Doctor Who, S7 Ep6 – The Snowmen

“John, did you watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special?” “John, when are you going to post your thoughts on the Doctor Who Christmas Special?” “What are your thoughts about Clara, John?” “Do you need me to send you more resources to your city in Kingdoms of Camelot, John?” These are just a few of the dozens of questions I was asked over the break. But I am back, saw through the new year, and am ready to discuss me some Who!

Now, as stated, this has been some time since the airing of the Christmas Special, but we’ve all been busy, sorry to say. And, well, it’s not like we’re getting any new Doctor Who for some time. This delay in review has really given me time to think about what I saw, and though I am nowhere near sure of my Clara Conspiracy I am rather happy with how the Christmas Special turned out.

I’ve decided to forgo the breakdown of the episode because you’ve seen it, I’ve seen it, why rehash? Let’s hop into it and discuss!


What’s cooler than being cool?

So, I’m calling this episode “The Christmas Special That Wasn’t a Christmas Special or, The Darkest Christmas Special Ever Depending on Your Point of View” TCSTWACSOTDCSEDOYPOV for short. Eh, even that is a bit long. Because, the episode really wasn’t a fantastical story about saving Christmas or about Christmas values; rather it was just an episode that used Christmas as a set piece in the same way that it used the Victorian setting as a set piece. This episode could have easily happened in July, and rather than snowmen, it could have been mud men and it could have happened in any other time without so much as a major change of dialog.

Hmm, mud men. That’s an idea! Which begs the question: what did Walter Simeon do during the non-winter months these past 50 years? How did the Great Intelligence speak to him then?

But I don’t dislike the idea of just using Christmas as a set piece, especially during the time when every channel on TV is playing some kind of cheesy Christmas tale that expounds on the values and meaning of Christmas. Thank you for not adding on to it.

‘The Snowmen” was a really great episode, a very fairy-tale-esque sort of adventure, and I liked it. It was fun and at the end I was all, “Huh? But? What?” And I really think the spacing between losing the Ponds in “Angels Take Manhattan” and “The Snowmen” was good, because it gave us viewers time to heal and go through the five stages of grieving before taking on a new companion. It’s all very well done, but it just had too many questions and felt rushed.

So my not-so-many questions range from trivial to really trivial, like: Why do they need to scrape snow off of the snowmen they make for the giant snow globe?  Or why does Clara have a double life as a bar tender and as a governess? Maybe this will get explained a bit more in detail later, but I don’t think it will, so it kind of bothers me that they’ve written in a double life for her and then they never explain it. If you were wondering how and the why the former governess could drown in the pond then all you need do is pause the episode when Sherlock Holmes The Doctor storms in to confront Simeon and looks at his books. Pause it right there and you find out that the Governess was drunk last Christmas Eve and fell in. It’s kind of bad writing. I don’t see why there couldn’t have been a scene of Digby, one of the children under Clara’s care, explaining just how she died. I mean, he bothers to show Clara the pond, but the general non-pausing audience is left to wonder just how exactly she managed to drown.

While we’re on about the Sherlock Holmes reference, can we not take a minute and love all the Sherlock Holmes references in this story? Fantastic. Lestrade Magazine, Lady Vastra being the source of inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, the whole The Doctor impersonating Holmes, and Strax teasing The Doctor about it later on. I see what you did there, Mr. Moffat. Thank you.


I will say, though I am confused that The Doctor isn’t doing what Amy asked him to do, or why he’s not travelling with River, I do like the trio of Lady Vastra, Jenny, and Strax. They add that needed sci-fi element to a show that’s increasingly more fantasy, if only by the two of them being aliens. I do hope they explain what friend brought Strax back from the dead, or if that’s just a poetical term for recloning him in the future episodes in which they plan on using the characters. Let’s face it, if they only appear in this episode then they are teasing my hopes of Doctor Who becoming the “Captain Question and the Chronic Argonauts”-inspired fanfiction I wrote told in 12 choose-your-own-adventure prose tales with sequential art. No, but seriously, let’s keep these guys around for a while. Especially Strax.

Dr. Simeon’s character is very easily defeated in a frustratingly understandable way. Not every villain is going to be a Moriarty challenge; some are just a nuisance, and some are 60-something-year-old Victorian gentlemen who have probably never gotten into much trouble anyway. Plus you add in the fact that he was more or less a puppet of the Snowneto, aka the Great Intelligence.  Even then one might complain that the defeat of the Great Intelligence was way too easy, but that’s where you’ve got to know your Whovian history. It’s also why this special works as an hour long story and not the usual hour and a half. This is roughly a prequel to previous Doctor Who stories “The Abominable Snowmen” and “The Web of Fear,” both staring Second Doctor Patrick Troughton. At the same time it serves as the jumping-on point for the second half of the season. This isn’t a one and done, stand alone story, it’s more complicated than it lets on.

And, Mr. Moffat? Can we bring up how easily subdued Lady Vastra was at the hands of said 60-something-year-old Victorian gentleman? Her defeat by a man-ape single-handedly sets back years of reptilian humanoid rights.shakla

But it is “The Darkest Christmas Special Ever” if you see this tale from the eyes of the Latimer family. They’ve been living with the daughter’s nightmares of the former governess coming back from the dead to kill them, their house is attacked by evil snowmen, and an evil ice version of the former governess kills the beloved current governess on Christmas Eve. Sure, the world is saved, but how are they going to be able to cope with everything that just happened to them? Christmas is forever going to be a black day for them. I foresee this family moving to warmer climates.

All that aside, I love the episode because it features a darker Doctor, which I love, has a cool new title sequence and a cool new TARDIS interior, which both have huge hat tips to the more classic Doctor Who serials, it’s got a spot on strong female foil as a companion, great dialog, and, finally, The Doctor just looks cooler. And yes, bow ties are still really cool. I loved the episode for all the same reasons you do.


Now I know, I know. You really just want to know what my theory is of Clara. Let me just preface this by saying that I don’t think anyone is going to be able to guess what is in the mind of Moffat, so this is just another one-in-a-dozen fandom theories. For some strange reason the first thing I thought of was the Adherents of the Repeated Meme from season 1 with the 9th Doctor. Those turned out to just be androids for the sake of distraction, but I can’t help but wonder if Clara herself is some kind of universal repeating meme. Then my mind went to Gwyneth and Gwen Cooper from Torchwood and their “spatial genetic multiplicity” shtick (as to why they both looked the same and were from Cardiff though were separated decades apart, and were seemingly unrelated but played by the same actress). Clara, on the other hand, seems to be, and The Doctor believes it to be, that the two Clara’s he’s met are actually the same person (and not a casting glitch). Then I thought about Scaroth from “City of Death” and how he got splintered across time when his ship exploded. And the last ingredient to my theory is that if you take the time to read (most of the serial was junked at the time and only stills and fragments remain of the original) “The Web of Fear,” you find out that the Great Intelligence survives and is still out there, still vastly powerful, and  craving to have its’ own body.


Maybe that’s why the Great Intelligence seemed so minor in this story: because maybe it might be the overarching Big Bad for the second half of the season. Maybe it becomes fascinated with The Doctor and generates the Clara Meme using spatial genetic multiplicity to bridge decades of time to ensnare The Doctor once more in its web of fear. But that means Clara is just a trap, a trick, or at best a disguise, and that belittles her character. So maybe she has nothing to do with the Great Intelligence. I’m O.K. with not knowing until Moffat tells us. That’s why I love this show: You never know just what is going to happen.