Title: The Snowmen
Written by: Steven Moffat
It’s 1892! It’s Oswin! No, wait… It’s Clara! …or is it Oswin? The Snowmen! Are you thinking about them? Well… stop! Winter is coming. Sherlock Holmes! It’s smaller on the outside! Doctor Who? Dangerous question…
There’s so much new stuff in The Snowmen that I’m just going to say it right now: there’s a cool new title sequence and theme, a fabulous new TARDIS and – of course – a new companion… Phew! Now I can get on to the actual story…
Simeon is working with the story’s big bad – a giant snowglobe containing telepathic snow, voiced excellently by Sir Ian McKellen – to bring about Humanity’s last Winter. On hand are the Veiled Detective (Madame Vastra, played by Neve McIntosh) and her plucky companion (Jenny, played by Catrin Stewart), but they may not be enough to stop him. Can they convince the Doctor, who has become a recluse, to help them?
Right from the off it should be said that Grant; master of the stone-face and mouth-curling sneer, fits perfectly into the role of a Who villain, though (considering his acting talent) feels relatively underused throughout. It’s a pity to see the stellar Withnail & I actor go to waste, and reminds this reviewer of a certain Bill Bailey suffering a similar fate last year. The titular monsters of the story are actually far less central to the plot than you’d think, but still manage to make some menacing appearances.
Not to worry though, because this is balanced out by the bigger story that’s taking place; the introduction of new companion, Clara. Or is it Oswin? The new companion to be, Clara (Jenna Louise Coleman), is leading a double life: One as a barmaid and another as a governess, who shares many characteristics with Mary Poppins (Surely not a coincidence!). As the latter she also gets to tell some inspired and “true” bedtime stories. (I thought the one about fish was particularly good!)
Coleman gets to show her acting prowess throughout and is clearly set for great things aboard the TARDIS. She steps into Doctor Who with a confidence and talent that I’ve not seen since Billie Piper first graced our screens in Rose. There’s no pretence about whether or not she’s ever going to be the Doctor’s new friend – Clara simply seizes the initiative, quite triumphantly I might add, and makes the decision for us.
Matt Smith and Coleman have a wonderful chemistry onscreen and the scenes they share are a joy to watch. Both give energetic performances and seem to have a natural rhythm for each other that I look forward to seeing more of.
Smith is on top form, as usual, but one can’t help thinking that the Doctor’s moody phase of thinking “the universe doesn’t care” could have been used a bit more effectively. While Smith delivers the scenes in which he’s playing a more miserable Doctor excellently, the idea that the Time Lord has given up never really hits home.
Victorian London itself looks splendid in this story, and is reminiscent of Fourth Doctor story The Talons of Weng Chiang. Suitably, as in Talons, the Doctor also dons the deerstalker and inverness cape once more to impersonate the fictional Sherlock Holmes in a hilarious sequence of not-quite-deductions.
Making a return for the first time since A Good Man Goes To War are Vastra, Jenny and Strax. (Or, the Silurian, the Victorian and the Sontaran Nurse.) Vastra and Jenny are just as brilliant here as they were before, and the notion of their marriage is dealt with just as it should be; as a matter of fact. I think this is good as a.) it’s currently an issue in politics and b.) because it makes you wonder why it’s such an issue in politics.
In a brilliant tip of the hat by Moffat, it’s implied that the pair’s antics around London inspired Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, and I thought the scene where Clara has to answer all of Vastra’s questions with one word was very cleverly written too.
Strax, on the other hand, takes over comic relief duty for this episode and does it rather well too. I’d like to see more of these three – and judging by the “coming soon” trailer for the rest of the series it looks like that’s definitely on the cards!
Favourite Moment: The Doctor, after thinking he’s sent Clara back to where she followed him from, retreats up into his home above the clouds – disappearing up an invisibly hidden ladder. Clara follows him and climbs the ladder, to discover a winding staircase that goes all the way up. When she gets to the top, we see the TARDIS and after she knocks, the Doctor pokes his head out. Scared, Clara hides, then runs back down before he sees her… Who says this episode wasn’t very Christmassy? Christmas stories are all about magic and wonder, and that did it for me!
Although, like last year’s special, it’s very light on story, The Snowmen is still a great piece of television. The whole thing is very character driven, which works because it’s a companion introduction episode, not just a Christmas one. There are plenty of references to past stories that will bring a smile to fans that catch them, and yet it’s also the bold beginning of a new era for Doctor Who as well.
The Snowmen is an enchanting visit to Victorian London, managing to feel like Christmas without even mentioning it very much. A brilliant introduction to new companion Clara and a triumph in storytelling. Roll on 2013 and the rest of Series Seven!
Thanks for reading! What did you think of this year’s Christmas special? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section, below. For more reviews, click here.
So it’s that most wonderful time of the year again and come the 25th of December it’ll be time for…The Doctor Who Christmas special!
I spent last Christmas reviewing every nu-Who Christmas special so far, and I’m planning to post a review of this year’s on Christmas Day too.
Below are the links to my reviews which I’ve slightly tweeked, to accommodate some changes in my opinion since first writing them.
Reckon I’ve got it wrong? Let me know in the comments! (And don’t forget to vote for your favourite Christmas special in the poll!)
Here’s my Christmas episode ranking (links to my reviews):
- A Christmas Carol (2010) – 9/10
- The Next Doctor (2008) – 9/10
- The Christmas Invasion (2005) – 8/10
- The Runaway Bride (2006) – 8/10
- The End of Time (2009) – 7/10
- Voyage Of The Damned (2007) – 6/10
- The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe (2011) – 5/10
Yowza! It’s Halloween! That came quickly didn’t it?
Now, Americans think they’ve got the jump on Brits when it comes to scary-season. But you know what? We’ve got a secret weapon. The world’s longest running Sci-Fi programme just happens to be founded on that very institution. Doctor Who: Keeping kids behind sofas for fifty years (come 2013).
So, without further ado – I present to you GravityShmavity’s seven picks for Doctor Who on Halloween! (Note: This isn’t a “scariest episodes” list. I’ve tried to compile a mix of fun and scary stories. Enjoy! – M)
7. The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone (S5, Ep4/5)
Past readers will know this story is one of my favorites. “But why would you pick this Angels story over Blink?” you may ask. Simple – Blink is terrifying in it’s own way, but it’s also sad and wonderful and brooding and urban. Don’t get me wrong – I love Blink – but this episode tops it, in terms of action and pure Halloweeneyness. I mean come on! A forest, in a bottle, in a spaceship, in a maze – full of Weeping Angels and River Song! How cool is that?
6. Tooth and Claw (S2, Ep2)
Besides the fact this is a brilliant episode in its own right, Tooth and Claw does also feature a Werewolf – which basically guarantees it a place on this list! The Tenth Doctor and Rose are off to see Ian Dury & The Blockheads and all of a sudden they’re trying to save Queen Victoria from a group of monks trying to infect her with the nip of the wolf! What could possibly go wrong? It also features a crack at the Royal Family at the end too, which is always good fun. A cracking story for a spooky night!
5. The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit (S2, Ep8/9)
“This is the darkness… this is my domain.”
If you know your stuff, then you’ve probably realized that it is from this story that my online name originates. (“Gravity-shmavity, my people practically invented black holes…”) Ten and Rose land on a planet that’s in orbit of a black hole, and end up facing the devil itself – PLUS the Ood make their debut. Is any Halloween list really complete without it? Great set design and a stellar cast combined with epic storytelling that questions our beliefs in the supernatural. What more could you want?
4. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances (S1, Ep9/10)
“Are you my mummy?”
So you want more eh? Well I’ve got it right here. Steven Moffat delivers a trope-tastic, spookerific story that oozes style and excellence. The Ninth Doctor and Rose uncover a mystery surrounding a gas-mask-child who’s looking for his mummy that all comes back to a mauve-alert object that crashed in 1940’s London, in what can only be described as the story that convinced people Doctor Who was properly scary again. Rated J, for its use of Jack Harkness and the word “dancing”.
3. The Waters of Mars (S4.5, Ep3)
“Water always wins.”
While this story will be eternally remembered as the one where the Tenth Doctor declares himself the “Time Lord victorious”, it’s also the episode where we meet one of the most terrifying and uncompromising enemies Doctor Who has ever seen. The Waters of Mars is quite simply superb. The Doctor battles against what he knows he shouldn’t do with his own guilt, as the flood consumes all aboard Bowie Base One – and not even the famous Captain Adelaide Brooke can escape… A fast-paced thriller, that’s perfect for Halloween viewing.
2. Dinosaurs On a Spaceship (S7, Ep2)
“Dinosaurs… on a spaceship!”
OK, so it’s far flung in tone from the last few but that’s not a problem! Dinosaurs… is a fun, hilarious and ridiculous romp for all the family that’s great for light viewing. Peppered with laughs and featuring a wonderfully vibrant cast, it is hard to recall more stories that are so effortlessly fun to watch.
1. Midnight (S4, Ep8)
“I can’t imagine you without a voice. ”
Claustrophobic, terrifying and ingeniously fresh, Russell T Davies’ bottle episode takes the cake in this list. Tennant’s Doctor, usually all smiles and struts, is reduced to the status of victim by a sinister copycat and a group of scared humans. A truly intense story that bristles with psychological insight and leaves the monster a mystery in the end – the ultimate Halloween episode.