July 2, 2020

Doctor Who Rewatch: 2012 Christmas Special “The Snowmen”

Some say that Doctor Who is only as good as its guest stars. If that were true, then “The Snowmen” is golden — a perfect segue from Amy and Rory’s sudden exit to the fun mystery of the Impossible Girl.

Not only does it have fantastic guests, its setting is chillingly gothic. The wintry atmosphere of Victorian London not only perfectly communicates the Doctor’s depression at losing Amy and Rory, it also provides a great environment for a genuinely scary Christmas special, perhaps the first in the show’s history.
And who exactly are these guest stars, you might ask? The beloved Paternoster Gang returns from the previous season — and it’s lovely to see Vastra (Neve McIntosh), Jenny (Catrin Stewart) and Strax (Dan Starkey) again. The trio have phenomenal chemistry, and it’s absolutely lovely to watch them bounce off each other. The Doctor (Matt Smith) slips naturally right into the group, and if you don’t long for a Paternoster Gang spinoff at least once during this episode, you may be watching the wrong episode.

Richard E. Grant is prominently featured as Dr. Walter Simeon, the icy head (pun intended) of the GI Institute, an obviously shady organization (I wonder how they make money). Ask yourself, what if Ebenezer Scrooge was an emotionless murderer? And you get Dr. Simeon, a character with a textbook backstory but a perfectly intimidating demeanor.

Simeon often speaks to the Great Intelligence, voiced by the criminally underused Ian McKellen. The GI is a villain inherited from classic episodes of Doctor Who, but I must admit it’s fascinating to see Steven Moffat’s interpretation of how the Intelligence originally came about — this episode acts as its origin. And while some of it seems fabricated for the purposes of the story (it does feel a little “silly” at times), it’s a worthy origin for a creepy villain — it’s just a shame it doesn’t have more screen time.

The visual effects continue to be top-notch.
And you can’t talk about The Snowmen without mentioning Jenna Coleman’s Clara — the emotional and “human” element of the episode. Coleman’s performance is grounded and naturalistic, and Clara provides a charming focal point for both the Doctor and the audience.

I’ve always liked the Impossible Girl storyline that continues on for the rest of the season, and while Clara may not be the most beloved companion, I find her funny and near instantly likable. “The Snowmen” introduces a different Clara than the one eventually to travel in the TARDIS, but that doesn’t erode her pleasant nature: Coleman’s easygoing but easily adjustable nature is perfect for the role of the enigmatic and mysterious companion.

“The Snowmen” remains one of the best Doctor Who Christmas specials to date. It’s well-written, hilarious, melancholic, and above all, scary. It could have made better use of its villains, but it’s clear that Moffat is playing the long game, and the seeds of his plan are sewed here with delightful results later on. Unsurprisingly, the season only continues on an upward path after this episode, but “The Snowmen” is the perfect springboard. [Grade: A]

Director: Saul Metzstein
Writer: Steven Moffat
Starring: Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman
Rated: TV-PG
Available: HBO Max
Fun Fact: “The Snowmen” features a first-ever special effect for the series: a single-camera shot following a character from the outside of the TARDIS, through the doors, and into the console room.

No comments:

Post a Comment