Another Christmas and this time (2012) the BBC brought us Steven Moffat’s The Snowmen. Billed as the story that would give the Doctor a new companion in the form of Jenna-Louise Coleman’s Clara and a new TARDIS interior, there was a certain weight of expectation on this episode, especially as we had already met Oswin in the Asylum of the Daleks. That with the various rumours and spoilers already circulating, this had the potential to be great; this also means that for many fans there was the danger that this might be the second turkey of the day.
If you want some spoiler packed option, please read on…
An enormous amount going on with Jenna-Louise playing Clara the barmaid and also a governess. Her connection to the core story is that she bumps in to the Doctor whilst puzzling over mysterious snowmen but also is the governess at a house where a previous governess died and provided the ‘DNA model’ to allow the invading Great Intelligence a pattern whereby it could take over the world.
Yes we had the Great Intelligence (voiced by Sir Ian McKellen) and evil (yet actually sad) Dr Simeon played by Richard E Grant.
Meanwhile the Doctor pines away in his redecorated TARDIS perched on a cloud. Clara follows him there, almost enters the TARDIS then runs off. She later realises that a pond at the house where she works should thaw but doesn’t so sets out to find the Doctor for help; instead she falls into the orbit of Madame Vastra and her wife Jenny who are aided by Strax the Sontaran. All three of the Doctor’s friends are tremendous in this.
We have snow, sonic screwdriver, a force-field and mind-wiping worms. The ingredients for a perfect Christmas. The Doctor connects with Clara and rapidly gives her a key to the TARDIS (smaller on the outside) but then gets some clues that she is in some sense also Oswin (the soufflé being a clue!).
Just as we believe we know where this is all going, Clara is taken and falls to her death. Sontaran medical technology and a showdown with the enemy apart she still dies though we left with the Doctor realising there is a bigger story here, not quite recalling who the Great Intelligence is, and heading off in time and space. In contemporary earth (or so it looks) a young woman walks past the grave of Clara Oswin Oswald – it is Jenna-Louise!
The TARDIS was excellent – we haven’t seen all the new set but it is the sort of TARDIS I want in the anniversary year
I felt that the story was more Clara and her mysteries than Great Intelligence / Dr Simeon and that both McKellen and Grant were underused. I understand both will be back in the run up to the 50th so I am sanguine about this.
Jenna-Louise Coleman is wonderful so far, and gets the prize for the only companion to die twice before travelling in the TARDIS. Some disappointment that there is a contemporary version looming but we shall see.
Part of the plot de-constructed some of the show’s roots (as I discussed here in Who is the Doctor?) in particular Sherlock Holmes (Vastra and Jenny being the ‘real’ Holmes and Watson) and also in the Doctor’s poor impression of Sherlock. Nice touches here from Mr Moffat. It also reference Mary Poppins heavily and the sense of mystery around who is Clara echoes nicely with that. Another point for Mr Moffat!
I don’t expect any fans thought Clara would die and while we now cynically worry that this may prove a poor plot device long term, we are all intrigued. Another point score by Mr Moffat!
There was also a good balance of scary, ethereal, mysterious and amusing – Strax had lots of great belly laugh moments. Clearly Strax / Vastra / Jenny could sustain there own stories. (Hint).
The Great Intelligence – it’s back! That’s nearly all the classic monsters back now (and there are suggestions that the final one on my list will appear in 2013. Gosh!). The intelligent snow isn’t the same as the Web of Fear origin and we have no silver globes (yet) but I am content to stick with this.
Basically a decent hour of TV crammed with Doctor Who goodness and like a well stacked dinner plate we just about got some of everything on and smothered it in gravy then sat down to enjoy it. After one view and buoyed up with the spirit of the season this was for me the best Christmas Special by a long chalk.
Anyway, I enjoyed it a lot – what did you think?