The Snowmen

****contains spoilers****

It shows that Steven Moffat has the perfect mind for writing Doctor Who that he has subverted the classic heart-warming animated film The Snowman with this darker take on the same idea. Both are about a lonely child whose idea of making friends is to do it literally with their bare hands. But whereas the ginger kid in the Raymond Briggs story is a nice guy, Doctor Simeon (Richard E. Grant) is a bitter, twisted creation who wants to wipe out humanity for being “silly”. In contrast the Doctor and Clara specifically have a conversation on their first meeting “what’s wrong with silly?”

At the beginning of this tale the Doctor has retired to Victorian England and adopted the old Time Lord ethos of non-interference. He’s reluctant to help save the planet he lives just above. He’s become rather anti-social too, calling Clara (Jenna-Louise Colman) a ‘bird’ and racially abusing Strax the Sontaran nurse from A Good Man Goes to War.

Naturally Clara finally piques his curiosity enough to get him to save the world. There’s always something very satisfying about a hero getting his mojo back, his shtick and theme tune slowly returning. It’s used to great effect in movies like Rocky Balboa and more recently The Dark Knight Rises and Skyfall. Here the Doctor unconsciously returns to bowties as neckwear; and the moment when the beautiful new TARDIS interior is revealed and his Murray Gold theme music plays again is wonderful.

It shows how much the Doctor has changed now he’s a couple of hundred older that he treats Simeon very differently to the last disaffected youth he encountered at Christmas; young Kazran in A Christmas Carol. Simeon gets much shorter shrift, although he gets the usual chance to change his ways.

The change is also manifested in how superstitious he’s become. Strangely for a scientist, the Doctor now seems to have a belief in some sort of a cosmic karma, or maybe that Universal Ordering nonsense that Noel Edmonds promotes. It almost seem he no longer wants to help people or save the universe because he doesn’t automatically receive some sort of reward. A bit like the Tenth Doctor’s self-pitying at the end of his tenure (“where’s my reward?!”) Likewise he thinks that the universe might allow Clara to survive if he defeats the Intelligence. He initially had a similar reaction to Rory’s reappearance as a Roman in The Pandorica Opens.

I think we now all know that, despite promotional talk by show-runners, they’ll never kill off a companion for real. Guest stars, however, are fair game; so Moffat gets to have his cake and eat it. It’s the perfect way to have a surprise death in the show, announcing her as a new companion the using her as a one- (or two- in this case) off character. The old sly boots.

The humour in the episode is great. The scenes between the Doctor and Strax are genuinely funny, and don’t fall foul into the Buffy-style humour that occasionally doesn’t translate quite so well, like the ‘yowser’ stuff in The Angels Take Manhattan. It’s great when a good gag like the Memory Worm turns out to be key to the story too. Terrifically done here and in Asylum of the Daleks (“where do you get the eggs?”).

The resolution comes through the power of emotion again, which isn’t to everyone’s taste. Is it really worse than RTD’s lazy McGuffin denouements though?

This is a terrific Christmas episode, second only to A Christmas Carol for me. Even peripheral characters like Captain Lattimer are well-drawn and the next series arc is set up to be one of the most intriguing yet. Is Clara sharing her birthday with the series itself significant, or just a tip of the hat for the fans? It’s a lovely nod to the Troughton Yeti stories too, without being too continuity-heavy for the newer viewers.

If only all villains made business cards and motifs for their vehicles, it might make the Doctor’s job in identifying them a lot easier.

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One thought on “The Snowmen

  1. Pingback: Dark Eyes | Carlisle Who Fan

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