This year’s Doctor Who Christmas special fell perfectly in line with the episodes we’ve seen so far this season: clever, funny, heart-tugging, topped with sadness, and served with a side of mystery. And, impressively, it did all the aforementioned while also introducing the Doctor’s new companion.
So how’d they do it? With a tale called “The Snowmen,” which was as twisty as it was exciting.
In this story, we met a man named Dr. Simeon who was using a giant snow globe called The Great Intelligence to manipulate snow in hopes of wiping out all the humans of the world and replacing them with ice creatures. The bigger issue here, though, wasn’t stopping the nefarious act — it was getting the Doctor to participate in the world-saving.
When we first saw the Doctor, he was in full sulk-mode. Having lost his companions, he was disinterested in all interactions with the world, choosing instead to remain in solitude on a cloud. (“After a thousand years of trying to save the universe I’ve realized one thing: the universe doesn’t care,” he says at one time.)
Enter Clara (Jenna-Louis Coleman), a barmaid/governess who first detected strange ongoings after being attacked by some truly terrifying snowmen. Thankfully, the Doctor saved her by teaching her how to control the snow with her mind, but he chose not to get involved any further. (It was terribly sad watching the morose Doctor fight his inherent desire to play detective.) That’s when learned that plucky Clara, too, is plagued by overwhelming curiosity, and it led her to discovering his cloud hideaway.
Their time together would have ended there had it not been for the danger facing the children for whom she acted as governess. After returning to the home where she worked, Clara learned that the oldest girl had been having nightmares about their former (now-deceased) governess rising up from the pond in front of the house and threatening to hurt them. Concerned, Clara sought out the Doctor’s help but ran into a road block.
Vastra, Jenny, and Strax (welcome back, all!) had been charged with protecting the Doctor’s solitude. So Clara had to pass a one-word interview in order to get her message to the Doctor. This turned out to be one of my favorite scenes of the episode because it proved Clara could tango with this strange world, and it also carried a lovely message about destiny. (Her one-word message to the Doctor? “Pond.”)
Clara’s message, obviously, got the Doctor’s attention, and he set out to crack the case. And as a further sign that he was back in action, he also put on his bow tie. (“Habit,” he said sadly, after realizing what he’d done.)
After a close call at the house (the ice woman attacked), the Doctor took Clara up into the TARDIS in order to save them both. And that’s where he decided to bring her on board. “I never know why. I only know who,” he told her, as he handed her a key. “What’s this?” she asked, confused. “Me, giving in,” he said, “Remember this. Remember this right now because this is the day everything begins.”
But their lovely moment was broken as the ice woman grabbed Clara’s leg and dragged her off the cloud. She landed with a thud in the snow in front of the house and that’s when we realized: Clara was going to die.
At that point, I was sure the Doctor was going to find a way to save her, but in a twist, Clara actually died. (But, of course, not before the Doctor could shut down the Great Intelligence and save everyone.) Sad as the moment was, it was completely necessary in order to launch the reinvigorated Doctor into solving his next great mystery.
You see, throughout the episode, the Doctor was fed tiny clues that Clara and Oswin from “Asylyum of the Daleks” were connected. (As you’ll recall, Jenna-Louise Coleman made a surprise debut in that episode.) Clara liked cooking soufflés, her last words to the Doctor were the same as Oswin’s (“Run, you clever boy. And remember…”), and in the final minutes, the Doctor sees Clara’s tombstone, which gives her full name as “Clara Oswin Oswald.”
My feelings about the whole adventure? The Doctor said it best: “Something is going on — something impossible.”
More great moments/highlights/quotes:
+ Opening credits!
+ Doctor: “What’s wrong with silly?” Clara: “Nothing; I’m still talking to you aren’t I?”
+ New TARDIS!
+ Clara: “Where are you going? I thought we were still getting acquainted.” Doctor: “Those were the days.”
+ The wonderful musical score!
+ “Victorian values”
+ Strax: “Sir, permission to express my opposition to your current apathy.” Doctor: “Granted.” Strax: “Sir, I have expressed opposition to your current apathy.”
+ Strax: “Sir, emergency, I think I’ve been run over by a carriage.”
+ Strax: “Do not attempt to escape or you will be obliterated…may I take your coat?”
+ Doctor (as Sherlock): “Do you have a goldfish named Colin?” Guard: “No.” Doctor: “Thought not.”
+ “Takes one to snow one.”
+ “I’m the clever one and you’re the potato.”
+ “Bow ties are cool.”
+ “I’m your governess’ gentleman friend and we’ve just been upstairs…kissing!”
+ “Good evening. I’m a lizard woman from the dawn of time and this is my wife.”
+ “It’s smaller on the outside.”
+ “Winter is coming.”