I’ve waited a few days to talk about the Doctor Who Christmas Special, The Snowmen, because I wanted people to have a chance to watch it before I talked about my thoughts on the episode. That said, there are spoilers for this episode, so please tread lightly if you haven’t yet had a chance to watch.
A lot has been going on with the Doctor since we last saw him The Angels Take Manhattan. Apparently, he’s been as upset as we have about the parting of ways with the Ponds. If there’s one thing Matt Smith’s Doctor is good at, it’s brooding; and, oh, is he brooding. He’s built himself a stationary base in the sky over Victorian London, where he sits and broods and decidedly does not meddle in the affairs of humans. It’s not like we haven’t seen similar behavior in the past, though. When he lost Rose, the Doctor reluctantly brought Martha along with him and pretty much treated her like crap the entire time. When he lost Donna, he spent a lot of time brooding and feeling sorry for himself. Eventually, we know that he’ll get out of this rut. It just takes finding the right person to share in his adventures. In this case, that person is Clara, a clever barmaid who also happens to be posing as a governess at a home where the previous governess fell into the pond in the back yard and drowned.
There’s a lot in this episode that doesn’t really matter. The main villain is a middle-aged man who is alone and bitter, who has been sharing these feelings with “psychic snow” and wants to create an army of ice-humans, who are as empty on the inside as he feels. Even the fact that Clara is pretending to be a governess while moonlighting as a bar maid seems to have no purpose or explanation other than to put her in the right place at the right time. But there’s so much that’s wonderful and brilliant about this episode that it’s easy to forgive these things.
For one thing, we get to see more of some of the supporting characters from A Good Man Goes to War, Madame Vastra and Jenny — who are openly married and whose exploits are apparently the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes (and I suppose Moffat would know since he works on that show, too). There’s also Strax, the Sontaran nurse who died and is apparently alive again with no real explanation (but that’s fine, what other nurse did we know who died and came back to life all the time, hmm?) and is living with Vastra and Jenny. Strax provides a great amount of comic relief without being too over-bearing, and Vastra and Jenny are obviously very brilliant characters. Clara’s expression when she’s first introduced to Vastra is priceless.
When Moffat first took over Doctor Who from Russel T. Davies, he said that he wanted to make Who into a “dark fairy tale.” There have been some dark stories, but none of them have ever really felt like fairy tales. The Snowmen does a great job of finally bringing us that fairy tale feel, while telling an enchanting, but definitely darker, story. There’s the magic man who lives in the clouds, whose home can be reached by jumping up and grabbing an invisible ladder. The sad little boy who grows up to be a bitter man that wants to destroy the world with snow. The lonely children whose mean governess comes back from the dead as a living ice sculpture. And, of course, the grief and tears of the children destroying the snow as Clara dies. Victorian London is the perfect setting, the icing on the cake, if you will, when it comes to this fairy tale. It’s not a story with a happy ending, but it does end with hope as the Doctor realizes that Clara is the same girl as the one who died in Asylum of the Daleks, which means that she must still be out there somewhere, in another time.
As the Doctor takes off to find Clara, his sense of exploration and adventure fully restored, we, too, are filled with a sense of wonder and excitement. Who is Clara? And how does she relate to the Doctor? We’ll have to wait until April to find the answers to these and other questions, but if The Snowmen is any indication, it will be worth the wait.