Dr. Moo revisits the 2012 Christmas Special.
Ah, Christmas. A nice once a year chance for us Doctor Who fans to be able to enforce our favourite show on non-fans to show them what they’re missing out on.
Instead of that, what we get with The Snowmen is a Silurian, her lesbian partner, a comedy Sontaran, snowmen that answer back and a walking ice sculpture impersonating Mr Punch.
That’s all very silly sounding isn’t it? Well, that’s because it is, but The Snowmen is also a very moving story and one of the best-looking episodes ever made of Doctor Who. The production, music and set design is at least on par with anything you get on the big screen at the cinema and may even rival Hollywood’s finest in some areas. On watching this episode it's easy to believe that we have been transported back from December 2012 to December 1892, and you’re drawn in to the story all the more because of it.
One scene in particular that deserves a mention is the spiral staircase sequence. The whole set up from Clara reaching to grab a ladder she cannot see until she arrives atop the cloud before the TARDIS makes for a moment of poetic beauty that so rarely gets seen in film or television and would surely help The Snowmen pick up an Oscar nod for cinematography were it a feature film.
Murray Gold’s score would get one as well. I rarely mention him in my reviews and that’s a shame because he’s brilliant and this time I just can’t justify not mentioning him. Some would have it that he goes over the top and is intrusive but that’s okay if you think that because you’re allowed to be wrong about stuff. Clara’s Theme is a thing of beauty and anyone who can’t appreciate it for what it is – a stirring work of artistic genius – needs some serious help. One of my favourite moments in more recent years was the lovely moment from Hell Bent when the 12th Doctor started playing it on his guitar. I’m not ashamed to admit that it’s a piece of music that gets me every time.
Of course this is not the Clara Oswald we know and love, this is Clara Oswin Oswald from the 19th century and Jenna Coleman plays her differently as a different person. She’s not just a good actress, she’s one of the greatest actresses working in the world today. In introducing her The Snowmen becomes more than just another Christmas Special, it becomes a bridge between two eras of the Matt Smith years.
Speaking of Smith, he’s the star of the show. With his new TARDIS interior, the absence of the Ponds and a one-off costume, it’s like we’re seeing a whole other side of the 11th Doctor to what we’d seen before. This is the Doctor in a dark and lonely place with his two best friends in the entire world dead. He’s given up, done, just doesn’t care anymore. It’s only through Clara’s appeal for help that he comes back out of retirement, and when he does it’s magnificent. It’s Smith’s performance and Moffat’s writing that come together to create something believable as he springs back into action as the hero. Fighting off a homicidal ice sculpture by pretending to be Mr Punch? Sure, why not! Just in case you’d forgotten what show you were watching.
It’s in his scenes opposite (two-time former Doctor) Richard E Grant that he really shines. Grant’s villainous Dr Simeon is one of the most cold-hearted (I’ll get my coat) villains this show could ever throw at you and you need look no further than the first scene when he serves up dinner to see this in action. He is positively bursting with menace in every line and through the sparing use of him as a villain he gives a very memorable performance.
Joining him as the secondary villain we have Gandalf himself Sir Ian McKellan in a voice-only role as the Great Intelligence. You can’t blame an uber-fan like Moffat for giving an origin story to one of the most enigmatic villains from the show’s past so look out for the Doctor accidentally inspiring it to invade Earth via the London Underground, that’s fan service done right. (Less than a year later The Web of Fear was rediscovered so people who missed the reference could catch it. Even if you got the reference it was still good news because you could finally see The Web of Fear, and it lived up to the hype.) McKellan’s sadly a little underused and makes his inclusion in the cast something of a wasted opportunity, but what a brilliant job he does with what little he gets to do – not just anyone gets a knighthood!
That’s because this is a story all about the two main characters, Clara Oswin Oswald and the 11th Doctor. This is no bad thing, let’s be clear about that, but it has the effect of pushing Simeon and his snowmen of doom from being a major threat to just Something Bad that must be stopped. Their threat provides a clear and present danger and is built up throughout the episode but it’s never really something we as an audience are able to focus on. It’s just a plot device to bring the Doctor and Clara together.
Overall however that’s just a minor issue; The Snowmen is a great episode. It looks good, sounds good, tells a good story with a brave twist ending and has everyone in its stellar cast on top form. I can’t recommend it enough. Get out the series seven boxset and give The Snowmen another watch.
When he's not obsessing about Doctor Who whilst having I Am The
Doctor play in his head, Dr. Moo can usually be found reading up on the
latest in Quantum Physics. As you do when you're a physicist.