tek's rating:

Doctor Who - The Snowmen, on BBC One (UK) / BBC America (USA)
A.V. Club; BBC; Christmas Specials Wiki; Council of Geeks; IMDb; TV Tropes; Wikia; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Google Play; iTunes; Vudu

Caution: spoilers!

This is the eighth Christmas special of the revived Doctor Who series. It aired on Christmas in 2012, but I didn't see it until May 2018. Prior to the special, there were two prequel minisodes, and a third prequel minisode was released in March 2013.

So... this special takes place in the middle of series seven. The Doctor has lost Amy and Rory, which hurt him so badly that he retired from the saving the universe business. It seems he moved to Victorian London, where he spends his time avoiding people. But... I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. The special starts in 1842, with an antisocial young boy building a snowman, which unexpectedly talks to him, echoing the boy's own words. We then flash forward fifty years, to shortly before Christmas, 1892. The young boy is now an old man called Dr. Simeon. And he's obviously up to no good. Um... he gets some snowmen to eat some people.

Meanwhile, a snowman appears outside a bar, which seems peculiar to a barmaid named Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman). The Doctor just happened to be passing by at that moment, and they have a brief conversation, before he leaves. Because he doesn't get involved anymore. But she follows him. Oh, she's very determined, and very clever. And very curious about the Doctor. Well, he plans to erase her memory of him, but doesn't... for reasons. And later, she discovers where he's hidden the tardis. (It's a pretty cool hiding spot.) But... she runs away. And returns to her other job, as a governess for the children of a man named Captain Latimer. Latimer's daughter, Francesca, has been having nightmares about their former governess, a cruel woman who was frozen beneath a pond. And Clara decides to look for the Doctor again. She doesn't find him, but she meets Jenny Flint, who takes her to see Madame Vastra. (Clara had previously met Strax, who was working with the Doctor during their first encounter, though normally Strax works with Vastra and Jenny, as seen in the prequel minisodes.) Clara convinces Vastra to contact the Doctor, and he ends up deciding to help... for reasons.

So, anyway, this leads to the discovery that Dr. Simeon is working for an alien entity called the Great Intelligence (voiced by Ian McKellen), which has a plot to basically destroy humankind and replace them with ice beings, I guess. And the first such being takes the form of the children's former governess. And... I'm kind of not sure what else to say. Of course the Doctor ultimately defeats the villains, but it's all a bit confusing. And Clara dies... but the Doctor finally realizes she is (in some mysterious sense) the same woman, Oswin Oswald, whom he'd met in the future, in the first episode of series 7. (It's complicated... he never saw her face, but he heard her voice. And Clara has the same voice. Of course, viewers would know she has the same face, too.) So... he becomes determined to find her, or some other iteration of her, somewhere in time. Which I guess means he's come out of retirement. It also means this special is more directly integral to a regular story arc than any other Christmas special has been.

Well, as a self-contained story, I thought it was okay. What I love about it isn't the story itself, it's more about the little things. It definitely had a lot of amusing bits, and cool bits, and good characters. Clara is pretty awesome. And I look forward to learning more about her as the series continues. So that's another reason I loved it: it's a great start for a new story arc.

specials index
Christmas TV movies index

Doctor Who Festive Specials
BBC; Tardis Data Core; Wikipedia

10th Doctor: The Christmas Invasion * The Runaway Bride * Voyage of the Damned * The Next Doctor * The End of Time, parts 1 & 2
11th Doctor: A Christmas Carol * The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe * The Snowmen * The Time of the Doctor
12th Doctor: Last Christmas * The Husbands of River Song * The Return of Doctor Mysterio * Twice Upon a Time
13th Doctor: Resolution * Revolution of the Daleks * Eve of the Daleks
15th Doctor: The Church on Ruby Road