Ah, the annual Doctor Who Christmas special; my favorite holiday tradition. And being with family and stuff too, sure. This year’s special, “The Snowmen,” brought us a mixture of very old, kind of old, relatively new, and very new, all within a very entertaining and intriguing hour-long adventure. Unlike either of the previous two Matt Smith/Steven Moffat Christmas specials, this one directly impacts the continuity of the series, likely because it’s in the middle of one. It saw the return of some great characters that I was very happy to see again and had an “iconic” villain or two, whatever that might mean. It also had snow creatures with big, sharp teeth that make little brothers afraid and have to leave the room (I’m assuming that holds true for everybody, right?) and a dead, terrifying governess made out of ice. All in all, a really great return that made me really excited to then have to wait four more months until it comes back…
When we meet the Doctor this time (as with the prequels we’ve seen), he’s in London, circa 1892, living a hermit-like existence, more or less removed from society, only casually helping The Great Detective (and inspiration for Sherlock Holmes!) herself, Madame Vastra, her faithful assistant/wife Jenny, and the somehow-alive Sontaran Strax, who provides much of the comic relief in the episode. These characters, as you may remember, all appeared in Series 6’s “A Good Man Goes to War” as part of the Doctor’s army. I really love these characters and am very pleased to see them back, and judging by the “Coming Soon” trailer for the rest of the series, we haven’t seen the last of them. If there’s one thing at which Steven Moffat excels, it’s creating compelling secondary characters to be the allies of the Doctor. Lest we forget, he created River Song and, if not created, was the first person to write Captain Jack. I’m not the first to say this, nor will I be the last, but if they wanted to make a Vastra & Company show, I’d absolutely watch it.
The enemy in this story is Dr. Simeon, played by Richard E. Grant, who as a child became the play thing of the Great Intelligence, an enemy whom the Doctor has not faced since he was in his Second iteration back in the ‘60s. I love all the references to the Classic Series we’re getting this year. Might it be due to the 50th anniversary? I wouldn’t bet against it. And who better to voice the Great Intelligence than Gandalf Magneto, aka Sir Ian McKellen? Grant and McKellen are excellent choices, and they’re good enough actors to make do with what is probably the least fleshed-out part of the script. Essentially, the Great Intelligence is using the minds of people to manifest the chompy alien snow as carnivorous beasts. What it really needs, though, is a completely icy person to help it take human form. Luckily for it, the former governess of a rich man’s children drowned in the house’s pond. Luckily for the world, the rich man’s children have a new governess.
This brings us to Clara, a/k/a Miss Montague, aka Clara Oswin Oswald, aka Soufflé Girl, played again by Jenna-Louise Coleman, the tavern wench SLASH prim and proper governess. I don’t think I’ve liked a companion this immediately in… ever. She’s absolutely fantastic. I thought I liked her in “Asylum of the Daleks,” but this absolutely solidified it. Like most of Moffat’s women, she’s savvy and smart and capable, which is great. We don’t need any shrieking whiners. I was very curious how it would be explained how a girl in the future who was inside a Dalek (who died) would be related to a girl in Victorian times. A few people thought that, like River Song, we saw the end of the character’s life and her time with the Doctor would be earlier in her life. I thought this seemed too easy, and too done-already. My theory was that “Clara” would be some ancestor of “Oswin” who just happens to look exactly the same. We both were wrong; leave it to the Moff to come up with a character who’s even more mysterious than Amelia Pond. Turns out, she’s somehow recurring throughout history and has twice died helping the Doctor. So very interesting. Her scene with Vastra is really great, too.
Matt Smith again proves himself to be my favorite Doctor. I loved seeing him sulking around, trying his hardest not to get involved, and slowly but surely reigniting his interest through a new companion. He goes out of his way not to wear a bow tie, not to engage with people, not to be the Doctor, but his gradual re-Doctoring was just dandy. He has this amazing ability to be at once youthful and a thousand years old, and you can see all of it here. At the beginning of the episode, he’s as old-acting as we’ve ever seen him, and as he regains his lust for adventuring, he seems suddenly younger. It’s an amazing feat. The new TARDIS interior is slick and cool and reflects the way the show’s been going this year.
There’s a lot more to “The Snowmen” that a second or third viewing will undoubtedly awaken in my brain, but having only seen it once, amid the noise of family, I found it completely agreeable. Much more engaging than last year’s “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe,” it continues the Series 7 tradition of being pretty much awesome. The Clara-Oswin storyline is really something I’m looking forward to uncovering. Until then I’ll probably watch “The Snowmen” a bunch more times. Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I have ham to eat.