As the first notes of the Doctor Who Christmas Special tinkled a familiar dread swept over me. Was there to be a voiceover or were we to be spared this particular horror? A Christmas miracle: the voiceover was joyfully absent! The relief I felt at this small detail must have affected my viewing experience dramatically because to be totally honest with you, “The Snowmen” really wasn’t that bad.
Instead of ye dreaded opening voiceover we had a small Victorian child talking a snowman as his friends throw snowballs round and round the mulberry bush. 50 years later, the somewhat creepy child turned into Richard E. Grant + death glare. Anyway, REG oversees some sort of creepy snowman labour and gives snow offerings to a electrostatic snowglobe, as you do. As he is Victorian (something repeated throughout the episode to the point that a drink-whenever-the-phrase-Victorian-values-is-mentioned game would be dangerous to your health) he uses food to manipulate the labouring men and before they can say “Please Sir, can I have some more?” they are snapped up by snowmen.
Clara is a barmaid in a bustier (well, sort of. The more accurate description isn’t as alliteratively appealing) who pops outside to find a cross snowman and a man in the shadows, wearing glasses familiar to the dear viewer if they have been paying attention. Oh so quickly, the man slips off, Clara calling after him, “where are you going, I thought we was just getting acquainted?” “Those were the days,” says the Doctor, wistfully. Unlike recent episodes, the dialogue doesn’t feel too forced until…”Doctor Who”? Yeaha no one cares.
The new opening theme is cool if you like lava lamps but I do really like that they brought back the big transparent starry face thing. Makes it all a little more Twilight Zone and marks this as the era of the Eleventh Doctor.
By this point we gather that the icy villain has some sort of memory capability, REG is determinedly sour-looking and the writers owe the folks over at Game of Thrones a couple of thousand pounds (or at least a beer) for “winter is coming.” Honestly I’d have preferred if they’d sung that song about Christmas’ impending arrival and the goose’s notable weight gain. “The Snowmen” has a number of silly gags to keep it all happy and Christmas and Doctor Who, including the irrationally violent Sontaran: ”When you find something new, what’s the next thing you look for?” “A grenade.” Touché. The Doctor is depressed that the universe doesn’t care about his hard work and Clara has to stop thinking about the snowmen which is incredibly difficult because when someone tells you not to think about kangaroos with moustaches that’s all you’re going to think about. Instead (and this is how the problem is solved in the end) you have to change the way in which you think about it.
The Doctor thinks he’s sent Clara off in a cab, leaving him free to take a strike around what I can only assume is Grimmauld Place, where he’s kept his ladder. Clara jumps and pulls the ladder down, like a Brit playing out any and all scenes in US television and films that involve a fire escape. She climbs the invisible and winding and very pretty staircase that reminds me awfully of the stairs at Covent Garden underground station: never ending, narrow, winding, up and down the only options. At the top is… guess what? A Mary Poppins cloud and a big blue box (alas, no chimney sweeps). After all that exercise, Clara dashes away.
After a good night’s rest, Clara picks up her luggage and bids her boss farewell to change in the back of the car. Unnecessary boob shot ensues as she makes her transformation into governess. The children in her care, it turns out, are creepy and have permanent smiles and laugh hysterically at things that aren’t really funny. Then they get intense and lead her to the creepy pond that killed their previous governess, of whom the daughter keeps dreaming. Struck with concern Clara returns to Grimmauld place and shouts “DOCTOR DOCTOR DOCTOR!” And oh god… must we again with the Doctor who?
Lies are words words words says Lady Lizard, creating a nice little excuse for some wordplay and ~poignant dialogue~ of which my favourite was “why would he help you?” “Kindess.” But does Clara know the magic word? Of course she does! The phone rings in the Doctor’s fancy TARDIS, meaning he has to put down 13 Little Blue Envelopes and save the world again. Struggs.
Back with REG, the magical snow electricity polystyrene machine says danger. Sherlock Holmes appears and the snow begins to talk, which in turn leads the Doctor to churn out what can only be described as a Christmas cracker joke: Takes one to snow one. Still, he wins me over again with his old school approach to discovering the most opened file and most opened page, no hacking required. All he gains, however, he loses when he says, ”do you think I’m just going to be investigating because some bird smiles at me?” because “bird.”
Back at the house, Clara tells nice stories about the Doctor and we expect him to appear half way through when it is in fact the creepy ice governess. Because we are, of course, in Victorian times, the governess is temporarily knocked out by Punch and Judy + sonic screwdriver. We learn that the creepy woman is the blueprint for ice that will never melt and that Moffat has no patience when it comes to kissing. LEARN FROM JOSH AND DONNA, MOFFAT, HONESTLY. REG and his snowman army appear, raised voices ensue, Clara deduces and stops The Doctor from looking up her skirt but all the ridiculousness goes away when she tells the Doctor that he’s been sulking.
He quickly puts a stop to her assessment of his character by showing off his fancy new TARDIS. My first impression was that it’s almost too fancy and that it doesn’t seem real (did the others?) but I do hope it will seem real soon. Soufflés happen. The Doctor picked up the umbrella for her and he never knows why. He only knows who (DOCTOR WHO, REMEMBER). Clara gets the TARDIS key straight away, an indication that The Doctor’s getting easy.
And TADA, always lock the door, kids. The ice governess appears out of nowhere and Clara is once again dead. Incidentally, I oddly find myself rooting for Clara and The Doctor when he presses the key into her hands, yet I feel like I should dislike it, as I disliked their interaction in the soufflé!Dalek episode. The Doctor adjusts his bow tie with purpose and strides out to face REG and his snowmen, which I now realise remind me of the angry insects that eat all of Rabbit’s carrots in the Winnie the Pooh Christmas film. How seasonally appropriate. Speaking of which…
YOU POURED YOUR DARKEST DREAMS INTO A SNOWMAN AND IT BECAME A CRAPPY SNOWGLOBE.
…is essentially what the Doctor tells REG, who proceeds to get om nom nommed by a memory worm and then turns into a deranged ice zombie employed by the Game of Thrones marketing team. But this is Britain and in Britain it doesn’t snow, my friends. It rains. Cute. Apart from the bit with the dead woman, but still.
The Doctor is at Clara’s bedside when he finally realises who she is (flashbacks help) and this, it seems, is the last little spark he needs to get off his
arse cloud and return to saving the universe. Until next time.