It’s Christmas Eve, 1892, and a very old enemy of The Doctor is putting plans into motion to wipe out the human race. But the Time Lord himself is still grieving the loss of his friends, Amy and Rory, and doesn’t seem prepared to get involved. That is until he encounters a barmaid/governess with a very familiar face…
Christmas is the perfect time for Doctor Who to deliver a good old fashioned romp, with plenty of fun and some wonderful set pieces. Funny then just how often the Christmas specials seem to miss the mark. Well, 2012 must have been a particularly good year for writer Steven Moffat because from his pen came “The Snowmen”, a fun adventure set in Victorian England on Christmas Eve, with plenty of romping, killer snowmen and a little bit of mystery to set up the next companion.
Richard E Grant returns to Who as the chief villain of this story, Dr Simeon. Lonely as a child, Simeon was befriended by a talking snowman, who has guided him ever since in the ways of diabolical evil. As we later find out, the voice inside that original snowman is actually Classic Who baddie the Great Intelligence, shown here in it’s original form as a disembodied Ian McKellan. Together, the GI and Dr Simeon plan to replace humanity with ice creatures, using an alien form of snow that is able to remember and take on forms, such as the viciously evil snowmen of the episode’s title. And somewhere, Raymond Briggs is horrified.
Enter The Doctor, who isn’t really up to much these days, having taken the loss of Amy and Rory quite hard and essentially retired from adventuring. He’s set himself up in Victorian London, parking the TARDIS on a cloud (sort of) and doing his best not to involve himself in the affairs of mankind. Makes you wonder then why he chose Earth as his retirement destination but I suppose that can be waved away by the fact that he does see Earth as his second home. He still has the Paternoster Gang on hand to do things for him though and it’s when the mysterious evil snowmen first start popping up that they try to get The Doctor involved in solving the mystery, but he’s having none of it.
Then Clara shows up. The Doctor recognises something about her but as he only heard Oswin’s voice in “Asylum Of The Daleks”, he doesn’t put the pieces together until the end of the episode. Their first encounter here is a fun bit of fairytale storytelling, with Clara chasing up a flight of stairs that lead into the clouds to find the TARDIS. All good stuff, but it does make the episode drag a little. Once the main action gets going, Clara has returned to her job as a governess looking after two children, as their last governess died from drowning in a frozen pond. Little does Clara know that Dr Simeon has his eye fixed on that same pond – the ice in the water is the same as the alien snow and it remembers the form of the dead governess. This is the key element to Simeon and the GI’s plan, to take the technology they already have and apply the DNA of the resurrected ice governess to it in order to create a living ice creature that can replace humanity without having to worry about melting come Spring Break.
Sounds daft? Well, yes, it’s extremely daft but as I’ve already said in this review, Christmas is the perfect time for a good old romp and daftness is the order of the day. Cue lots of running about and The Doctor being roped in again to help destroy the ice governess before Dr Simeon can get his mits on it. There’s not much more to the story really but the emotional climax, during which The Doctor has to say goodbye to a dying Clara for a second time, nicely builds up the mystery around the character whilst also giving The Doctor his motivation to get off his arse and back out there adventuring again, if only because he needs to discover the truth behind this “impossible girl”. The performances throughout are great from all the cast but I did find myself wishing that Richard E Grant and Ian McKellan had been given a little bit more to work with. They’re not on screen that much and most of their time is spent trying to get a word in edge ways whilst The Doctor is busy flapping his gob.
“The Snowmen” is, by far, one of the better Christmas specials to date. It’s got plenty of festive fun, it reintroduces a Classic Who villain in a new and interesting way and also takes the time to further the mystery surrounding Clara that will be explored in the second half of series 7. All in all, a very merry 8/10.
Written and edited by Richey Hackett