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‘Doctor Who: The Snowmen’

oswinFor all intents and purposes, Christmas night’s Doctor Who episode The Snowmen was about introducing the Time Lords new assistant, Clara Oswin Oswald. And there was no explanation as to how this Clara is connected to Oswin Oswald, seen in the season opener Asylum of the Daleks. And in many ways, that was the least of my interest, mostly because showrunner Steven Moffat and Clara actress Jenna-Louise Coleman have said that the mystery of the new companion will be played out for the rest of the season, which (sadly) will not begin airing until at least April.

The things I wanted answers to where sort of glossed over, and so it just may be my sense of storytelling versus today’s way of putting a bunch of action on the screen so no one realizes the story is lacking a certain something. If I had not watched the prequel segments released online, I would have never been told how or why Vastra, the Silurian we saw in last season’s A Good Man Goes to War, was living in 1892 London with her wife, the human Jenny. In that brief clip, she explained to the Scotland Yard detective that she was awoken after workers expanding the underground train disturb her sleep. The episode itself never really address this, and if you look at The Snowmen as sort of reboot or tabula rasa for new viewers, why not?

Same goes for the Sontaran, Strax (who ends up kinda of stealing every scene he’s in with his one-liners). Up until this episode, because Strax had died in a Good Man, it could be assumed that The Snowmen was happening before the events of last year’s episode. But it was confirmed that this episode does take place after those events, and that Strax’s death had been reversed: “He gave his life for a friend once. Another friend brought him back.” But that was all we were going to get, as the circumstances of how this occurred are not fully explained. Still all three are scheduled to reappear in at least two more stories this season, so we may get a real explanation.

And why 1892? Why did the Doctor choose to become a curmudgeon and spend his days in Victorian London. And how long was he there, because he had enough time to refurbish the TARDIS control room.

Another issue I had was with Doctor Simeon, played by Richard E Grant. Like a lot of villains created lately for this show and other franchise –in particular, Star Trek– they have failed to make the villain interesting or really evil. They end up just doing horrible things in pursuant of their goals, but they’re never truly bad in the same way the Daleks or The Weeping Angels are. Simeon is cold, calculating man –in the opening part of the teaser, set in 1842, it is discovered he is an orphan- but what makes him different from the other villains, beyond someone who has come under the influence of the Great Intelligence that uses a form of mutant telepathic snow to create a physic bond with people.

Grant spends most of the episode just staring and giving everyone the stink eye, though when given a chance to perform, he does well. The voice of the Great Intelligence was Ian McKellen and that was a wonderful win for the series itself.

Otherwise, I found the special to be charming, with Coleman coming out swinging in her role as the curious Clara. She is so different from the Amy Pond (actually, she reminded me a lot of Martha) that it clearly shows showrunner Moffat wanting to put the both Amy and Rory firmly in the past –even though the episode has many nods to them, with the Doctor wearing Amy’s glasses and the double meaning of the pond- by giving us such an interesting character and an interesting mystery of who she really is: the girl who died twice. Still, I could do without the snogging.

For long-time Doctor Who fans, they’ll know that the Great Intelligence is an enemy the second Doctor encountered in 1967’s The Abominable Snowmen and its sequel in 1968, The Web of Fear. It should be noted that the Doctor gives a map of the 1967 London Underground on the biscuit tin to the Great Intelligence during the course of his plans, so it is possible that this story now could be seen as a prequel to those serials -the Doctor remarks that the Underground is also a “key strategic weakness in metropolitan living.” In those two serials from that era, the GI use intimate knowledge of the Underground to have their robotic Yeti attack London.


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