Doctor Who: Series 7
Aired: December 25, 2012
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Saul Metzstein
“Over 1,000 years of saving the world Strax, here is the one thing I’ve learned – the universe doesn’t care.”
– The Doctor
Up until this year, Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who Christmas specials have felt superfluous. His previous outings have all been standalone episodes that were pleasant enough, but didn’t offer much in the way of substance or a deeper understanding of the Doctor Who mythos. This time around though, he decided to change that.
By splitting the season in two, Moffat was able to devote the first half of it to the Ponds farewell and the second half to introducing the new companion (played by Jenna-Louise Coleman). As such, the Christmas episode served as a bridge between those two halves. It starts by showing us the toll losing the Ponds has taken on The Doctor, then ends with his desire to make Clara Oswin Oswalt his newest companion. Overall, I think “The Snowmen” worked and, by far, it was Moffat’s best Christmas special to date.
As the episode opens, we see a dejected Doctor who watches the world from his perch in the clouds. It’s unclear how much time has passed since the Ponds disappeared, but you get the impression that it’s been quite a long time. The TARDIS looks beaten up and is missing paint and The Doctor himself seems tired and a bit older.
Though interestingly, he has chosen to stay in England in the late 1800s, where his allies Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint and Strax are all close by. So even if he has become a bit Howard Hughes-esque, he still has at least one foot in the world. And it really doesn’t take much coercing by Clara to get him back into “saving the world” mode.
Once The Doctor launches himself into investigating the sentient snowmen popping up around town, he reverts back to his old playful self. This gives us the episode’s best moment, when he dresses like Sherlock Holmes and makes a bunch of totally off-base, silly deductions about Dr. Simeon before making actual deductions about the sentient snow globe. I particularly enjoyed The Doctor deducing that Dr. Simeon’s business card was, in fact, a business card. (The whole thing was also a nice nod to Steven Moffat’s other BBC show Sherlock.)
Speaking of Dr. Simeon, I liked the character, though he wasn’t given much to do. I would have liked to see him get more screen time, especially if that meant less screen time for the reanimated ice governess, who was a combination of underwhelming CGI and an underwhelming villain in general. Though I did enjoy how she unexpectedly grabbed Clara just as The Doctor had finally decided to love again.
Clara’s death is an interesting wrinkle that gives us our first glimpse of what Moffat has in store for Jenna-Louise Coleman. After “Asylum of the Daleks,” I wondered how The Doctor would save her from her fate of becoming a Dalek, but it seems he won’t have to. Instead, it appears that she is this universes’ version of Kenny from South Park, somehow dying and getting brought back over and over again.
After a futuristic Clara Oswin Oswalt died under The Doctor’s watch in “Asylum of the Daleks” and a past version of Clara Oswin Oswalt died in this episode, the ending indicates that we’ll be getting a modern day Clara going forward (unless the show plans on killing her a few more times throughout the season). I’m curious to see what Moffat’s explanation for the multiple Claras will be, since they seem to all have identical personalities (and, on some level, a shared consciousness, since both Claras had the same last words.) For now, it seems we are supposed to chalk it up to the Universe giving The Doctor a miracle as a reward for saving the day.
It was a highly enjoyable Christmas episode that did a good job setting up the remainder of this season. I’m excited to see where we go from here.
And another thing …
- If there really are an infinite number of Claras throughout time, is there a chance she’ll run into another version of herself once she and The Doctor start traveling together?
- We got a new opening sequence and a new look to the TARDIS to go along with the companion change. I’m not quite sold on the title sequence yet, but I really like the redesigned TARDIS. I just hope it has a kitchen.
- I couldn’t have been the only one who thought of Game of Thrones when Dr. Simeon said “Winter is coming,” right? I wonder if Moffat has been watching that series and it slipped into his subconscious. How great would a Doctor Who/Game of Thrones crossover be? I want to see The Doctor vs. Tyrion.
- I think Moffat may have set a record for the most times “Doctor who?” was said on-screen in a single episode, including once by The Doctor himself.
- The staircase into the clouds looked quite a bit like a DNA strand. Coincidence or foreshadowing about the universe’s infinite Claras?
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his recaps, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org.