Doctor Who "The Snowmen" Review: The New Girl

By Emily V. Gordon

Dec 26, 2012

Doctor Who Season 7 Christmas Special: "The Snowmen"

It's Christmastime, which means family, presents, tinsel, overeating, and for a lot of us, a Doctor Who Christmas special. Since 2005, fans have been treated to a holiday-themed Doctor Who every year on Christmas Day (if you don't count 1965's "The Feast of Steven," that is). Some of them have mimicked disaster movies, some have featured big guest-stars, but all were meant to be fun, accessible, holiday mini-movies. Since we've had a bunch of mini-movies in Series 7 thus far, we were prepped and ready to go, and this Christmas special did not disappoint.

The best Doctor Who Christmas specials, to me, are the ones that take something Christmassy and make it sinister, like the robot Santa Sycorax from "The Christmas Invasion." So imagine my delight when this episode introduced us to murderous Snowmen who appeared to have been controlled by a man named Walter Simian for his whole life. Their head honcho? Oh, he was a GIANT SNOW GLOBE voiced by SIR IAN MCKELLAN. It was fun and silly, but this episode wasn't about the monsters as much as it was about the monster the Doctor has become.

You see, since he lost the Ponds, the Doctor has been transformed into one of those men women go nuts for, one of those men who avoids human contact because "he's been hurt before." The Doctor is now a creature who hangs back, watching mysterious things happen without interfering. He's more of a documentarian than a savior, and he believes the universe doesn't care whether he saves it or not. His only friends are fellow weirdos—Madame Vastra the Silurian, her human companion (and wife!) Jenny, and Strax the Sontaran. You may remember these folk from "A Good Man Goes to War," and we got to spend a lot more time with them in "The Snowmen." We learned that Vastra and Jenny are the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes and Watson, and we learned that Strax is hilarious. Some people may not be into Strax's dim-witted humor, but I thought it was a lighthearted addition to the story and a fun counterpoint to our emo Doctor.

However, this is all led up to the biggest selling point of the special, our formal introduction to the Doctor's new companion, played by Jenna-Louise Coleman. We met her (again) as a saucy barmaid who immediately started bossing the Doctor around and didn't shy away from anything, especially not the mysterious Doctor she's just met. Clara, a.k.a. Miss Montague, was a bit of a mystery herself, as she appeared to be leading a double life—one as a barmaid, and one and a posh governess for two rich children. One of those rich children was having nightmares about their previous governess, who drowned and whose body was still frozen in a pond in the backyard. Surely that wasn't related to the Snowmen...

A scene between Clara/Miss Montague and Madame Vastra explained everything we needed to know about how the Doctor has changed in our absence: He lives in isolation, he's lost his spark, he doesn't care about humanity anymore, and Vastra wants to fix that. The Doctor agreed to check into the child's nightmares based on his apparent crush on Clara and her mention of the word "pond," and it was enjoyable to watch him fight that crush tooth and nail. After he battled an impressive-looking undead snow governess (my goodness I missed this show), he insisted that he doesn't do this sort of thing anymore, only to notice that he was once again wearing his patented Doctor Who bowtie.

The best scenes of the episode were the ones that focused on the Doctor and Clara, as they have some pretty dynamic chemistry. If you compare those first scenes with Clara to his first scenes with Amy Pond as a grown-up, it's easy to see that even though both women are feisty and adventurous and flirtatious, the Doctor is much more gaga over Clara. It's a nice change. The two ran from the undead snow governess, straight up to the TARDIS, which now resides on a cloud in the sky, and along the way, they got to know each other. She rightfully called out that he was sulking in a box in the sky, and he introduced her to the TARDIS in a lovely, breathtaking moment. The TARDIS has had some upgrades and looks like an analog future—it's new, but it's a close relative to the TARDIS of the past. I perhaps preferred its previous incarnation, which somehow looked like an underwater lair, but I'm sure I'll get used to this one. Seeing the TARDIS again and hearing its theme so late in the episode was worth the wait.

But maybe you're like me and were wondering the whole time whether this Clara/Miss Montague was really Oswin Oswald, the woman the Doctor bantered with in "Asylum of the Daleks," the first episode of Series 7. Oswin died in that episode. Both characters are played by the same actress, and when Clara asked about making a souffle in the kitchen of the TARDIS, we saw a lightbulb over the Doctor's head. He never got to see Oswin Oswald, but he was starting to realize this woman may be special. He'd done several seemingly meaningless things throughout the episode that indicated he wanted Clara around, even as he insisted he didn't. Why? "I don't know why, I only know who," he said. A giddy Doctor gave her a key to the TARDIS and bounced around with delight. So naturally, Clara was pulled away by the undead snow governess, fell to the ground, and was mortally wounded.

I perhaps found it a bit sudden that the Doctor changed his stance completely and decided to take on a new companion, but I decided to chalk that up to puppy love, and that he'd just been looking for a reason to come out of retirement. The Doctor, feeling horribly guilty over Clara's deathbed, made a deal with the Universe: If he saved Earth, the Universe would bring Clara back. The Universe doesn't make deals, Madame Vastra warned. Case in point, Clara died, and when the Doctor saw her tombstone, finally it clicked. Clara Oswin Oswald's final words—"Run, you clever boy. Run, and remember" made sense to the Doctor now. Somehow, he'd met this girl twice, and watched her die twice. Something impossible has happened, and now, the Doctor must find her again.

It's always made an odd sort of sense to me that the Doctor can never really be in love with any of his companions while being the Doctor. If he could, instead of going on adventures they would just hole up and watch Netflix and order in, like those in new relationships tend to do. The idea that the Doctor has found a companion he could love, but that he has to chase her through time and space (much like his wife River Song), is ridiculously compelling. This Christmas special brought more fun, magic, and romance to Doctor Who than I've seen this entire series. We're back to the witty banter, sly sex appeal, and outlandish monsters that made me fall in love with the show, and I am looking forward to the reset that Clara Oswin Oswald has brought to the Whoniverse.


– New theme! What do you guys think of it?

– "Winter is coming" was said at least a few times in this episode, an obvious nod to Game of Thrones, which I thought was pretty cool.

– I actually laughed out loud at Strax's line "Sir, emergency, I think I've been run over by a cab." There are a million inherent problems with a character who at some points appears to be impaired on a Memento level and at other points seems completely competent, but again, I enjoyed him.

– The Doctor was absolutely wearing Amy's Harry Potter glasses.

– I also appreciated the nod to Moffat's other show, Sherlock.

My favorite line of the episode: "I'm a lizard woman from the dawn of time, and this is my wife."

– I had trouble understanding the Doctor's response to Madame Vastra when she asked, "You missed this, didn't you?" Did he say "Sure" or "Shut up"?

– The writers are clearly setting up the Intelligent Snow to come back as a supervillain later; it dissipated without being vanquished, and there was a lot of talk about the London Underground tunnels. I wonder how it will return?

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  • dougdickerson Jan 31, 2013

    Moffat sure loves his anagrams. I think he also liked the movie the sixth sense. When I saw the scene below it felt like the scene from the sixth sense when the boy tells the "dead" guy that he sees "dead people", but at this point you dont realize that the guy is dead.

    Doctor: Maybe it's snow that fell before, maybe it remembers how to make snowmen.

    Clara: What? Snow that can remember, thats sillyDoctor: Whats wrong with Silly?

    Clara: Nothing, still talkin to you aint I?

    Oswin Oswald= I WAS OLD SNOW (Obvious Anagram)

    Interesting that both times we have seen Oswin die. There was snow

    Mybe she was normal until she died from the fall onto the "MEMORY" snow.

  • Kuro_Neko- Jan 30, 2013

    I'm not sure I'm a fan of the whole reincarnation thing. I had actually initially suspected it was something along the lines of River, where The Doctor simply met Oswin for the first time late in her personal timeline. I know they already did that with River, but I felt they never really made proper use of that avenue and thought they might be trying again with Oswin. Obviously we now know this isn't the case. *shrug* I guess I'll just have to wait and see where it goes.

  • kendalkendal Jan 03, 2013

    Actually the Doctor was wearing Amy's Winston Churchill glasses

  • aredo3604 Jan 02, 2013

    DoctorWho became just too childish. With Moffat it started great, the first episodes were darker than before but then they did a U-turn and everything was turned into a silly joke. Characters started acting all dumb in a very bad way, plots started getting lame too.
    Since when Doctor Who became a show for 3-5 years old children ?
    I really hope they are going to make it better and more adult now with the new actress or they should stop calling it Doctor Who and turn it into a Little Kids Who show instead.

  • DoobiusPrime Jan 03, 2013

    Yeah, I'm going to go ahead and second the, "Really?" I have a hunch this is the first Who episode you've watched in a while. Kanniballl is right, there's been plenty of dark episodes recently. Heck, I think Moffat has been pretty consistant with the tone he's set with his doctor. Besides, aren't the Christmas specials always meant to be kid friendly so a family can sit down and enjoy it together?

  • kanniballl Jan 03, 2013

    This season alone. The recent "Angels Take Manhatten" was quite dark and adult. "A Town Called Mercy" wasn't exactly childish: a genocidal scientist and his deformed cyborg creation, along with talks about how the universe is all just shades of gray. "Asylum of the Daleks" wasn't exactly childish and "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" was somewhere between serious and childish.

    Last season was a little light hearted, but it still had some dark moments.

  • kanniballl Jan 03, 2013

    Heck to expand on my "last season" bit, Season 6 only had a couple of episodes that could be considered light-hearted.

    Closing Time / Let's Kill Hitler / The Black Spot were really the only ones that were light-hearted, and even they had their moments.

  • aredo3604 Jan 03, 2013

    You must be little kids guys. If you think last Doctor Who season was dark..... "Let's Kill Hitler" is dumb, childish and retarded. The whole River character and plot is just plain silly and wrong on too many levels.
    Moffat should watch and learn from Once Upon A Time to get a clue on how to do things the right way with a dark adult tone.
    I don't expect Doctor Who ever go True Blood style...
    But at least mantain consistency and quality along with a proper adult tone without getting lame, childish and cheesy it should have been a must.
    Russell T.Davies started great too and then did a lot of mistakes.
    But it's worse the fact that Steven Moffat when got in charge did a better job with the first episodes, excellent plot and characters the series seemed finally having along with a dark adult tone.. and then.. everything all of a sudden got wasted and turned into a silly farce that only very little kids might enjoy (and when I was a little kid I didn't like childish farce of any kind anyway, at 6 I was watching Poltergeist movie and Doctor Who series at the time were quite darker and way more adult).

  • kanniballl Jan 03, 2013

    Reed my post.... I said "Kill Hitler" / Black Spot / Closing Time were the LIGHT hearted ones.

    They were the SILLY ones. The only real "moments" Hitler had were the creepy floating orbs that summarily killed people inside the ship... but that was it. The other two, nothing creepy at all though some sad emotions here and there.

    See the grandparent post where I list this season. 5 episodes in, and most were fairly dark. Last season, I'd say 2/3 of them were dark.

    At least, dark for "Doctor Who" If you're expecting darker than that, then perhaps you didn't watch that many of the classic eps. This is Doctor Who, not Torchwood. Torchwood was branded as the darker / grittier show, Sarah Jane Chronicles was the children show, and Doctor Who stayed in the middle ground.

  • kanniballl Jan 03, 2013

    This comment has been removed.

  • RoverGuy Jan 02, 2013

    Emily - Strax was touched by the slug that erases your memory. He was trying to retieve it after it escaped, without wearing the gauntlets. After his memory was erased I guess he couldn't figure out how he got under the cab, unless he had been run over. Then the Doctor uses the gauntlets to capture the slug.

  • Xenophes Jan 02, 2013

    The Snowmen was one of the best episodes of Doctor Who. Even though it was a Christmas special, it made an introduction to the new series and the new companion: "The girl who died twice." I am all exited to see what they have in line for the next series but it should be great.

    I would say that she is River's daughter (and not the Doctor's as some would suggest), but right now only the writers know who she exactly is and we will soon find out :-) Wait and see!

  • aredo3604 Jan 02, 2013

    The whole River character and plot was such a huge childish mess. They really ruined it all. The old actress playing River character.. the whole childish nonsense, childish romance.. all just plain lame and wrong.

  • josephtedford Feb 15, 2013

    No you're acting childish. Doctor Who is a children's show. A children's show that happens to walk a fine line where it appeals and makes sense to children while being enjoyable for adults. You are obviously not a Doctor Who fan or you would understand this. It's genius what they're able to do and I throughly enjoy it.

  • Gorewolf Jan 02, 2013

    They may be setting the snow up as a bad guy, but it is an already existing bad guy, "The Intelligence has gone up against two previous doctors (20+ years ago)

  • nhubi Jan 02, 2013

    "I had trouble understanding the Doctor's response to Madame Vastra when she asked, "You missed this, didn't you?" Did he say "Sure" or "Shut up"? "

    It was Shut Up. (I watched the episode about 4 times, I can probably recite it now). I know, but I'm a whovian, I have an obligation to be a geek.

    I adore Clara/Oswin but I'm not sure about the whole universe/fate/destiny bringing her back thing, it does lay quite a heavy burden on the poor girl. Look what happened to the last Companion that the Universe made certain he met again, no one should have to suffer Donna's fate.

  • lince001 Jan 01, 2013

    Doctor Who + Merry Poppins = a perfect combination :)

  • raymundf Jan 01, 2013

    Actually it already happened in a sense. As part of the extras in Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series DVD/Blu-ray released in November 2011, there were five minisodes written by Steven Moffat collectively titled Night and the Doctor. Minisodes three and four were linked and titled "First Night" and "Last Night". The third minisode was about the first date that the Doctor and River had right after they were married and River was incarcerated. While River was in the Tardis dressing rooms two older versions of her entered the Tardis accidentally, The last older version in "Last Night" was with an older version of the Doctor dressed in a frock coat and top hat, same as what he wore to the wedding of the Ponds. The older version of River told the younger version of the Doctor that they were off to see the Singing Towers of Darillium. Both the younger and older versions of the Doctor exchanged sad looks since they knew that this was the last time the Doctor would see River alive. The younger version of the Doctor wishes his older version good luck as the older version leaves the Tardis with River. Also I think that the current costume of the Doctor is a dead giveaway as to why the Christmas episode takes place after the last meeting of the Doctor and River. It's a much more dour and austere version of what he wore during the last time he took River out.

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