TV Recap: Doctor Who
Season 7, Episode 6: The Snowmen
By Edwin Davies
January 1, 2013
Ever since "The Christmas Invasion" ushered in the tradition of Doctor Who Christmas specials, the series has struggled to deliver episodes that match the wit and invention of its non-seasonal outings. At this point, being disappointed by the Christmas special seems as much of a tradition as the specials themselves. Personally, I've never found the specials to be as good or bad as a lot of the fans do, but as just mediocre-to-good episodes that get a lot more attention paid to them because they air apart from the rest of the series. Even last year's much maligned "The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe" struck me as fairly innocuous, rather than something to get angry about.
This year's special, "The Snowmen", seems to be a textbook example of an episode which, if aired as part of the regular run of the show, would not be particularly remarkable. The central conceit that a Victorian doctor (Richard E. Grant) is using a kind of psychic snow in order to create an army of killer Snowmen working for the malevolent Great Intelligence (voiced by Ian McKellan) is not exactly outside of the parameters of what the show would normally do, and it could easily have been aired at any other time of the year regardless of the festive connection. Yet because the episode is singled out and aired as a big event in its own right, it attains a level of importance which it doesn't have or, frankly, deserve.
That's been the problem for the show for the last couple of years; it has these episodes that air at Christmas as EVENT TELEVISION, but none of them are really momentous in their own right. "The Christmas Invasion" worked best because it functioned as a way of introducing David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor in a big, flashy way, and as such had a reason for airing as its own thing. Every subsequent special has just been another episode of Doctor Who (some of which were regrettably stretched out to feature length, which "The Snowmen" mercifully isn't).
"The Snowmen" does have something momentous in it, though, since it sort of acts as an introduction to the new companion, Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman). And it is only "sort of" an introduction to her, since Coleman was already introduced on the show in "The Asylum of The Daleks" as a human consciousness unwittingly trapped in the body of a Dalek. As was the case in that episode, Coleman's character winds up dying before the hour is up, suggesting that either there is some past lives/Cloud Atlas stuff going on, or that writer Steven Moffat really doesn't like Coleman. Either way, we'll have to wait until the New Year before we discover if she's going to be the Kenny/Captain Scarlet (delete depending on your cultural frame of reference) of the show, but as in her first appearance she came across as a fun, lively presence, even when lumbered with a Cor Blimey Cock-er-ney accent.