TV Recap: Doctor Who
Season 7, Episode 6: The Snowmen
By Edwin Davies
January 1, 2013
The greater significance for the show in general is that the arrival (not to mention the departure) of Clara/Oswin reenergizes The Doctor, who seems to have fallen into a depressed state following his separation from The Ponds in "The Angels Take Manhattan". Though he has assembled his own team of misfits around him so as not to travel alone again, he's not the go-getting do-gooder that he once was, and it takes something seriously weird and creepy like killer Snowmen (sure to go down as formative traumas for thousands of small children) to bring him back to himself, and it was delightful seeing Matt Smith make the 180 degree turn from maudlin to manic when he finally confronted Doctor Simeon (Grant). As is often the case with Moffat when he isn't allowed to play with complex story structures, the actual plotting was a touch rote and the big emotional moment felt a little cloying (the Great Intelligence is defeated by tears!) but the dialogue was very funny, the pacing thunderous and the characters just the right side of wacky. It was just that for about 80% of its running time, all these elements were in service of an episode that didn't really amount to much.
Which is where Clara comes into the equation. Having witnessed her death, The Doctor suddenly realizes that she and Oswin seem to be one and the same, but since he never actually saw her face the first he didn't make the connection. The episode ends with a third version of Coleman walking around the contemporary graveyard where her Victorian namesake/doppelgänger is buried, unaware that she is on a collision course with destiny in the form of The Doctor. It's a strong, exultant ending that nicely sets up the second half of the seventh season, though as was the case with The Ponds' long goodbye, it kind of feels as if Moffat is dragging his feet when he should be sprinting. Here's hoping that the new blood and new mystery will give the show as much renewed vigor in the New Year as its hero displays in the final moments of "The Snowmen".
- Speaking of The Doctor's crew, I greatly enjoyed the contributions of the Sontaran Strax, who was a nicely dunderheaded foil, whether he was repeatedly getting his mind wiped by a kind of disgusting worm or threatening to destroy Clara before then offering to take her coat. I like how Moffat seems to enjoy bringing back the same handful of characters for little moments like that, as if he is carefully cultivating the world of the show as something more than just The Doctor, his Companion and whoever shows up that week.
- Richard E. Grant seemed a little wasted in this episode considering how important his character seemed to be going in to it. Then again, this was an episode which was more about The Doctor and Clara than it was about the scheme they were trying to foil, so I guess that makes sense.
- I'm excited and a tad nervous about seeing where the show is going to go with the Clara stuff. Moffat can be good at the big picture stuff and at crafting great individual stories, but sometimes struggles to balance the two. We'll see.