Yowzah! “The Snowmen” had everything one could want from a Doctor Who Christmas special: characters from episodes past, an evil villain with scary monsters in the Victorian-era present, a new companion whom we’ll see again in some incarnation in the future, and then some.
“The Snowmen“ was far and away the best Christmas special featuring Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith. It was dark and funny. The menace to the world was actually frightening. New companion Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) was full of spark and spunk. And there were plenty of other new Who things as well as references to the history of Doctor Who.
Both old and new were on brilliant display during the opening title sequence, where the face of The Doctor from classic Doctor Who has been reintegrated along with revamped theme music.
In “The Snowmen” story, The Doctor has been sulking in the TARDIS high above Victorian England since he lost the Ponds. But leave it to Steven Moffat to find ways for us to remember them, from Clara’s one word test answer of “pond” to her falling off the TARDIS’ spiral staircase in the clouds, reminiscent of Amy’s and Rory’s off the roof of the Winter Quay in “The Angels Take Manhattan“.
And hearkening to Rory’s deaths and resurrections, we now know that Clara and Oswin Oswald, who died in “Asylum of the Daleks“, are one and the same; we just don’t know how. Nor do we yet know how Clara will be living once again in the present day — great cliffhanger fodder to leave us waiting with bated breath for the premiere of Season 7, Part 2 in Spring 2013.
Similarly, Sontaran Strax (Dan Starkey), who died during the Battle of Demon’s Run (“A Good Man Goes to War“), had been brought back to life by “a friend” of The Doctor (Captain Jack Harkness? Rose?) in advance of “The Snowmen.” And Doctor Simeon (Richard E Grant), who died by memory worm, well, he was given new life as a zombie puppet of the Great Intelligence (voice of Sir Ian McKellen).
Altogether, one could say these are references to the “death” of the classic Doctor Who series in 1989 and its subsequent resurrections in 1996 and 2005. Clever, yes?
But wait. There’s more! In a nod to Steven Moffat’s other hit series, Sherlock, and to classic Doctor Who, Strax calls The Doctor Sherlock Holmes when the Time Lord is back to his mystery-solving self and wearing a deerstalker cap and cape, just as Fourth Doctor Tom Baker did in “The Talons of Weng-Chiang.” Along the same lines was Doctor Simeon’s remark about Bell and the Sherlock Holmes serial in The Strand, likening Silurian Vastra (Neve McIntosh) and Jenny (Catrin Stewart) to Holmes and Watson.
(With Vastra, Jenny, and Strax being so integral to this Christmas special, one wonders if they will continue to be recurring characters and/or if a spin-off series, á la The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood, is in the works. I, for one, would welcome either or both scenarios.)
Speaking of Vastra and Strax, both had great lines in “The Snowmen,” with the former’s “Good evening, I am a lizard woman from the dawn of time, and this is my wife” and the latter’s “I suggest we melt his brain using acid, then interrogate him… Other way around.” But…
None could top Clara’s “It’s smaller on the outside” (hah!) and “I like making soufflés” (omg!).
Dalek Oswin also liked to make soufflés, and the duality of Clara’s being a Cockney-accented barmaid and well-spoken governess was an early clue to her also being both Clara the human and Oswin the Dalek.
The timey-wimey-ness of The Doctor meeting Clara/Oswin has a kind of River Song/Melody Pond feel to it. Dalek Oswin is seemingly from The Doctor’s past, but is she from Clara’s past or future? And where does the third Clara of “The Snowmen”‘s last scene fit into the scheme of things? Are she and The Doctor in another one-timeline-moving-forward-one-moving-back scenario? One’s brain reels at the possibilities.
Then there’s “Run. Run, you clever boy. And remember.” A bit like “Hello, sweetie,” wouldn’t you say? And the “Remember me — For we shall meet again” on Clara Oswin Oswald’s gravestone, could it be the “Bad Wolf” of the Clara/Oswin age? (And are “Winter is coming” and “That’s the way to do it” new memes, too?) Only Moffat knows for sure, clever bugger.
Coleman is excellent as Clara, infusing the character with everything we’ve come to expect from a companion — beauty, curiosity, helpfulness, and enough cheek to rock The Doctor’s wibbly-wobbly world. (That was no let-me-absorb-TARDIS-energy, give-you-a-genetic-transfer, or erase-your-memory kind of kiss between Clara and The Doctor; it was a full-out snog, even if it was reminiscent of River’s first/last one and Amy’s seduction one with him.)
And Smith owns the character of The Doctor like he hasn’t done before. We’ve seen him demonstrate The Doctor’s silliness, bravado, and melancholy in previous episodes, as well as his willingness to divulge what he feels in his two hearts. However, never have we seen this Time Lord with as much depth of tenderness and vulnerability as we did in the moments leading up to Clara’s death.
As for guest stars Grant and McKellen, no one does the evil-stern-face look and booming disembodied voice the way they respectively do, and it would have been great to see and hear more of both of them in “The Snowmen” (which, by the way, along with the Great Intelligence, are references to “The Abominable Snowmen” and the Yog-Sothoth race, respectively, of classic Doctor Who). But Moffat could only fit but so much in an already jam-packed hour (sans adverts), so perhaps he’ll give us another time rift and resurrect them in a future episode.
All told, “The Snowmen“ was a brilliant Christmas special and spectacular way to kick off what is shaping up to be an epic 50th anniversary of Doctor Who.