Every year it amazes me that the Doctor Who Christmas special writers are not crushed beneath the sheer weight of expectation. And, if I’m honest, the Christmas specials aren’t my favourite Who episodes, although I’ve yet to watch one I really disliked.
The Snowmen manages to be both festive and much more like a normal episode – for me, this is a good thing. Dealing with the fallout from The Angels Take Manhattan is a very Christmassy thing to do – you can’t move for tales of redemption at Christmas afterall – and setting up the new companion, Clara, seems sensible too.
[Here be spoilers…]
There were lots of things I liked about The Snowmen but I’m still not warming to Clara I’m afraid. Whether that’s because, like the Doctor, I’m still mourning the Ponds (poor Martha Jones never really won me over either) or I’ve finally tired of beautiful, feisty young women as companions, I can’t say. I can only hope Steven Moffat’s magical writing can save her for me. At the moment I’d much rather that Strax was the new companion. The scene with Clara in the coach (The Doctor: “Two genders is a bit further than he can count.” Strax: “Sir, do not discuss my reproductive cycle in front of enemy girls.”) and with the memory worm was funny and clever and, as is often the way, designed to make you forget something important.
Speaking of the Moff, there’s some glorious writing going on here (as well as overuse of the whole “Doctor Who?” line. Enough already). Not content with exploring the Doctor’s pain, ensuring the downfall of the carnivorous snowmen and setting up the ongoing mystery of the new ‘impossible’ companion, Moffat gets in a good dig at Victorian values too (just in case those who seem determined to return us to them are watching, I guess).
There are so many possibilities thrown up by the many references to Sherlock Holmes too… Is the line about readers not accepting a female Holmes a dig at Elementary (an American modern-day take on Conan Doyle’s stories with a female Watson)? Are all the Holmes’ references just a nod to Moffat’s other fantastically successful show? Or are Sherlock fans like me so desperate to get our fix that we see connections where there are none?
And is the scene where Madame Vastra insists Clara answers in just one word a riposte to those who bemoan the tumultuous dialogue Moffat places in the mouths of Matt Smith and Benedict Cumberbatch? It’s certainly a very, very clever piece of writing with a climax that sends a thrill down the spine.
Also excellent are Matt Smith (who remains electrifying in every frame he appears in), the chemistry between the Doctor, Vastra, Jenny and Strax, Richard E Grant’s villain, Ian McKellen (even when it’s just his voice), the carnivorous snowmen, the rain of tears, and the general air of menace.
The only flies in the ointment were the unnecessary snogging (and it’s not just sour grapes, honestly), love-saves-the-day again (grief plus a critical mass of telepathic snow conquers malevolent psychic force – hmm) and Clara.
So, not exactly an hour of my life wasted, but here’s hoping Clara’s more likeable and something more tangible than love will be saving the day when Doctor Who returns in April…
Posted by Jo the Hat