Let's Talk About Doctor Who: The Snowmen
Doctor Who has never been a series afraid of change. It kills off its main actors more often than any other show I’m aware of. The Doctor scoops up new companions on a regular basis, rarely revisiting the friends he’s made along the way. Even since its 2005 revival the show has changed wildly, and yet, I feel like I’ve seen this story before.
In “The Snowmen”, The Doctor is spending his time hiding away in 1842 England. Presumably well after the disappearance of Amy and Rory, this story shows the Doctor Scrooging it up, top hat and all. He hasn’t saved the world in quite some time and he’s even hired a team of friends (Vastra, Jenny, and Strax, from the episode “A Good Man Goes to War”) to help him stay hidden.
Perhaps it’s because Amy and Rory were unceremoniously shuffled off in the last episode of the show, but I definitely got a been-there-done-that vibe from the grumpy Doctor. Thankfully his reason for snapping out of it, Clara Oswin Oswald, is worth the trouble. Played by Jenna-Louise Coleman, our new companion is an energetic and quick-witted match for the Doctor with some mystery of her own.
We saw her die in “Asylum of the Daleks”, and yet here the Souffle Girl returns. She even goes as far as dying a second time, just to drive the point home. It’s clear showrunner Steven Moffat has some big plans for this new companion and I’m excited to see what’s revealed.
On top of that, it seems the show may be returning to the idea of some romantic tension between the Doctor and his companion. Not since Rose has the show been able to pull off that kind of story, so it will be fun to see if they can pull it off. I also wonder what River Song thinks about this.
Keeping up the concept of change, the Doctor reveals a redesigned TARDIS in this episode. Cleaner, fancier, slicker, the new TARDIS is the iPhone of time traveling phone booths. I’ll miss the old copper interior with the crazy steampunk look, but I can understand why they changed it. Along with that, this episode featured a new title sequence.
It’s the middle of a season supposedly, yet between the new intro, new companion, and redesigned TARDIS, this year’s Christmas Special is more like the premiere of an entirely new season. That may explain the somewhat sporadic quality of the episodes preceding this one.
There’s a lot to say about this episode as a setup for the real return of the show in 2013, but what about the actual plot? Well, that’s where “The Snowmen” falls desperately short. The villains make even less sense than they usually do, they’re underutilized, and their whole concept is just kind of lazy. Any plot that squanders a voice acting role by Sir Ian McKellen has some serious issues.
Overall “The Snowmen” should probably go down as a convoluted, ill-conceived episode. Thankfully, it shines in many moments thanks to the interactions between the Doctor and Clara. It speaks volumes for the potential for the rest of this season that the two already have enough chemistry to save an otherwise mundane episode.