Doctor Who: The Snowmen, the sci-fi franchise’s annual Christmas special, wasn’t so much about the battle to defeat an army of destructive Frostys as it was about getting our titular hero back in the business of saving the universe — and pairing him up with the charismatic (and crazy gorgeous) new companion (Jenna-Louise Coleman) who’ll make that journey worthwhile.
And so while, as a stand-alone episode, “The Snowmen” didn’t quite live up to the thrilling, emotional heights of “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe” or “Voyage of the Damned,” it nevertheless earns an important place in the overall Doctor Who mythology. Plus, it was stuffed like the stocking of a good little child with patented Whovian zingers.
Before we get to the episode’s best lines, let’s do a quick recap of the plot…
A prologue from 1842 showed us a lonely boy and his snowman, but instead of a corncob pipe, a button nose, and a jaunty Christmas carol, the faceless frozen friend mimicked the child’s disdain for his playmates: “Don’t talk to them; they’re silly.” (Yes, if the snow beast sounded familiar, it was indeed the voice of Ian McKellen)
Cut to 50 years later, where that same little boy had become a fully grown adult named Dr. Simeon, who was plotting something nefarious with a giant, talking snowglobe and wasn’t opposed to feeding his workers to packs of carnivorous, nightmare-inducing snowmen. (Seriously, those teeth! At least we didn’t have to see ‘em stained with blood, I suppose.)
Outside The Rose and Crown Pub, a barmaid named Clara noticed the sudden and suspicious formation of one of those menacing snowfolks, and mentioned it to a passerby who just so happened to be the Doctor. Our hero, reeling from the loss of Amy and Rory in “The Angels Take Manhattan,” was no longer interested in investigating mysterious events and saving the planet, choosing instead to brood in the TARDIS (now parked atop a cloud). And yet, despite his (hilariously unsuccessful) efforts to have his pal Strax dismiss Clara via memory-erasing worm, the young woman eventually followed the Doctor to a nearby park, and then up a hidden ladder to the TARDIS, which she surprisingly failed to enter.
Instead, Clara headed back to the ground to do some groundwork: It turned out her Rose and Crown gig was just a temp job. She was actually a governess at the estate of Capt. Lattimer, and his daughter Francesca was having nightmares that her drowned former nanny was going to emerge from the frozen lake out front and wreak havoc come Christmas Eve. And hrmmm…that lake looked hinky to Clara.
When she made a scene trying to relocate that blasted ladder, Clara caught the attention of the Doctor’s pal Jenny Flint, who brought her back home for an audience with Madame Vastra. What ensued was one of the episode’s best scenes — Clara, limited to one-word answers to a series of inquiries, conveying the potential threat in that frozen body of water as well as her own burning curiosities about the last remaining Time Lord. I particularly loved the exchange where Vastra explained the Doctor’s new and selfish stance on the universe, then asked “Do you understand what I’m saying to you?” To which Clara keenly replied, “Words.”
More important to Vastra, though, was Clara’s choice of word in enticing the Doctor down from his perch: “Pond.” Yep, our governess wanted to know what was going on in a frozen body of water, and our Time Lord heard the surname of his late, great companion. And since there’s no such thing as cosmic coincidence, the Doctor put on his best Sherlock Holmes disguise and got to work.
Long story short: The sentient snow (aka “the Intelligence”) had performed a body scan of sorts on the dead, frozen nanny, and was learning to “evolve” by taking her form. Cut to an ice-governess stalking the Doctor, Clara and the kids; Clara planting a mid-chase kiss on the Doctor (whoa!); the Doctor and Clara heading to the TARDIS to lure the frozen creature away from the snow (so those carnivorous crystals wouldn’t be able to mimic her form and wipe out humanity); and then a shocking scene of ice nanny gripping onto Clara as the duo fell from the Doctor’s perch to their imminent deaths.
Wait! Clara’s not supposed to die!
“I don’t think the universe makes deals,” Vastra told the Doctor. But our hero felt like maybe — after so many planets and peoples saved — he was owed one. And so he brought his memory worm to Dr. Simeon, and by wiping his brain, hoped to defeat the creatures who’d fed off his memories. Alas, though, the Intelligence just got stronger…until…it was faced with the only force that could melt the snow: “A whole family crying on Christmas Eve.” Yes, Clara was slipping away, and the snow began to mirror the weeping of everyone in the room. No more toothy snowflakes coming down, but rather tear drops from the sky. A little hokey? Yeah. But hey, it’s the Christmas special, so let’s not let our inner cynics question it too much, okay?
More importantly, though, were Clara’s dying words to the Doctor. Yes, the gal with a penchant for making souffles (clue No. 1 to the Doctor that something fishy was going on) batted those gorgeous eyes and declared, “Run, you clever boy. And remember.” And remember he did. He’d heard Clara’s voice — and those exact words — once before: In “Asylum of the Daleks,” from the sweet, helpful, flirtatious and ultimately ill-fated Dalek named Oswin! And that’s when the Doctor realized some kind of cosmic connection — some weird bit of timey-wimey something-or-other — was afoot.
I’m not exactly sure how Doctor Who and Clara Oswin Oswald are connected, but I suspect the next season’s worth of episodes will give us a twisty good journey to fulfilling her gravestone epitaph: “Remember me, for we shall meet again.”
And now a rundown of the Episode’s Best Zingers…
* “Good evening. I’m a lizard woman from the dawn of time, and this is my wife.” –Vastra, arriving at the Captain’s door
* “Sir, please don’t noogie me during combat prep.” –Strax, not exactly thrilled by the Doctor’s playfulness
* “Bowties are cool!” –the Doctor, misunderstanding Clara’s comment about the room’s temperature getting cooler
* “It’s smaller on the outside!” and “Is there a kitchen?” –Clara, responding to her first look inside the TARDIS (both firsts, according to the Doctor)
* This exchange:
The Doctor: “You kissed me!”
Clara: “And you blushed!”
* “Sir! Emergency! I think I’m being run over by a cab!” –Strax, having been touched by the memory worm while trying to extract it from underneath the carriage
* “Shut up! I’m making deductions! It’s very exiciting!” –the Doctor, back doing what he does best
* “A grenade!” –Strax, responding to the Doctor’s question of what one looks for when one see something new in the world
* Clara’s story to the kids about inventing fish because she doesn’t like swimming alone
* “It takes one to snow one.” –the Doctor, snapping back when the Intelligence observes he’s not of this world
What did you think of Doctor Who: The Snowmen? Are you excited about Clara as the Doctor’s new companion? Any theories about what the heck is happening with these two in the overarching mythology? Sound off in the comments!