Review of Doctor Who ‘The Snowmen’
SPOILERS: Do not read this if you have not seen this year’s ‘Doctor Who’ Christmas special ‘The Snowmen’
It’s that time again and this year the build-up has been immense, right from the end of The Angels Take Manhattan back in September.
Fans have waited with bated breath for the first ‘real’ introduction of the new companion. Unfortunately, this episode is a bit of a tease, considering Clara’s demise at the end. Nevertheless we know that they shall meet eventually.
The main thing is that The Snowmen does not disappoint by any means, both from a Christmas special perspective and in relation to the overall Doctor Who story arc.
Unlike last year’s Christmas special, The Snowmen packs a bit more of a dramatic punch and dispenses with the sugary sentiments that characterized The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe.
Perhaps the reason this year’s plot is stronger is because the episode serves a purpose in the overall story arc rather than just another Christmas special. The Snowmen is part of a new story which moves away from River Song and the Ponds, and is likely to span this series at least which is incredibly exciting.
There are always groans from some quarters that the Christmas special is too mainstream and tries to win over the Christmas viewing masses rather than just regular Doctor Who fans, therefore this year should be a relief to Whovians because it was significant to the plot and sent the Time Lord reeling back into time and space to find his soufflé girl.
The Snowmen also works as a standalone due to the simple story and the self-contained nature of it. There was also a lot creepiness to it that stopped it from becoming a festive sensory overload like last year. Showrunner Steven Moffat always does creepy well and the dead governess in the pond and the scary-looking snowmen were shiver-inducing. Let’s not forget Simeon’s (Richard E. Grant) brief rise from the dead which was unexpected and somewhat disturbing.
While the episode was enjoyable the problem was that the story feels truncated and rushed. Granted the time frame leaves little room for dalliances but it would have been nice to have seen more of Simeon’s developing relationship with the Great Intelligence. Grant is brilliant as the villain but more of him would have been even better.
The other guest star was Ian McKellen. Although he was present in voice only, his booming tones were familiar and commanding even without a physical form or presence. Could we hear or even see more of him later on? Perhaps he may even utter the phrase he is now best-known for: ‘you shall not pass’?
After all there was the constant repetition of ‘winter is coming’ which is essentially the tagline for George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic Game of Thrones. For a moment fans of the series may have suddenly felt like Moffat and Martin had briefly teamed up to create some sort of bizarre crossover.
On the subject of references to other programmes and films, there was a small Sherlock Holmes reference when the Doctor donned a deer stalker and cape and pretended to be the great detective. But it isn’t the first time that the Doctor has dressed up as Holmes. Tom Baker’s Fourth incarnation did the same in the 1977 serial The Talons of Weng-Chiang. The other bit of geek trivia is that Grant unofficially played the Doctor in the 1999 Comic Relief special Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death.
Leaving fandom to one side, The Snowmen was much more palatable than last year but in my mind it still has a way to go if it is to live up to A Christmas Carol. It will take a lot to trump the Dickensian tale but it makes a good attempt and the re-introduction of Coleman is wonderful. She is even given the opportunity to present the audience with two different sides to Clara – as the cockney barmaid and the well-spoken governess, showing how talented she is.
The question is, what will the next version of her character be like? One hopes it will be more akin to Oswin who is much more fun and flirtatious. While on the subject of resurrecting characters, as Rory is no longer with us, perhaps we should start keeping a tally of the number of times that Clara/Oswin Oswald dies? Just a suggestion.
There can be no doubt after this episode that Strax (Dan Starkey), Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh) and Jenny (Catrin Stewart) should be given their own series where they solve crimes in Victorian England, it is a wonderful steampunk, science fiction extravaganza waiting to happen. With the sad departure of The Sarah Jane Adventures and the introduction of Russell T. Davies’ new children’s television programme Wizards vs. Aliens, it feels as if the Strax/Vastra/Jenny combo would be something sufficiently different and make a strong fixture on the teatime schedule.
In regards to Matt Smith’s performance, he has totally made the character his own and it feels as if he has got a handle on how he wants to play it. The audience has lived through enough with him to understand his incarnation of the Time Lord. The Eleventh Doctor can be eccentric and silly and yet be dark and serious depending on the circumstances but it is all part of this more complicated character that he has created.
Overall Moffat has dished out a stronger offering this year. The story was apparently based on a piece written by Douglas Adams. This may the reason why this year was decidedly more comic than previous Christmas specials. The humour is largely thanks to Strax who provided most of the laughs through his Sontaran view of the human race. But it was also more disturbing in a behind-the-sofa way, even at Christmas a little scare isn’t always a bad thing. The Snowmen has now brought the Doctor out of his state of retirement and ready for action again after such a brooding period.
Looking forward to next year and the 50th anniversary of the show, the revamped title credits looked incredible because they drew on Who through the ages, both in terms of the visuals and the music as it slid through several keys. Matt Smith’s face appearing was also a nice little touch that harked back to times of Who gone by.
Coming soon on Doctor Who: Lots more explosions and periods drama, with a tiny snippet of Dame Diana Rigg. It appears that there will be a lot of time travelling to come.
All that’s left to say is roll on 2013 and the 50th anniversary!
The highs and lows of Who in 2012:
This year has been another tremendous year for ‘Doctor Who’, with lots of Who-related things happening, here is a brief rundown.
*March: Jenna-Louise Coleman was announced as the new companion
*March: The first Doctor Who convention since the series was regenerated in 2005 was held in Cardiff
*June: Caroline John passed away, she played Dr. Liz Shaw the companion to the John Pertwee’s Third Doctor
*July: Mary Tamm sadly died, she was known for her role as Time Lady Romana and assistant to Tom Baker’s Fourth incarnation
*August: It was announced that Doctor Who actor and writer Mark Gatiss will be creating a programme dramatizing the origins of the show entitled An Adventure in Time and Space which will air next year as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations
*September: Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill made their final appearance as Amy Pond and Rory Williams
*November: Colin Baker entered the jungle for I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! The Sixth Doctor came eighth out of the 12 contestants
For more information about the series visit www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/dwTagged in: doctor who, Doctor Who series 33, Doctor Who series 7, Jenna Louise-Coleman, Karen Gillan, Richard E. Grant, The Snowmen
Recent Posts on Arts
- A shouting economic adviser, a Nobel Laureate and a rock star scientist on stage at the Jaipur lit fest
- Children’s book blog – the last post!
- Children’s books for December: Herman’s Letter, The Yeti Files, Greenglass House and Winter Damage
- Friday Book Design Blog: The Ariel Poems, and other seasonal pamphlets
- Children’s book blog – Ask the illustrator: Rebecca Cobb
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter