale?

I for one would be grateful. Millions would cheer. Christmas TV became ossified long ago. It’s so bland and formulaic. Why not use a programme like Doctor Who to piss on that turkey dinner and pop a fenugreek leaf into Uncle Silas’ mulled wine? The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe felt like having a funnel forced into my mouth and Christmas poured into it until it overflowed. I choked on the sentiment. Here are three things you could have done instead:

1. A story about a fundamentalist Santa who gradually succumbs to guilt about the culture of festive decadence he’s created and so delivers bombs instead of gifts to the world’s children. The Doctor attempts to stop him but thinks better of it when he too becomes disillusioned with the institutionalised greed he sees all around him; the story climaxing with a global cascade of house fires.

2. A story in which The Doctor and Amy visit Christ as a youth and conclude that rather than being the son of God, he is in fact a mentally ill teenager. They resolve to remove him from the historical record and build an alternative winter solstice celebration centred on the birth of their own fictional character that champions promiscuity and lewd poetry throughout December.

3. A story in which The Doctor spends the weekend with Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. Succumbing to Victoria’s overtures, he breaks Albert’s heart, effectively killing his Christmas spirit and changing history so now, rather than introduce Christmas Trees, the Royal Consort convinces the Queen to cancel the entire thing, which she does, resulting in a December 25th where no one feels obliged to be cheerful, spend time with awful relatives or eat the same fucking food as everyone else in the country. The real message of the episode, however, would be that TV would improve immeasurably and this would be the great insight that a grateful nation would remember you for.

You may use any of those for next year’s special.

Yours in time and festive cyberspace,

Ed

Letters from the last series:

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I know what you mean, although I do think as a Xmas Day special they need to stick to the ‘sugary happy ending’ formula. For me, although there were some lovely comedy and magical fairy-tale moments, the story itself just wasn’t that great. Hardly anything happens for about 15 minutes in the middle of the episode other than a couple of (quite funny) jokes with the Harvest Rangers, and as a result there wasn’t really anything to set the pulses racing.

    However, I’m glad Moffat didn’t take The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe theme too far (portal, winder wonderland, end of). And I can forgive some of the bloatedness around the middle (the episode’s, not mine!) because he absolutely nailed the final scene with Amy and Rory. They set a place for him at the table every Christmas – one line of dialogue says everything about how close the three were, even if Rory in particular had tired of the constant danger by the end of last season. It’s this kind of simple, efficient emotional tugging that Moffat does so beautifully.

    http://slouchingtowardsthatcham.com/2011/12/26/doctor-who-christmas-special-the-doctor-the-widow-and-the-wardrobe-review/

  2. that was HILARIOUS!! I just spewed hot coffee all over my keyboard, via my nose. best way to wake up!

    the episode struck me as fairly blah and very, very predictable. I did enjoy the Amy & Rory bit at the very end, and appreciated the color of their front door.

  3. Your ideas for Christmas specials were the funniest thing I have ever read.

    Incidentally the plane scene at the end was from ‘Five Children and It’, which if you have never read it could best be described as ‘Narnia Light’.


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