How do we sum up The Snowmen? To paraphrase the Eleventh Doctor - "Ridiculous premise meets Victorian values and something terrific is born".
"What's wrong with Victorian values?" is the response, and I offer NOTHING IS WRONG with those values or this episode. As a matter of fact, my love of a good Dickensian Christmas was exactly what got me to watch The Snowmen, my first ever episode of Doctor Who.
This stand alone story was extremely satisfying, like a surprise fully catered Christmas dinner. I had never seen the Doctor, but it didn't matter as I immediately knew and believed in him. I believed her too...
The snowmen were (and are) silly, but not so silly as to lose my suspension of disbelief. I know they've been a sticking point for some Whovians, but they were only minor utility characters which became faceless bad guys as the story around them played out. They were something which needn't be given a second thought - inhuman, a disposable menace - after all, something had to bring the Hero and Heroine together.
Highly romantic, simple and charming. I loved the interplay:
"What's your name?"Reminiscent of Bogey/Bacall (even Pitt/Jolie in Mr & Mrs Smith), these were talented and attractive performances crackling with chemistry, and I was hooked.
"Nice name, you should keep it"
In previous articles I've mentioned the balcony scene--what light from yonder window breaks...when Eleven is speechless and impotent in the visceral visual of Clara. I could wax rhapsodic about that... about the kiss, the roof or the image of circular staircase taller on the inside, whilst "living in a box, on a cloud" showing the sulking Heathcliff quality of Eleven. This episode, if we look at it, was the perfect launching point for a new fan. Self-contained and electric, the hook at the end got me to watch again. Who was this girl? I wanted more of this Doctor and this quest. It got me past the idea of living snowpeople, or living ice taking human form (yeah... I know), and got me to want to know the series.
How did this idiotic plot so engage a well-educated American?
Set in the charm of the Victorian ideal, Smith and Coleman were a master class in chemistry. Their old-fashioned characterization, artfully created by a deft Smith hand with his pure unadulterated infatuation of Coleman's complex Clara. It simply worked, and I bought it.
Even when I went back to his run starting with series five and meeting Amy (get that woman off my screen) Pond, and then suffered through River (just no. With Tennant---fabulous, Smith---never) Song, I held on to the "It's me giving in" moment. When the Doctor hands Clara a TARDIS key, it's not just a key to the Type 40 but also a key to himself. He declared "today... today is when it all begins." And, it did for me! The whole WHOniverse rolled opened.
I have rewatched The Snowmen literally dozens of times and it still makes the pit of my stomach tingle. This visual gift brings me the pure joy of Christmas. For those fans who couldn't suspend disbelief, I'd ask you to look at it with fresh eyes (or as Joseph Campbell would call it, as "a call to adventure") and try to capture my enamouration of The Snowmen. Forget everything you know... and see it through my eyes - as a stand alone love story that is a jolly good romp.
Risk adverse, Stacy would never even enter the TARDIS, but admires those who do. Happily watching and writing from the distance of Indiana, USA. She enjoys writing and discussing her observations and critiques.