* Please note-hypothesized spoilers at the end of this post. Most likely, they are completely wrong. But, I think the guessing is fun. So, don’t read the last paragraph if you are concerned about incorrect spoilers.*
I thought this was a sweet episode. I adored the further character development of Danny and actually felt a little fondness for him. I love the ways in which the production team so cleverly contrasts Danny and the Doctor, this time via Danny’s speech to Clara about not joining her on the TARDIS. Also, the addiction theme continues. Despite Clara’s apparent sacrifice of staying on Earth rather than escaping with the doctor, the truth is she chose danger over safety. She was also much more concerned about adventuring with Danny and the Doctor than ensuring the safety of the kids.
This episode was significant for me because a totally, crazy theory came to me while watching the Doctor Who Extra. I noticed how closely a scene from The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe resembled a scene from In The Forest of the Night…the sparkling lights. So, I thought I would go back and watch the Christmas special to see if there were more similarities that might actually mean something in terms of the clever Moffat mind. Turns out, there were way too many to be just coincidence or the result of 50 years of story-telling.
First, the settings are the same yet opposite, like two sides of a coin (another two-dimensional metaphor for our Doctor?). The children in both episodes spend their time in magical places. First, the Museum of Natural History in Forest and a bedroom the Doctor has “repaired” in Widow. Both stories are also set in magical forests. Widow is set in a winter forest of “naturally occurring Christmas trees.” In Forest, the children find themselves in a grown-overnight-and-taken-over-all-of-London deciduous forest. Both forest are in peril from the short-sightedness of humans. Both are saved by the Doctor getting out of the way and letting the humans and trees work together to save the day.
When speaking to the children about nighttime activities, both Danny and the Doctor reference “midnight feasts.”
In both episodes there is a lost child who is searching for something. Cyril from a Widow is following the footsteps in the snow and Maebh is following the thoughts invading her mind. Cyril and Maebh are both gregarious children, of approximately the same age. Both of their mothers’ are searching for them through the forest, despite having absolutely no clue where they could be. In fact, only in a magical Doctor Who land could these women have had a prayer of finding their children.
The parent-child bond also figures prominently in both stories. In Forest, Clara tells the Doctor it would be wrong to save the the children because they will profoundly miss their parents. It is Maebh’s reunion with her mother that, indirectly, discourages the children from going with the Doctor and Clara to watch the solar flare. In Widow, only the mother character, Madge, is “strong” enough to guide the spaceship and the life-force of the trees to their new home.
Most striking are the similarities between the “Life Force” lights of the Christmas trees and the “Here” lights that grew the forest on earth. They both look and move in very similar fashion as they leave the trees at the end of each episode.
Also, the role of the Doctor in the stories is to narrate the story as it unfolds, helpless to do anything because his sonic screwdriver doesn’t affect wood. In fact, it is the tress themselves that do the work in both episodes, via the conduit of a human. The trees even use humans to speak in both episodes.
At the conclusions, there is a homecoming for the Doctor. In Widow, we learn that the Doctor has not yet seen Amy and Rory since his “death” at the end of The Wedding of River a Song. The widow invites the Doctor to join her family for their Christmas celebrations, but he declines. She assumes he has other family and friends waiting for him. When he tells her they all think he is dead, she insists that he go to them…and he does. Amy welcomes him in, welcomes him home, and the doctor cries his first “tears of happiness.” At the end of Forest, as Clara the Doctor to escape Earth in the TARDIS, he argues, “This is my world, too. I walk your earth, I breathe your air.” The planet that he abandoned in Kill the Moon, he reclaims as his own and comes home.
Did I convince you?
Assuming that these stories are similar in a manner that exceeds potential coincidence, why?
I have two theories. In the first, these are themes from Moffat’s and the writers’ own lives that they are working out through story-telling, something we all do. In fact, the DW stories and characters that personally speak to us and the ones that don’t are driven by our own working out of life themes. I would be perfectly content if this theory was true.
Alternatively, this episode could be priming us for the rest of the season. The Life Force sparkles from Widow are able to travel in time, perhaps they have returned to Earth over the years to repay their rescue by humanity. The Doctor did say that they escaped as a “sub-etheric waveband of light which can exist… out among the stars.” No reason they couldn’t visit Earth once in a while to save the day. Perhaps they will soon play a role in saving more than Earth…Perhaps there is another home that needs saving.
*HYPOTHETICAL SPOILER ALERT*
Gallifrey is still out there, people. I believe the Doctor has been trying to figure out how to pull it from the pocket universe all season (the writing on the blackboards). I am also struck by Clara’s statement that she doesn’t want to be the last of her kind. I can’t remember a New Who companion every saying that before, can you?
I am predicting that the final episodes will involve the Doctor bringing Gallifrey home, with Clara as the conduit, and Missy filling the role of antagonist, trying to prevent Gallifrey from returning. Somehow, the life-force sparkles and Maebh’s sister Annabel will also be involved. Clara is going to be forced to choose intimacy with Danny or adventure with the Doctor; a choice which will either hinder or faciliate Gallifrey’s return. The Doctor will need to access very component of his personality to solve the riddle, overcome the baddies, and save the day…with a little help from his friends.
This is likely a bunch of hooey-but it sure is fun!