“The Snowmen,” 2012’s Christmas special of Doctor Who, has absolutely restored my excitement for this series about adventure and time travel and a “madman with a box.” That sense of wonder, eroded by lackluster episodes in the first half of Series 7, was alive and kicking in this holiday story of killer psychic snow and a contrary governess.
Seriously, after finishing it, all I could do was flail and shout “I AM EXCITE.” I’m sure my husband would’ve been annoyed if he weren’t doing his own version of the same.
This episode was a winner in spite of itself: it’s pretty weak as a standalone, and the villain did not impress. Can we just talk for a minute about how disappointing it is that the Great Intelligence ended up being both irrelevant and forgettable? I’ve got two names for you: Richard E. “I have waited so long to become canonical!” Grant and Ian “I am the boss” McKellen. Richard E. Grant is apparently such a fan of Doctor Who that he’s played the Doctor in two different non-canonical works1 and finally managed to land the role of a villain on the show itself. Ian McKellen is, of course, the might of Gandalf, Magneto, Iorek Byrnison and himself combined — he is not a person to be trifled with. So why stick them with a talking snowglobe and an army of snowmen driven by the petulance of a misanthropic 8-year-old? There was a deeper story available there that could have mined the GI’s longing for corporeal form and Dr. Walter Simeon’s longing to be alone. Mined them like a pathos-miner.
Hey, remember that time the Doctor pretended to be Sherlock Holmes when he barged into Simeon’s office for the first time? Remember how terrible at it he was? That’s even more evident once you remember the Doctor faced the GI twice before. Even if that was nine incarnations ago, you’d think the Doctor would have put it together before the very end of the episode. Oh well, at least it explains why the GI had RoboYeti’s terrorizing the London Underground almost a century later.
Here’s what made the episode: Strax. Madame Vastra. Strax. Jenny. Strax. CLARA OSWIN OSWALD. (Did I mention Strax?) …I’m not sure I can explain to you in words the amazing quality of Strax, Vastra, and Jenny in this episode. Let’s do it in GIFs:
Mofatt was in his finest form when penning the dialogue for this episode. He managed to capture the perfect mix of whimsical humor, sarcastic barbs, and emotionally devastating moments of cosmic angst. This episode also witnessed the return to Mofatt’s use of fairy tale motifs – staircases into the clouds! Where a man lives in a box that’s bigger on the inside! Terrifying governesses made of ice! Snow that echoes yourself back to you! Sympathetic magic sorta saving the day, turning snow into tears.
(Mofatt also heavily taps into important British texts with each Christmas special – 2010 was Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. 2011 pulled from Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. This year was totally Travers’ Mary Poppins books.2)
And what can I say about Clara? Clara Oswin Oswald, the girl who can, the one who has died twice (so far). She was the perfect blend of Mary Poppins and self-made woman and I loved her to pieces.3 She had more than wits enough to go up against the Doctor. She never did as she was told, but that didn’t result in the Doctor having to save her as it has for so many others – instead, it just meant she was proactive and went after what she wanted. She intuited the Doctor’s intentions, surprised him, and pulled him back from the sulking abyss. She was a woman who took leaps, full of defiance and curiosity and steadfastness. The only tragedy is that she fell; I would really have enjoyed a Victorian Companion.
Of course, this is the second time we’ve encountered this woman – the first time, in “The Asylum of the Daleks,” she’d been converted into a dalek. As Seanan4 said, “This woman is TOO AWESOME not to exist ALL THE TIME.” (Clara also has a fondness for the color red, making souffles, and saying “Run, you clever boy. And remember.”)
Really, this has just made me terribly excited to see what’s coming – and I’m calling it now. Clara Oswin Oswald is a cosmic meme. It works, alright?
P.S. I was really remiss in not saying above that Matt Smith, as Eleven, was sublime. So, uh: Matt Smith, as Eleven, was sublime. There. He slouched around in Dickensian disgruntlement quite admirably.
2. Shhh, I know P.L. Travers is Australian. ?
3. Unfortunate phrasing, sorry. Given the ending and all. Perhaps I should say, instead, that she made my heart pitter-pat. ?
Note on the Doctor Who GIFs: I found each of the Doctor Who GIFs on Tumblr and am crediting them to who posted them. If I have misatrributed any, let me know and I’ll fix it. The Strax GIFs were found at jupid and the Madame Vastra/Jenny GIF was found at dustily.