Mary Poppins moonlights as Eliza Doolittle and The Great Intelligence feeds countless labourers to his carnivorous snowmen
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We continue our Christmas-in-May Celebration with this review of the 2012 Christmas Special, The Snowmen!
Behatted urchin Walter Simeon is above his fellow Victorian ragamuffins’ snow-based shenanigans, and wishes only for isolation and an end to children’s silliness. Luckily for him, his friendly neighbourhood snowman shares precisely these opinions, and in the short matter of half a century they make a successful business out of disposing of London’s expendable labouring classes.
Stumbling through Victorian London, retired Time Lord, The Doctor, happens upon witty tavern wench, honest-to-god commoner and SAS-level stalker, Clara, who insinuates herself in the Doctor’s dealings with the Paternoster Gang, comprising Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint and Strax P. Potato.
Clara’s curiosity will not be quelled until she solves the mystery of the murderous snowmen, brings the Doctor out of retirement and kills off all the competition for her secret position as practically perfect governess at Captain Latimer’s mansion in the suburbs, before Walter Simeon can get his icy GI-branded grip on planet London.
This Doctor Who episode had a bunch of prequels, and we’ve dissected them on Who Back When as well. If you haven’t already, then check out our bonus prequel review here: B055 The Snowmen Prequels
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Finally, a classic 60’s villain is done justice in the New Series! And perhaps the best companion introduction ever… wait, she died? Wasn’t Clara supposed to go with the Doctor? [flips through script] Let’s see… mopey Doctor, Great Intelligence, Paternoster Gang… Impossible Girl? Well, here we go again.
It’s the grand return of the Great Intelligence (minus the Yeti, unfortunately). Richard E. Grant as Professor Simeon was just amazing. The Snowmen themselves were kinda creepy. Good Yeti stand ins. Even the Ice Lady was freaky. Until she started saying “That’s the way to do it”.
Clara here is very likeable and an interesting character (which is probably why the Doctor got interested in her, too). I don’t get why she couldn’t be the Clara that went off with the Doctor instead of Clara Prime.
I like the angle they gave the Doctor here. Forced retirement and him just being pulled back into the fray was brilliant. We usually never get to see the Doctor like this where he’s this mournful he just isolates himself (haven’t seen that since Tennant, I think).
I almost forgot about the new title sequence. They sucked. They were the worst. It looks like something a teenager with After Effects would put together in an hour! I also forgot to talk about the new console room. It’s almost a return to form. Very classic and good looking. Much better than Matt Smith’s first.
Overall, I liked this special. Glad we got the build to the 50th started on the right foot… what do you mean it’s downhill from here? … Do things at least get better by the time we hit November 23rd, 2013? … They do? Okay then. 3.0/5
Firstly: Star Wars Celebration was fantastic, and one of the panels included Cavan Scott of Doctor Who audiobooks and comics, who is writing a Star Wars audiodrama about Count Dooku. I’m massively excited for that!
Secondly: There is much to like in The Snowmen. Ian McKellen’s voice, the full Clara theme melody. Clara in 1800s finery, being a badass governess, and best of all: Vastra! I love her so much.
I really enjoyed the humor in this episode. “Do you have a goldfish named Collin? Thought not.” Also, much of what Strax said had me laughing aloud. I think my favorite line was, “Madame Vastra wondered if you were needing any grenades? … She might have said ‘help’.”
The question of exactly how Strax is alive bothered me enough that I fled to the TARDIS wiki, where I discovered the mini-episode “Demon’s Run: Two Days Later,” which was also enjoyable, and shows how he wakes up and goes to live with Vastra and Jenny.
There were some things that made the threat feel a bit less real for me: snowflakes with teeth (why did the snowflakes never bite anybody?) and the Scepter Of Snowblowing during the house siege, but… you know. Everybody needs a Popcorn Popper Of Doom every once in a while.
4.2 out of 5 grenades, because let’s be real, Strax has at least that many on his person at all times. You know, I even loved the memory worm.
Things I Liked:
– Strax’s one-liners.
– Love an opening massacre. Echoes the graveyard massacre of Victorian gents by Cybermen in ‘The Next Doctor’, presumably taking place earlier that day on the other side of town.
– Wasted Snowmen. Besides the pre-credits chomp-fest, they did Jack (Frost) all (gettit!). I wanted them to eat people’s faces and stab people with icicles, and be fought with burning to torches and anti-freeze super-soakers! Sorely disappointed.
– Clara. Does she have multiple personality disorder? (If so, great. All for diversity in Doctor Who). If not, what’s with the East End barmaid/posh governess split? Did that add anything? I’m gutted (this) Clara died – a companion from a historic time period would have been bold. And this Clara’s death sucked: why did the Doctor let Ice Lady climb the Tardis stairs and then forget about her. Also, a fall from that height and Clara would have been splattered – final chats are tricky with your ribcage skewering your lungs.
– Where the f**k is my Yeti!? Is this some kind of sick joke? Who cares about the Great Intelligence without the Yeti? No one! It feels weird, like Laurel without Hardy; Bert without Ernie; Classic Who without the Seventh Doctor; Hitler without racism; Brexit without racism. A missed opportunity to reintroduce a Classic C-list baddie. Some Yeti better rock up in the next Great Intelligence episode or I’ll be super pissed.
– How could the Doctor forget the Great Intelligence? Does he have Alzheimer’s? (If so, great. All for raising awareness about this illness). If not, why has he forgotten? He fought the Intelligence twice and the Yeti thrice! He’s remembered crappier villains he fought fewer times (looking at you, Macra).
– Tears of sadness saving the day. Pass the sick bucket. Oh, It’s still full from the last offering of Christmas cheese.
Summary: ‘Snowmen’ had all the ingredients to hammer ‘Doctor, Lion, Widow, Wardrobe’ but alas was only moderately better. Moffit, you Yeti snatcher, you!
Rating: 1.5/5 awesome robotic killer Yetis that this episode didn’t have. Boooo!
Hey guys. Real quick thoughts.
Everything out of Strax’s mouth. Gold.
I really feel like this is scored musically in a way that highlights everything about the Doctor’s emotions and thoughts and nothing about Clara’s. I’m not sure if it’s the first time this has happened or my first time noticing.
Rating: Clara NO! If you look at the grave with your name on it the angels will get you!