Doctor Who: The Snowmen Recap: A Merry Homeric Companion

doctor who snowmenDoctor 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!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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95 Comments
  1. Ross says:

    It was wonderful! I want the rest of the season NOW!!! Wish we didn’t have to wait until April!

  2. I’m still confused over the Intelligence’s timeline in connection to its first apperance in Abominable Snowmen. Wasn’t it said there that the Intelligence had been in control of the monk for hundreds of years? If that was the case, how could he be in control of this kid in the 1800s?

    • powerturtle90sdudemon says:

      The Snowmen apparently is a prequel to the Great Intelligence’s first appearances

      • It was more of a prequel to its second apperance in The Web of Fear (the map of the underground). I just confirmed on the TARDIS Index File that the intelligence had been in control of the monk for 300 years since the 1600s, 200 years before The Snowmen.

    • Alan says:

      who’s to say the intelligence couldn’t have been doing other things at the same time

    • jenna says:

      i’m a bit confused as well, so is owin (finale episode) supposed to be a descendant of clara (christmas episode)? Or is it more like they are the same person but in different timelines (a la fringe)

      • it appears to me like they are the same person in three eras, the past, the present, and the future. figuring out who she is will be the mystery the Dr will tackle. I for one am hoping the show goes back to solving the plot about the question that must not be answered.

      • Sara says:

        I’m going to go with the same person, different timelines thing. It all seems very ‘Cloud Atlas’ to me.

  3. Amanda says:

    Amazing episode as usual. I love the ponds but Clara might easily become a new favorite.

  4. rmiriam12 says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thought it was way better than last year’s which was just awful. Love the callback to Two, with the London Underground & Yeti story as well.

    Plus, the new opening credits with the face back in it were delightful.

    Clara is fun and gorgeous and mystery to her. Should be fun to see how that plays out.

  5. Naomi says:

    “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,”. You mean the two worst Christmas specials by far?

    • rmiriam12 says:

      Agreed. Just about spit my coffee out when I read that line. Ah well, to each their own?

    • I was just about to say the same! The best special is still “A Christmas Carol”!

      • Scott says:

        It’d be too soon if I ever have to sit through “A Christmas Carol” or “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe” again. This is the first Matt Smith special I’ve come close to enjoying. “Voyage of the Damned” and “The Runaway Bride” are specials I could (and do) watch often.

        • Alan says:

          hah voyage of the damned. aside from the fantastic monologue from the doctor explaining who he is its utter crap, i actually enjoyed last years more than that. it still boggles my mind that it was that episode that the bbc decided to give that one extra time over the usual 60 minutes, as if it needed more than 30 for that paper thin story

        • Sara says:

          Sorry, the “Voyage of the Damned” was absolute crap. This might be the first Christmas special that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. “The Runaway Bride” was actually pretty unmemorable for me, at least until Donna actually became the companion. But other than introducing Donna, it was also pretty insignificant.

        • shark troll says:

          Loved Christmas Carol – watched it again tonight as a matter of fact. VotD wasn’t crap but I wouldn’t call it a high point by any stretch. Next Doctor is the weakest Xmas special imo. Still at least 50% more watchable than most stuff on tv. But hey its the internet – everything has to be totallly awesome or absolute crap.

          • Emily says:

            Agreed. Next Doctor was my least favorite by far, because there was no companion (Jackson Lake and his flying balloon did NOT count), the Cybermen are the worst of the recurring DW monsters, and the story was just lazy. Let’s face it, DW Christmas specials are just a fix for those cold, long hiatus months. Their individual merits (or lack thereof) aren’t really the point.

  6. I think “Great Intelligence” will be similar to Bad Wolf etc as it will be a theme throughout the season.
    I also wonder who Clara is? Maybe she really did invent fish because she was lonely.

    • Alan says:

      i thought so as well but then i read online that the intelligence was a villain in a couple of episodes back in the 70’s or 80′ so im guessing that was just a callback to those episodes and wont be important to the future stories

  7. Matt says:

    I was hoping Clara wouldn’t be a 21st Century Earther. What we got in the special certainly wasn’t, but that ending…

    • Jessica M says:

      I did too originally. I thought it might be neat to have 1800’s Clara, but then I thought that perhaps the “Wow! What’s that?” to a simple car in the present might get irritating if they were to go to the present. The point of the companion is to be a character that we can really relate to so we can really understand The Doctor. If she was from the 1800s, in the long run we might find her to be less relatable. I dunno. That’s how I see it.

  8. powerturtle90sdudemon says:

    Great episode in my opinion, though I honestly thought Oswin would be Clara’s descendant who just had traits of Clara passed down through the generations…

  9. Kelly says:

    Loved the sherlock bit with the outfit and music. But given his history I would think he wouldn’t want her because for all he knows he is the reason she gets turned into a dalek his past her future. I guess the ending says otherwise but that was what I was thinking during the episode. But boy was eager to take her with shoving his key on her. I will need to watch it again.

  10. El S Boy says:

    In two episode Jenna-Louise Coleman, have done what Karen Gillan could not in this entire run…

    Finnaly, one good change in Doctor Who

  11. Erin says:

    I think the writers are just going to mess with us, and kill Clara in every episode. I can just see the writers giggling to themselves, “You guys thought we killed Rory a lot, huh? Watch this!”

  12. Bob says:

    Hmm…shades of “Cloud Atlas” with Clara? Or is she something else entirely? Anyway, it was a very good episode. I liked the new opening credits. Was getting tired of the “themes on a wormhole” openings. Only complaint came from my daughter, “I don’t like the new TARDIS insides.” She’ll get used to it.

  13. Alan says:

    anything strax related was absolutely hilarious, i hope we get to see more of him.
    vastra and jenny proved to be a fun addition again, loved vastra’s line announcing herself and jenny when she got to the lattimer’s place.
    cgi was a bit hokey at times but that didnt take away from the story.
    jenna-louise coleman may be the best thing that’s ever happened to this show, they are making really good use of the fact that she can talk as quick as matt smith.

  14. JC says:

    Suggestion: when you call a woman “crazy gorgeous” in your article, you should show a photo of her.

  15. JeffDJ says:

    Really enjoyed the episode, definitely better than last year! Love, love, love Jenna-Louise, and it was great seeing Vastra & Jenny again (spin-off, please!). Strax was also very entertaining. Love the classic vibe of the new TARDIS interior, particularly the console itself. Also liked the new opening title sequence, though it wasn’t as “WOW!” as I’d hoped. Nice to see the Doc’s face, albeit in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it extent. Revised theme arrangement is an improvement too.

    The fairly routine snowmen plot almost took a backseat to all the other great aforementioned stuff. I, too, had hoped Victorian era Clara would be the new companion rather than the modern version seen at the end, but I won’t complain when JLC returns in the spring (hate that we have to wait so long!!)

  16. tvdiva says:

    Loved this Christmas episode as much as A Christmas Carol. Kudos to the Doctor Who producers for continuing to pick great companions. Clara is going to rock Doctor Who’s world.

  17. KND says:

    Loved it loved it loved it!!! I can’t wait for the new season.

  18. Sierra says:

    Loved the episode!! The dialogues were very well written! I think that the Doctor is connected to Clara somehow.
    And as for the dead-alive thing, that is an intriguing storyline.

  19. Zoe says:

    This show never disappoints. It’s always a thrilling ride filled with plot twists you never see coming and unconventionally likeable characters. Tonight was no exception.

  20. Britta Unfiltered says:

    Hey, I finally saw my first Dr.Who! My brother recorded it and watched it while I was editing family pictures, so I kind of ended up involved watching it with him. It wasn’t bad.

    • Alan says:

      you should watch more. considering your opinions on tv have essentially matched up with mine in the past i reckon you would enjoy the show a lot. if you are interested look up an episode called “blink”, one of the best episodes of tv ive ever watched

      • Erin says:

        “Blink” is the PERFECT starter episode for a newbie: great story, and no real need for too much prior knowledge about the show. Best Angel episode, period (as much as I loved Amy & Rory’s exit episode, I’ve had issues with the Angels in all of their appearances after Blink).

        • Sheila says:

          No, no, NO! To get into the show properly, he needs to start with Christopher Eccleston’s year at the very least. You can’t start him off with absolutely no introduction and certainly not with MARTHA! Ugh! Have you no sense of history?

          • Erin says:

            Well, of course you’re right, but I’m talking about people who are unsure if they want to watch the show at all. Blink is totally “Doctor Who-ey” without needing to know the other stuff. If the newb likws Blink, you’ll know it’s OK to have them start watching the series.

          • Emily says:

            Good God, Martha was not that bad, give her a break already. And I started with Christopher Eccleston, but if I hadn’t already known that Tennant and Smith were coming up, I never would’ve gotten through the first series, because it was a snooze. If we’re really talking history, go back to Hartnell. Otherwise, any regeneration episode or new companion introduction will suffice.

      • jenna says:

        absolutely second blink!! I originally started watching doctor who because I was in a carrie mulligan obsessed phase (she is in the episode!) and it remains to be in my top 5 if not my favourite who episode

  21. taliesin says:

    I really did enjoy most of the episode. I’m a huge fan of family-pond and I hope River doesn’t get written out of the series. We need Mrs. Doctor to pop-in every so often. Still, Clara was a nice change of pace. The reincarnation aspect of the character is interesting. Maybe we’ll find out she’s related to the Doctor.Heck, the Doctor’s grand-daughter goes all the back to the beginning of the series and we have no idea what happened to her; and the 50th anniversary is coming up…

  22. Hope says:

    I can’t wait to see the first time River meets Oswin!

  23. Rochelle says:

    Hopefully worth the new companion we can finally be done with river song. I loved Amy and Rory but river never sat right with me.

  24. @Britta Definitely should AT LEAST start with the Matt Smith episodes! That way you kind of get the backstory on the characters who appeared with the Doctor in this one :-) Welcome to Whoville(Sorry Doctor Seuss.)

  25. Adam Bramble says:

    Absolutely Loved It ! :D

  26. M3rc Nate says:

    Loved it, still a bit confused (a good thing with Doctor Who, means there are answers to be found in future episodes :-D ) But the one thing referenced that i didnt get was the “Great Intelligence” stuff. Is that stuff pre-Eccleston? If so then that makes sense cause i havent seen those. If not, then i must have missed something or cant remember it. I have watched Eccleston-Matt Smith on Netflix a few times over and dont remember a “Intelligence”.

    Loved the new Companion and the mystery surrounding her. She is gorgeous and has a amazing personality and spark with the Doctor. Cant wait to see The Doctors Wife (River) meet her and give her 2 cents about her being all up on her Hubby.

    Not sure i LOVE the new Tardis insides…i wonder if its colder..more metal and structured and clinical because that’s how he has been feeling without the Ponds. Before so it was so open and magical and the bronze walls with the little windows.

  27. Crochetowl says:

    Finally an eppie from Smith’s era I wanted to re-watch. All it took is dumping the overexposed Amy for the spunky Clara. The revamped TARDIS and titles were also a big improvement. Now I can finally look forward to new eppies. If they could just stop with the snogging would be appreciated.

  28. David says:

    I have a wild theory about Clara. what if she is a manifestation of one of the Six Guardians? After all, The Doctor is eventually going to become the Red Guardian.

  29. Max says:

    That’s not a bad guess David, I’d also point out that the Great Intelligence reminds me of another great episode where the unnamed creature was a mimic…. “Midnight.” Which leaves us with connections to the Second (Great Intelligence), Fifth (If the Guardians are involved), and Tenth doctor (Midnight). The Tardis looks like it did in the 80′s(Sixth and Seventh Doctors) . I’m sure I’m missing other indirect nods. But that’s five in the Christmas special alone. Did any of the doctors have London Underground stories?

    • rwfblog says:

      I didn’t even know about the Guardians until David’s and Max’ posts. Looked them up right away, and there could well be something to this speculation.

  30. Rachel says:

    Loved this! You forgot the part about the souffles and the TARDIS key (or I just read way too fast) – my favorite scene. Blew my mind.

  31. Sara says:

    I have to say, casting Jenna-Louise Coleman as Matt Smith’s companion might have been a stroke of genius. Those two are a banter match made in heaven.

  32. Emily C says:

    Seriously, his name is not Doctor Who. His name is The Doctor.

    • Leah says:

      Calling the Doctor “Doctor Who” = automatically discredited

      • Sara says:

        Except, in the classic series, the doctor was always in the credits as “Doctor Who.”

        (People who haven’t watched classic Who = automatically discredited)

        • Jeff Jacques says:

          People also forget that Series 1 with Eccleston inexplicably listed him as “Doctor Who” in the end credits. You’d think RTD would’ve known better.

          > >

          • Sara says:

            I know, right? I can’t stand it when people make smarmy comments such as “oh he’s the DOCTOR, not Doctor Who.” Just watch the show! Is it really necessary to pick on the small nuances? No, it doesn’t make you smarter–it makes you immature.

        • Emily C says:

          That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a mistake. His name is very simply NOT “Doctor Who.” “Who” is not his last name. That’s ridiculous.

          • Sara says:

            Uh, nobody said “Who” is his last name. Who says he even has a last name? What’s ridiculous is you trying to imply that I said “Who” is his last name. Going by your logic and your original comment, “The” would be his first name (which is ridiculous).

            The whole point of my comment is that, for a good thirty plus years, people did refer to him as “Doctor Who.” He was credited as such and THE CREATORS referred to him as such. And what is wrong with people saying “Doctor Who” anyway? People who watch the show know who/what you’re talking about. It’s like making a big deal over calling a tiger “tiger” instead of “Panthera tigris.” All it does is annoy people.

          • Claire says:

            Jeez, Sara, calm down. People discovering a wonderful show for the first time being subjected to a Classic Who superiority complex: that’s pretty annoying too.

          • Sara says:

            Um, I don’t know if you noticed, but she’s not exactly a new viewer discovering the show for the first time if she’s already insisting that the Doctor should never be referred to as “Doctor Who.” And did you miss the part where I said, “Is it really necessary to pick on the small nuances?” I don’t care whether people call the Doctor “Doctor Who” or simply “The Doctor.” What I DO care about is when people attempt to criticize a well-written review (see original comment of “automatically discredited”) by acting as though they know more about the show than the writer, who is a long-established fan of the show. Michael has said many times that he started watching from the Tom Baker years; if new fans are going to insist on the naming of the Doctor, they should at least maintain respect for what is not a misnomer.

          • David says:

            He doesn’t mind Doctor Who or The Doctor. Just don’t refer to him as “Doc”. ;P

        • emilycohen1028 says:

          And Sara, no one is here to JUST “watch the show!” You wouldn’t be here if that’s all you were doing.

          • Sara says:

            Oh really. My comment was a direct reference back to my former comment of watching classic Who, but hey, let’s go with your statement. What else am I going to do then, besides just watching the show? As much as people like to gripe about trivialities, they can’t do much more than watch the show. Unless they’re writers on the show. But if they were, I highly doubt they’d be wasting their time on comment boards.

  33. SanaA says:

    Christmas special was just over the top awesome. Really enjoyed watching it!

  34. JAO says:

    Loved it all. I love all the Doctors since the reboot with Christopher. Got hooked during the Tom Baker era. I got to say though that I will miss Amy & Rory, I believe I will really enjoy Clara with Matt. He does an awesome job!

  35. Ralph says:

    Perhaps Clara is Jenny the Doctor’s Daughter who was told as she “died” “We had a lot of running to do”

    • Jeff Jacques says:

      Jeez, I really hope Clara doesn’t have some convoluted connection to the Doctor, aside from the fact he already met her (sort of) as Oswin in the future. Her own existence can be convoluted all it wants, but if she ends up being his 3rd cousin half removed by way of genetic offspring or somesuch, I’ll be pretty upset. Remember when the companions were just random normal people who went on crazy adventures with the Doctor?

      > >

  36. Todd says:

    I think the new companion is a gift to the doctor from the universe.

    • rwfblog says:

      Amen! Word! Right on!

    • me says:

      I’m not discounting that either. After a 1,000 years of saving the Universe in a way does owe The Doctor so why not a companion who could be his equal more than any of his previous companions. Besides Matt and Jenna’s chemistry is so right. I have not seen that since Tom Baker and Lalla Ward’s partnership of the Fourth Doctor and Romana Two.

  37. rwfblog says:

    This will be a great season! JL Coleman is already close to my favorite companion. Back when Asylum of the Daleks first aired, did anyone know she was scheduled to be one?

    My speculation about her character: It will always be dual-natured.

    In Asylum, she wasn’t only a maker of souflees, but a Dalek as well. In Snowmen, she was both a barmaid and a governess. The first pairing was genius, and integral to the plot. But for the second, there was no reason plotwise to have the barmaid persona. *Unless* her being dual (or even multi-) natured will be an ongoing theme.

    I don’t believe she is the Doctor’s daughter. It doesn’t explain the Dalek connection. I think it will turn out weirder and more fantastic than any of us (except the dementedly brilliant Steven Moffat) can imagine.

    • Emily says:

      Yeah, she’d already been announced as the next companion. Her appearance in Asylum was kept a secret, because she was showing up so much earlier than expected. I do believe that JLC said, “Surprise!”

  38. loui says:

    A really good Christmas special IMHO.
    I liked the “pond” references (the obvious one, and the fact the doctor wears Amy’s glasses from the previous episode).
    As for Clara, I don’t want to speculate about her identity : I have some ideas but I don’t know enough about the classic era to have an explanation that could tie everything for the 50th birthday of the show (considering Clara was born November 23rd, day of the first Dr Who airing in 1963, I imagine there will be a connection).

  39. Addie says:

    Clara, Rory and Jack can have a die off

  40. maid service says:

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