Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Doctor Who 'The Snowmen' Review

The 2012 Doctor Who Christmas Special ‘The Snowmen’ is without a doubt the best Christmas Special we’ve had to date.  A brave statement I’m sure, especially as 2010’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ was so beautifully told a story.  But what ‘The Snowmen’ does so wonderfully is ignore the fact that it’s a Christmas Special.  It’s got the longer format of the Christmas Specials, and it’s set at Christmas, but gone are all of the awful over the top Christmasyness (yes, it’s a real word) that made many of the previous specials so horrible to watch.  No more killer Christmas trees, robot Santa’s and exploding remote control baubles.  Instead we are given a very down to earth and very human story that focused more on the characters and their struggles rather than some gaudy threat that needed to be stopped.

The core of the story itself wasn’t the Snowmen, or even the villains behind the Snowmen, but The Doctor and Clara Oswin Oswald.  We are brought into a story to find a Doctor that had finally been beaten into submission.  The devastating loss of the Ponds has taken its toll on him and caused him to give up on the universe.  Through the episode we see him fighting against his natural urge to get involved in the mystery that Madame Vastra and co. are investigating, as well as the draw to the spunky barmaid Clara.  This is a nice change, and a great chance to see a Doctor that feels cheated and hurt by the universe that he’s helped to save so many times in the past.  But by the end of the story both we and The Doctor see that sometimes you have to set aside the bigger picture and just focus on the one person, the one person in this case being Clara.

Clara and The Doctor investigate The Snowmen.

Clara herself was a wonderful character to watch come to life on the screen and did what ay good companion does, made us forget about who came before.  Now, no disrespect for Amy and Rory, I think they’re a great pair of companions and I am sad that they’re not in the show anymore, but not once during the episode did I want them instead of Clara.  Clara captured my imagination and had such a wonderfully fun attitude that I couldn’t help but fall in love with her the same way The Doctor did.

There was a lot of intrigue going into this episode surrounding Clara as the actress Jenna Louise Coleman had made a surprise appearance in the first episode of the series as Oswin Oswald.  Knowing Steven Moffat as we do it was obvious at this point that he was laying the seeds for something big, and one of the more popular theories was that Oswin was going to be future version of Clara and that The Doctor was going to meet her out of order, much like River Song.  Instead Moffat has given us something so much more original and exciting.  Clara Oswin Oswald is a woman who appears in two different time periods, possibly as two different people with separate memories, who meets The Doctor and dies.  So, we now know that the Clara that will be travelling in the Tardis will not be the one from Victorian England or the future, but another version.  This has set up a mystery that will no doubt continue to unfold through out the rest of the series, possibly building up to the big 50th celebration.

The Great Intelligence commands the living snow.

Returning for the Christmas Special were the Silurian detective Madam Vastra, her wife Jenny and their Sontaran butler Strax, as last seen in the series six episode ‘A Good Man Goes to War’.  The three of them make a great team, and each work perfectly with The Doctor, each brining something unique to the mix.  It was also fun to hear that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based Sherlock Holmes and Watson on the adventures of Vastra and Jenny.

Whilst the title of the episode seemed to suggest that the main villains of the piece were going to be the snowmen themselves it was revealed that they were in fact just the foot soldiers of Doctor Simeon and The Great Intelligence.  Although it would have been nice to see more of them their inclusion definitely improved the episode, due in no small part to the amazing casting of Richard E. Grant and Sir Ian McKellen.  It was also a great treat for fans of classic Doctor Who to see an origin episode for The Great Intelligence that appeared as a villain for Patrick Troughton’s second Doctor.

The episode also boasted a new and improved opening title sequence and theme tune, along with a new Tardis interior. 

The new opening sequence was a great new change and whilst their was nothing wrong with the old one it often benefits from a revamp time to time, much like the Tardis, the companions and even The Doctor himself.  Changing things up from simply having the Tardis flying through the time vortex to include images of space was something that the show hadn’t really seen since Sylvester McCoy’s title sequence.  And the inclusion on The Doctor’s face in the opening was something that I’ve been waiting for since the show returned to our screens in 2005, and the lack of it in the years between then and now has felt completely wrong.  The music also goes through a great revamp, once again being unmistakably Doctor Who, yet bringing something new and interesting to the mix.  

The Tardis, smaller on the outside.
The new Tardis control room also gives hints back to the history of the show with a console that is very reminiscent of the one that Davison, Baker (Colin) and McCoy used during their tenure on the show.  The set also seems to reflect the new mood The Doctor has taken, gone are the bright oranges and golds from the fun times he had with the Ponds, instead we’ve got the blue and green colours of his lonely brooding.  The glowing tubes inside the central column and turning mechanisms above it help to show that the Tardis is a machine, with engines and moving parts, not just a magical box.

Whilst it only appears briefly in the episode and we have yet to see everything I have to admit that I like the new look.  We’d gotten to know the last control room pretty well and it’s nice to have the show give us something new.  I can’t wait to see more, especially in the upcoming episode entitled ‘Journey to The Centre of The Tardis’.

‘The Snowmen’ was an incredible episode, the best Christmas Special to date and a great introduction to an exciting new companion.  The supporting cast were great, with both the heroes and villains each getting their moments to shine.  A fantastic piece of storytelling, a shame a lot more shows aren’t as good as this!


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