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The Snowmen

ShowDoctor Who / Series VII / Episode 6
First Broadcast2012/12/26 - 19:30 (Link: ABC Details)
Related LinksDoctor Who Wiki Wikipedia
Previous EpisodeThe Angels Takes Manhattan
Next EpisodeThe Bells of Saint John

A very solid Christmas special featuring some recurring characters and a new companion, who is clearly someone special, but it's not clear in what way yet. The Doctor has retreated from his role for some time, but is finally drawn out of it by Clara. The story was pretty good with lots of humour, plot twists and the odd quibble.

The story begins with a child, who avoids human company, building a snowman that talks back to him. We then fast forward fifty years and the child has grown up to become Dr. Simeon who collects samples for some sort of intelligence. He's no angel, feeding some assistants to ravenous snowmen.

A snowman appears outside a bar call The Rose and Crown (nice name). A barmaid sees it and inquires of a passing stranger if he made it. The stranger turns out the be the Doctor, dressed quite differently to when we last saw him. He is surly, but clearly likes Clara's quick wit and intelligence. They discuss "snow that remembers". The Doctor leaves, reflecting that "those were the days" when he used to get acquainted with people. Not to be put off, Clara follows him.

Vastra and Jenny Flint follow Dr. Simeon wondering what he gets up to. We discover that they are now married, clearing up a question over their relationship. Simeon refers to them as the veiled detective and his fatuous assistant. He also remarks that Dr. Doyle is clearly basing his adventures in The Strand on them. A none-too-subtle reference to Sherlock Holmes (producer Moffat's other project). They also discuss "memory snow" and "snow that learns".

Vastra tries to get the Doctor to get involved. But he refuses; he doesn't help any more. Over a 1000 years has taught him not to. This suggests a fair bit of time has passed since our last encounter.

We then encounter Strax, who is somehow back to life, although the manner of his rebirth is not clearly explained. Much of the show's humour is, a little unfortunately, based on him. That is, the mighty Sontaran warrior is now the butt of quite a few jokes, which is a bit incongruous. We also encounter the memory worm, which can rob you of your memory to varying degrees. Very Men in Black. The Doctor asks Strax to take Clara back, but she escapes and follows the Doctor.

We discover he has hidden the TARDIS in the clouds at the top of an invisible staircase. Clara follows him up, knocks on the TARDIS door, but doesn't go in when she has the chance, choosing to escape down the staircase.

Clara leaves the pub and goes to her second job as Miss Montague, a governess to Francesca and Digby, which has a touch of the Sound of Music about it. The father, Captain Latimer, is clearly enamoured of her, although this storyline is never properly resolved.

We find out the story of the previous governess and her death in the pond. We hear of the Francesca's nightmares about the governess coming back to life on Christmas Day. Digby remarks that she needs a Doctor. This gets Clara thinking and she goes to find the Doctor. Her calling out attracts Jenny who takes her away to avoid drawing attention to the area where the Doctor lives. Clara meets Vastra and seems unperturbed by her appearance. Vastra applies the "one word test" to find out what Clara wants. It seems she passes the test as Vastra contacts the Doctor with the one word "pond", which resonates with the Doctor, although Clara couldn't have known why.

The Doctor gets involved but is still in denial. He enters Dr. Simeon's institute disguised as Sherlock Holmes. We now have talking snow and the Doctor deduces it needs a human in ice form to evolve. At the Latimer residence the previous governess comes to life. The Doctor arrives in time to sonic her, with a new "anti-freeze" setting.

The Doctor catches sight of himself in a mirror and notices he's put on a bow-tie without realising it. Slowly but surely he's engaging again. The Doctor and Clara flee to the roof. Their banter and flirting continues. Clara nails it when she points out he really knows how to sulk, referring to his withdrawal. We get the usual TARDIS reveal, but with a few twists. Clara says "it's smaller on the outside" rather than the usual "it's bigger on the inside". The Doctor acknowledges this as a first. As is her inquiry about whether it has a kitchen. Clara remarks she quite likes making soufflés. This strikes a chord with the Doctor. In the end he gives her a key noting this is him giving in, ie. he can no longer resist getting involved. He notes that he never knows why he chooses a companion, he just knows who.

Then there's a moment of dissonance as the ice governess enters the TARDIS and drags Clara out and they both fall from the clouds. What on earth is going on? Clara falls to the ground and Vastra's instruments say she is dead. Strax tries to revive her with some advanced medical technology, while the Doctor heads back to Dr. Simeon's institute. The Doctor says the intelligence is just a mirror and he tricks Simeon into being bitten by the memory worm in the belief that erasing his memory will mean there's nothing for the intelligence to reflect. But something goes wrong. The "dream outlives the dreamer" and the intelligence invades the space the Doctor made in Simeon and takes control. He attacks and nearly kills the Doctor before his power wanes. It has started to rain tears outside and the Doctor realises this is what saved them, a family crying on Christmas Day.

They race back to the Latimer residence where Strax says there are moments left before Clara dies. Clara tells the Doctor to "Run, run you clever boy" echoing Oswin's comments at the end of Asylum of the Daleks. It seems the Doctor still does not pick up on who she is.

The final scene is at the graveyard as Clara is buried. The Doctor muses that the Great Intelligence rings a bell. We've encountered it before with the second Doctor, but I'd forgotten this. And then the Doctor sees Clara's tombstone and her full name: Clara Oswin Oswald. It is only then that he realises she's soufflé girl. It's been clear to the viewer that it's the same girl, but it's easy to forget the Doctor never saw her face in the Asylum, he only heard her voice. But he's certain it's the same voice and she's died twice. He's back in the game and he races off to find her. Watch me run.

A few interesting and thought-provoking items in this story:

  • Clara may be the new companion, but she's clearly not an ordinary one. Twice she's saved the Doctor only to (effectively) die twice. There's definitely something special going on here, but what?
  • Clara's birthday is November 26, the same day that Doctor Who first screened, another hint at something special?
  • This episode could almost be a prequel to the Great Intelligence stories of the 2nd Doctor, given the snow and the map of the London underground.
  • 2013 will mark 50 years of the Doctor. Prepare for something special.
  • This episode is designated as part of the 7th series which continues into 2013.
  • There's a new opening sequence, featuring the Doctor's face for the first time since 1989.
  • There's a new TARDIS interior which looks very cool. At first I thought the roundels weren't there, but they are.

Quibbles:

  • Richard Grant is great as Dr. Simeon, but we could have seen more of him.
  • Tom Ward is excellent, but wasted. There should have been more of him and perhaps a proper resolution to his relationship with Clara.
  • Strax is a Sontaran, he should not be the butt of jokes.
  • It's Doctor Who, not Sherlock Holmes. Enough references already.