Who Review: The Snowmen


by Kevin Rigdon (@pralix1138)

May contain spoilers

Doctor Who is back and he’s brought some friends in the newest Christmas episode, “The Snowmen.”  The 11th Doctor is still dealing with the loss of the Ponds, and what better time and place to lift one’s spirits than grungy, Victorian London?  I’m glad that Moffat didn’t have the Doctor begin in a happy-go-lucky mood.  Many of us hated to see the Ponds go, and it was fitting that the Doctor grieve properly.  In fact, he spends much of the episode determinedly grouchy, continually retreating from his friends and a certain Clara, a barmaid/governess played by Jenna-Louise Coleman, who’s capable matching his depressed mood with vim and vigor.

The episode’s antagonist seems to be a mass of psychic snow which has come to be called the “Great Intelligence,” voiced masterfully by Sir Ian McKellen.  Hey, if the Doctor can carry around psychic paper, then psychic snow makes perfect sense…in Victorian London.  Right?  Well, this Great Intelligence with a “magnetic” personality has been talking to a boy for the past fifty years and now the boy is a pretty strange middle-aged dude with serious personality issues, and is used by the Great Intelligence to aid in the latter’s bid to take over the world by creating a world of ice people.

Clara attempts to find the Doctor but is instead intercepted by the Doctor’s friends, Madame Vastra, Alice, and Strax who has come to be the mutant potato butler of the future.  What follows is an incredible interaction wherein Madam Vastra questions Clara about why the Doctor would help her, and only allows her to respond with one word answers.  This is some of the best writing in television I have ever watched.  Madame Vastra ends having Clara speak just one word that will tell the Doctor all he needs to know to help her.  The word?  “Pond.”

You see there was an old governess that froze in a pond, and the Great Intelligence needs her DNA which still resides in the frozen water.  That’s how he’s going to create the ice people.  But the Doctor, summoned by the memory of his beloved Ponds and the cheeky Clara, pretends to be Sherlock Holmes and calls upon the Great Intelligence and its human lackey, Dr. Simeon (the dude with the personality issues).  In the midst of his investigations, he happens across Clara once again, and a thrilling chase through a Victorian mansion ensues involving the newly risen ice governess.  This produces a nice little bit where the Doctor looks at his reflection in the mirror and realizes he’s put on his bow tie without even knowing he’d done so.

But there’s no time to rest as the long, dark winter has come a-calling and wants to get its hands on the ice governess.  The Doctor and Clara run up a staircase into a cloud where the TARDIS awaits.  But this isn’t your 10th Doctor’s TARDIS.  It has been completely transformed, and it is spectacular!  However, we don’t get to enjoy the cool new look, or the joining of Doctor to companion, because the ice governess shows up and pulls Clara off the TARDIS cloud.  As she lies dying, the Doctor remembers once again what it means to care.  He remembers who he is.

At the climax, the Doctor reveals that the Great Intelligence has been mirroring Simeon’s mind as “carnivorous snow meets Victorian values.”  The Doctor erases Simeon’s memories, which actually allows the Great Intelligence to completely take over Simeon.  But the psychic snow is undone when Clara dies.  The snow mirrors the family as they cry on Christmas Eve watching Clara die.

It is in her death, and burial, that the Doctor discovers who Clara really is: she is Oswin Oswald, the soufflé girl who was trapped inside a Dalek.  She was in both places and she died both times.  After this epiphany, the Doctor has to find her to find out who she is, what is so special about her, and how she could be the girl that’s died twice.

This episode was absolutely incredible!  If I were a member of Spinal Tap I would suggest that the ratings should go to 11.  It’s that good.  The Doctor is back; the TARDIS is remade; the sonic screwdriver has a new anti-freeze setting; and Clara/Oswin is more than able go toe-to-toe with the Doctor. The forthcoming completion of this season of Doctor Who looks to be another stellar overarching storyline, and includes another Neil Gaiman episode.  Throughout the clips for what’s coming in future episodes, however, I did notice a glaring oversight: no River Song.  As much as I enjoyed the back and forth between the Doctor and Clara/Oswin, I do hope we get to see more of our favorite archaeologist from the future.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


  1. William SteerDecember 28th, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    While I agree this is the best Christmas episode to date (“The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe” still brings me to tears of joy). All I had to say at the end of this episode is “DAMN YO MOFFAT” for the Clara Oswin mystery he introduced.
    I am still very much looking forward to the series 7.5

  2. MKDecember 28th, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Wasn’t a huge fan of the newly redesigned TARDIS, it just wasn’t as fascinatingly original anymore. There’s more of a traditional sci-fi Star Trek type feel to it now and it just seemed too dark. But the rest of the episode was fantastic. Loved the new title sequence, and the “Pond” bit was indeed wonderfully crafted. Unfortunately we now have to wait until April for new Who!

  3. darth martyDecember 28th, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    It was good but i miss Amy 🙁 Also an’t help thinking a Madame Vastra , Alice & strax spin off would fill the saturday night void left by the demise of Merlin.

  4. Kevin RigdonDecember 31st, 2012 at 10:10 am

    I liked the new TARDIS look after the first watch. Upon another couple of viewings, however, I’m beginning to think it’s colder and darker. Perhaps it’s meant to be more detached from the whimsical side of the 11th Doctor that I’ve loved since Matt Smith started. Regardless, it is quite appropriately sterile, and unimaginative, for someone who’s been on his own for a while. Maybe the look will evolve as the season goes on and Clara/Oswin makes her mark on the Doctor.

  5. joshzerogearsJanuary 2nd, 2013 at 9:17 am

    The episode was great, and Stephen Moffat once again showed us he clearly knows how to write Who. The change in the theme tune (again), the Doctor’s new outfit, the new tardis, and a new companion could of been a little too much all at once, butt Moffat definitely pulled it off and added in some classic doctor who moments as well, especially with the doctor being sure he had heard of the great intelligence before, then showing them the map of the London underground, he has actually met the great intelligence twice before, once in 67 and again in 68, in the later it appeared with a robot yeti and attacked the London underground (thanks doctor). Moffat’s attention to detail and ability to create spectacular arc’s through his episodes makes the 50th anniversary sound amazing and with the Doctor outfitted with a new… Everything it’s going to be something special!

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