Doctor Who: The Snowmen (2012 Christmas Special)

Doctor Who - The Snowmen

The Doctor as Scrooge? Why not? Steven Moffat pulls it off perfectly in this cracking Christmas Special, with the Doctor living in a cloud of his own misery, reached by a retractable ladder and an ornate, circular iron staircase (“It’s taller on the inside”). In keeping with his mood, he’s dressed in shabby Victorian clothes, dented top hat, and sans bow tie. The TARDIS could do with a lick of paint as well.

It is, of course, because of losing the Ponds – “He suffered losses which hurt him,” as Madame Vastra explains to Clara, who has a more down-to-earth take on it, “Mad.” The Doctor is indulging in a massive sulk, refusing to help humanity, until Clara appears like a force of nature to get him up and running.

While the Doctor still has loyal friends – Madame Vastra, her wife, Jenny, and Strax, the Sontaran warrior brought back from the dead – only Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) is able to break though the scar tissue and enlist his help against the Snowmen. They are intelligent crystals who mirror human thoughts, given form by the lonely, bitter mind of a boy who decides he doesn’t need anybody. Grown up to be a lonely, bitter man, he colludes with the snow to destroy humanity.

This Doctor Simeon is another Scrooge, sharing the Doctor’s bitter loneliness. But the Doctor has Clara to save him. Mostly by irritating him till he has to recognise her as his new companion. And because he starts to care about her, he can care about the world again.

It takes time. The catalyst is Clara’s one word answer to Madame Vastra, encapsulating the problem – “Pond” – which cannot fail to attract his attention. To the extent that he subconsciously puts on a bow tie before dashing off to rescue the Latimer’s from a dead, frozen, vengeful Governess. To make sure Clara is the one, he tests her by asking what his plan is, while being pursued by the Governess. Clara gets it, and also sees through the subterfuge.

From then on, the Doctor is committed, perhaps in love. There’s a fervency in the way he offers Clara the key to the TARDIS: “I never know why. I only know who.” And he’s devastated when the Governess snatches her away, just as things are turning out right. So he fights even harder to save the world and her. Perhaps he tries to bargain with the universe.

The world is saved, but it’s through the tears at Clara’s death, which fall as salt rain to melt the Snowmen and destroy the globe that controls them. And yet, maybe that bargain has been struck after all, because the Doctor recognises her name from the gravestone – Clara Oswin Oswald. He remembers her as Souffle Girl, who though a Dalek herself, saved him and the Ponds from the Daleks. As she lay dying, he again gave her the key, saying, “I don’t know how. I only know who.” So now he dashes off to find her, on the principle that three times is a charm, and in this case death doesn’t seem to be an obstacle. The last scene shows a modern Clara, standing by the gravestone in an overgrown cemetery. Of course we know she’s the new companion, but it’s good to have the mystery about how it could possibly happen.

I’m delighted with Clara. She’s intelligent, sexy, independent, exactly what the Doctor needs to keep him on his toes. Looking forward to the new season. I also enjoyed the return of Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax. Madame Vastra had one of the best lines in the show, with “Good evening, I’m the Lizard Woman from the Dawn of Time, and this is my Wife.” Glad to see Strax alive and well – you can’t keep a good Sontaran down.

A superb Doctor Who Christmas Special, made more powerful by allowing the Doctor to reveal his dark side.

6 thoughts on “Doctor Who: The Snowmen (2012 Christmas Special)

  1. I was a bit disappointed. I always like Madame Vastra (and agree with you about that great line!) and I welcomed Clara – much more interesting than Amy (sorry!). The whole Snowmen thing didn’t quite gel with me, and they just didn’t seem as threatening as, say, the Weeping Angels or Robot Santas. Still, a much-anticipated and enjoyable event.

    • I agree the Snowmen aren’t sufficiently scary, but I saw them as the MacGuffin to drive the story of the Doctor’s redemption, which I took to be the point of the show. Yes, Clara is much more interesting than Amy.

  2. I thought she said “Man”. I’ll have to watch it again.

    I also like Clara more than Amy. I liked Amy’s hero worship but she wasn’t the brightest of companions. Oswin is brilliant. I re-watched Asylum of the Daleks to prep. And when she looks directly at the camera and says “Remember me.” I know that’s significant. So I can’t wait to see what Steven & the gang have in store. I’m so excited. I kind of hope (but I know he won’t) that he kills her in every episode. That she dies every week. But that’s a little dark. (and a little too Kenny) I didn’t like the four part Goodbye Ponds episodes. So I’m looking forward to the next 8. And Strax may come from a warrior race but he’d be the first to tell you that… he’s a nurse.

    • I liked your thoroughly sick and twisted idea of Clara as Kenny. But then the Doctor would have to spend a significant part of each episode finding her again. Three times is enough. I’d forgotten the “Remember me” line from Asylum of the Daleks. The last thing Clara says, while popping her clogs this time round, is “And(?) remember.” I’ll definitely watch it again.

      I didn’t mind the Ponds’ Farewell Tour, but knowing they were history, couldn’t help occasionally thinking, “Well get on with it, then!” Hope we see more of Strax.

  3. Reblogged this on Mel Rook & The 7 Deadly Sins and commented:
    I thought she said “Man”. I’ll have to watch it again.

    I also like Clara more than Amy. I liked Amy’s hero worship but she wasn’t the brightest of companions. Oswin is brilliant. I re-watched Asylum of the Daleks to prep. And when she looks directly at the camera and says “Remember me.” I know that’s significant. So I can’t wait to see what Steven & the gang have in store. I’m so excited. I kind of hope (but I know he won’t) that he kills her in every episode. That she dies every week. But that’s a little dark. (and a little too Kenny) I didn’t like the four part Goodbye Ponds episodes. So I’m looking forward to the next 8. And Strax may come from a warrior race but he’d be the first to tell you that… he’s a nurse.

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