Review of Doctor Who ‘The Snowmen’

Neela Debnath

Doctor Who christmas 300x225 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.

Simeon 2 300x200 Review of Doctor Who The Snowmen


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

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  • Rosalind Scott

    I’m annoyed with Steven Moffatt.

    It’s sad when one of your favourite writers starts to let you down, or, more precisely, you start to recognise their failings. And this failing is quite a big one, unfortunately…all of his women are the same. Amy, River, Irene Adler, Doctor Jackman’s wife in Jekyll and now Oswin: sexy, plucky, always look perfect and, most defining of all, fascinated by a particular MALE character.

    I’m sorry to have to break it to you, Steven, but woman are not all like that. Sometimes we get things wrong, sometimes we get scared, sometimes we don’t look perfect, sometimes we find men less than perfect too.

    I’m a Doctor Who fan, I’ve loved it for ages, so here is my issue: Why can’t we have a slightly different companion this time? We’ve done the beautiful plucky young white woman quite a lot now, why not try a different approach? I know that this is not entirely Steven Moffat’s fault, RTD went the obvious route too (apart from Catherine Tate, who was completely marvelous) , but I think that fans of Doctor Who would still enjoy it if the companion was a different kind of woman. Dare I even suggest that fans might continue to watch if THE DOCTOR was a woman???

    Let me describe a character to you: Geeky, slightly odd, clever, difficult, funny,wears odd clothes…I’m sure you recognise him; it’s the Doctor of course. But why, oh why, can he not be a woman?

    This is not to say I hated Jenna-Louise Coleman’s performance; I didn’t. I’ve just seen it before.

  • Guest

    Because Strax’s response to most situations was ‘Grenades?’ and was generally incompetent?

    He might be a role model but the entire point of characters in fiction is that they’re believable. People have flaws, and it’s better viewing than Saint Happy travelling time and space, having nice friendly discussions with all he meets. I honestly think this is a total wind-up.

  • Hekkio

    Why can’t it be directed towards children/young adults? What’s wrong with a married couple and a giant potato running around solving crimes?

  • Hekkio

    Aw, where’s all the discussion about how Clara Oswin Oswald can be the ’same’ person…


    Doctor’s daughter: She came back to life but kept the same face. At some point Jenny would have to become Clara, who has now died at least 2 times that we know of. Clara was buried under in a coffin six or so feet down. If she came back to life down there it would really suck.

    Reincarnation? Not unheard of. But if she can remember souffles, I would assume she would remember meeting the Doctor at some point.

    Clara is some improved form of the ;gangers.’ Though how she ended up in the past is beyond me..

    She’s similar to Jack as in she has to die. Why? No clue.

  • paul

    Another crap xmas special, totally killed the credibilty of the Sontarans, Daleks are not far behind now with the mega-hyped ‘asylum’ episode..bye bye Doctor Who an 8 year run was quite a good achievement of the revived series, this is the beginning of the end, and that has nothing to do with Matt Smiths portrayal as he is a good doctor.

  • ivor biggun

    A Massive Fall from 2 miles up and yet she hangs in there bit….laughable and unbelievable twaddle

  • James Cappio

    Tilda Swinton as Twelve. That is all.

  • Pingback: Review of Doctor Who ‘The Crimson Horror’ – Series 7, episode 11 | Neela Debnath | Independent Arts Blogs

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