It’s the Doctor Who Christmas Special, only this time it’s much more than just a Christmas special: there’s a new TARDIS interior and a new companion! Also the return of some fan-favorite characters and an old enemy. What did I think of it? Have a look, but watch out:
Let’s just get one thing right out of the way: I am the only person watching Doctor Who who doesn’t like Madame Vastra and Jenny. I don’t hate them (at least, not yet, but let’s give Moffat some time here) but I am not as enamored of them as others seem to be. The supreme detective lesbian sword-wielding lizard woman and her leather-wearing karate sidekick-slash-wife freaking all the Victorian norms are about six or seven panders too many for my tastes. (Strax, on the other hand, is who I wish was the new companion because he is funny and The Doctor is funny with him and it would be something different, but nobody wants a Sontaran for their imaginary girlfriend so we won’t be having that.) Also, as long as I’m here, I’d like to say that if you want to convince me that your character is a great investigator, instead of just having another character say that Sherlock Holmes is based off them, you could, and I’m just throwing ideas out here, actually show them investigating something. (Thankfully, we let The Doctor do that sort of thing in a rare instance of allowing him to be a central figure in his own show.)
OKAY OKAY SORRY, I’m snarking. Let’s get back on track. This story starts out with The Doctor going into Big Mope mode because Amy and Rory are gone. Time was when a companion would leave, another would arrive, and we’d move on, but in the new series every companion is a treasured soulmate whose loss crushes The Doctor almost irreparably. It’s implied that he’s been parked in Victorian England for quite a while now, and what’s more, he’s given up on heroing and adventuring and people-saving. Because, you know, Amy and Rory.
This is already the wrong foot for me. I watch Doctor Who to see those things. I don’t want to have to wonder, “Gosh, I hope the Doctor will be motivated to not let people die!” because that should never be the case. I don’t like Apathetic Doctor any more than I like Dark Doctor. I also just plain don’t believe that Amy and Rory’s loss would have this effect on him, period.
But then he meets Clara, a barmaid who is also a governess for reasons that are never really explained. She’s a spunky little thing, and is able to make the Doctor actually consider not letting the world be destroyed by snow and ice monsters.
Now, by definition, the Doctor’s companion is almost certainly going to be something of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, especially in the new series. We’ve been told, time and again, that the only thing which keeps the Doctor from being a dark, broody monster is the presence of a young pretty girl who shows him the mystery and magic of being a near-immortal being who can travel freely in time and space. That alone isn’t enough, though, so she also has to be super very special and important in the cosmic scale of things, and so Clara also brings to the table the fact that she is also Oswin, the girl from
Asylum of the Daleks, who was in the far future there and was dead. OR IS SHE? What’s more, she dies in this one too!
Now, I’m all for this. If I had my way she’d die at the end of every episode, and that would be her thing. But I guess we’ve already had Rory, so that wouldn’t be very new. At the end of the episode the Doctor is so intrigued by this puzzle that it snaps him out of his funk and he’s ready to go looking for her. Now, that’s interesting, but let’s face it: this is a Steven Moffat mystery. Is anyone putting any money down on there being a satisfying answer at the end of this puzzle? Maybe she gets scattered through time when the TARDIS blows up back at the end of season five. Maybe she’s an Auton like Rory maybe was or wasn’t. Maybe her parents boinked in a Sontaran spaceship and that means magic clones for some reason. What I’m saying is, let’s not hang too much on this peg. Mysterious origins aside, she seems like a perfectly standard new series companion.
Oh yeah, there’s an alien threat too, though as usual its plans don’t make a lot of sense and it’s kind of dumb. It’s a scary monster that can be defeated by crying and needs to be ice except when it doesn’t. (It can’t invade as snow because snow would melt but it can be ice because ice can learn how to not melt but it’s okay because it can just be a person anyway.) Turns out it’s the Great Intelligence and will be much more interesting “later on” during the Second Doctor’s run. (Also it apparently got upgraded to a Lovecraftian Ur-God at some point in the novels/audio dramas/comics/candy wrappers era.) It doesn’t matter anyway because nobody really cares; the GI’s henchman even flat out tells Vastra the “plan”. Hell, the henchman’s organization is straight up called “The Great Intelligence Institute”. As is so often these days, the plot is inconsequential: the real story is, will The Doctor overcome heartbreak and find out the mystery behind Moffat’s latest creation?
I’m gonna be honest, after I finished watching “The Snowmen”, I was just miserable at it. I didn’t feel like I got much of any enjoyment out of it (except seeing The Doctor “do” Sherlock Holmes because when he does that he’s always terrible at it and that’s great) and thought, you know, maybe I just need to quit for a while. I’m not really enjoying this but other people are and it’s working for them so you know what, let it join all those other things you used to be into but they kind of moved away from you and that’s okay. I watched it again yesterday and appreciated it more, but as you can tell, there’s still a sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’ve been trained to be disappointed in this show now. So maybe my first instinct was right.
OH YES ONE MORE THING: For nearly FIFTY YEARS the “Doctor Who?” bit has been an ever-present but unstated running joke. UNTIL NOW. It really bugs me that Moffat is rolling with it.