Doctor Who Review: The Snowmen

The 2012 Christmas Special promises a new companion who looks oddly familiar, a new-look TARDIS, the return of our favourite nonhuman Victorian detective and the usual seasonally-appropriate villain. Fortunately this time it’s neither homicidal Santas nor robot angels.

Cast and Crew

Matt Smith as The Doctor
Jenna-Louise Coleman as Clara
Richard E Grant as Doctor Simeon
Neve McIntosh as Madame Vastra
Dan Starkey as Strax
Catrin Stewart as Jenny Flint
Tom Ward as Captain Latimer
Ian McKellen as the voice of the Snowmen

Written by Steven Moffat

Produced by Marcus Wilson

Directed by Saul Metzstein

Originally shown on the 25th of December 2012

Premise

In Victorian England, it seems the snowmen build themselves.

High Points

  • “I’m a lizardwoman from the dawn of time, and this is my wife.”
  • Clara exploring the staircase and the cloud.
  • “I don’t know why, I just know who.”
  • London Underground map circa 1966. Backreferences, anyone?

Low Points

  • Strax’s attempts at polite interjections start out funny and become tedious.
  • The nature of the baddie made the ice-woman’s dialogue rather shallow and quite out of place next to the level of conversation between the Doctor and his companions.

Scores

Originality: I can’t really place it but I think the basic concept of the Intelligence has come up somewhere before. That said, this didn’t end up feeling like a hackneyed rerun of something everyone’s familiar with, and it was delivered with enough twists to stay fresh. Unfortunately the Doctor-meets-new-companion-and-stops-sulking idea isn’t new at all. Four out of six.

Effects: Snow is difficult to work with on set I suppose. This leads to the unfortunate tendency of the snow to not really look like snow. This extends to the computer-generated snowmen which looked to me more like they were made of paper. The cloud and staircase were very good though. Four out of six.

Story: Picking up from the end of the previous series very well, there were plenty of twists and lots to keep me interested right to the end. Five out of six.

Acting: Jenna-Louise Coleman was very good in her first appearance and is very good in her second. Most of the new actors are minor characters, but they’re not a disappointment. The ‘Victorian trio’ of Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax get a good chance to show their talents as well. My biggest let-down was the brief appearance of the landlord trying to convince Clara not to leave. Five out of six.

Emotional Response: It’s not really tense or emotional so much as pure fun. But having fun is an emotional response too. Five out of six.

Production: Some lavish interiors evocative of what you’d expect of a Victorian Christmas setting, with some lovely period costumes. The new TARDIS interior is something of a departure for the new series, although also clearly containing elements from the previous control room as well as some which hark back to the original series. There is also some excellent new music. Five out of six.

Overall: I enjoyed this episode immensely. It’s far from flawless but it flows and is fun and not everything needs to be as draining as Game of Thrones. Five out of six.

In total, The Snowmen receives thirty-three out of forty-two.

32 replies on “Doctor Who Review: The Snowmen”

  1. Jethro says:

    I enjoyed this episode.

    I agree with you about the snow thing. I don’t know why it’s so hard to get realistic looking snow. The first time I saw real snow I was surprised that it looks (and sounds!) nothing like on TV. Also everyone was wearing WAY too little clothes for that amount of snow being on the ground, not to mention building snowmen with bare hands. I tried that when it was fairly warm out (40f/5c) and it’s still not a good idea.

    My one other nitpick was that if a family crying on christmas eve is such a powerful force, well, I think I know why the world is going to hell in a handbasket (;

    Other than that, lots of fun.

    • Kiersten says:

      There’s different kinds of snows. Some snow isn’t “that” cold… when it’s almost 40 degrees outside.

      Building snowmen without gloves is bad no matter how warm, tho, that’s true, but you might be surprised at how little clothing is needed after a snow when the temps are between 30-40 degrees F. (-1 to 4 C)

      I’ve seen people ski slopes with shorts and muscle shirts! :)

      • Jethro says:

        Having lived in Minnesota for 15 years I consider myself a (very reluctant) expert on snow…

        At a temperature that’d make that little clothing comfortable, the snow would be very very slushy (:

        • I’m an Edmontonian. I agree completely that they wouldn’t be making snowmen without having numbness of the hands, but I have no problems with the attire just walking around. We hit -40 most years in winter (and that’s the point where Fahrenheit and Celsius meet) and many locals dress like these characters do when we’re within five degrees on either side of freezing. Of course, that’s with a lifetime of acclimation, which these characters haven’t necessarily had.

        • Kiersten says:

          LOL
          Ah, yes, but it DOES snow some south of Minnesota..
          *grin*

          *tosses snowball*

          *ducks and runs*

      • JD DeLuzio says:

        They really weren’t acting like people who were in any danger of being cold. That aside, I found this one of the most entertaining Christmas specials, and I liked the new Tardis interior. Smith’s Tardis always seemed a bit too silly.

  2. Kiersten says:

    Best Christmas episode EVER!!!

    • Jethro says:

      It WAS a really good episode, but I don’t think anything is surpassing last year’s xmas special (:

      • Kiersten says:

        *grin*
        I liked last year’s, but I knew quite a few people who did not!! :(

        This was great tho… :)

  3. I’m really looking forward to where this is going with Clara. This seems to be a very different kind of companion than anything we’ve seen since the relaunch. I’m still well behind on my classic Who, so I don’t know how this stacks up against past companions, what the London Underground reference was, or where the Great Intelligence comes from (which the Doctor also recognized), but I can’t wait to find out. I’m loving every minute Jenna-Louise Coleman is on screen, and not just because she’s stunningly attractive.

  4. So, anyone throw “CLARA OWSIN OSWALD” into an Anagram machine to look for hints? I saw a few words that seemed interesting, but not enough for any great revelations.

    I thought I saw “DONNA” until I realized I was missing an N.

  5. J_W_W says:

    I also love how the Doctor did not figure out who she was until the end. I was worried that he’d “recognize” her in this episode even though he’d never seen her. Great continuity tie ins in the script to lead the Doctor to that revelation.

  6. Jethro says:

    I’m getting a little worried about the whole thing where companions are being named after significant women in my life. I used to date a Donna, I used to be married to an Amy and now there’s a Clara! WHAT’S GOING ON!!!

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      So what's the next companion's name? :)

      On a related note, I've lost this battle, but what's with the rebooted Doctor falling for companions?

      • Jethro says:

        There’s got to be a Carrie/Kari/However it’s spelled at some point.

        I dunno what’s with the kissy thing. I mean it’s kinda silly to begin with but he’s MARRIED now!

        • Nowhere in canon does it say that Time Lord are monogamous….

          • JD DeLuzio says:

            No, and it’s canon that the Doctor has descendants, although whatever timey-whimy situation created them presumably involves a now-deceased Time Lady. At the very least, serial polygamy exists among the species.

            • Kiersten says:

              How much of the timeline has changed?
              I mean, since the Doctor doesn’t exist and River was released because she couldn’t kill someone who didn’t exist…..

              Anyway, the timeline, are River and the Doctor going in the same direction now?

              River dated an Auton with removeable heads.. but did that still happen? And if so, that happened after she and the Doctor were married.

              If that didn’t happen, then does Riversong die the same way?

              I mean, the Crash of the Byzantium still happened, but River would not have been there for the same reasons, nor would the one officer hinted that River had killed a good man…

              Either way.. is kissing really cheating?

  7. It’s all Eight’s fault. He kissed Grace and got a taste for it.

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