You poured your darkest dreams into a snowman, and look what it became.
Well, I bet Raymond Briggs won’t be happy that his children’s bedtime story has been made into a very scary one –- but hey, it’s Christmas and what a Christmas Special this was for all Who fans young and old.
After the previous few Christmas Specials where the “Christmas Spirit” was fast becoming an all encompassing smothering of yuletide sentiment and gimmicks adorning a very thin wrought plot, "The Snowmen" was an extraordinary breather of an episode - keeping the Christmas setting in the back seat - practically a “standard” piece of Who. It had a lot to carry on its shoulders and it did it brilliantly: introduce a new companion; a new Tardis; a new paradigm for the Doctor and brilliant new opening titles which finally give a nod to the Classic Era –- even a brief wink as Matt Smith’s face zips by in a crimson nebula before the Tardis doors open to reveal the episode itself. Nice touch!
Lead writer Steven Moffat served up a great present this year; a brooding Matt Smith in Artful Dodger mode brooding over the death of the Ponds. Tomboy cockney cum posh Governess Jenna Louise Coleman as new girl returning on the block again (and again) as Clara Oswin Oswald. Married couple Lady Vastra and Jenny along with hole in the head Sontaran butler Strax - happy to hold a coat as long as you accept a loaded grenade in return. Richard E. Grant doing his superb villain part – although sadly underused - and best of all having Sir Ian "Gandalf" McKellan lending his vocals as the Great Intelligence. And not once saying “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!”
It was a bit of a fanboy thrill to have the Great Intelligence “de-iced” as the main adversary. Casual viewers to the series would not have picked up what “G.I” referred to, but older Who fans especially from the Classic Era certainly would have been screaming like little kids opening that London Underground tin. It was in the year on my birth, 1967, when the Intelligence last appeared – or not - as the case still remains. A disembodied entity, one of the pantheon of Great Old Ones adapted from H.P Lovecraft’s Chulthu Saga, a refugee from the Universe before ours. In some ways its return after so long a gap will be lost on many, but I’m rubbing my hands to see it come back. It’s a classic adversary that I never saw, and sadly many never will as both stories along with the Yeti from the Troughton era were erased by the BBC in the late 70’s. Certainly the Snowmen did their part – even more effective if we’d had a white Christmas this year instead of a wet and windy one - which ironically Moffat made use of to come up with a suitable solution to the Intelligence’s plan of conquest. But as confirmed in the post trailer promo for Part 2 -- the Intelligence is coming back as we get a verbal mention of the Great Institution.
I really did warm up to Jenna; she’s goofy, brazen and very cheeky, and yeah, she gave the Doctor a right smooch on the lips to thaw him out from his post Pond blues. I have to say having the Doctor being kissed a lot is getting a bit tiring now -- but it was okay here. She makes an intriguing different companion well in the complex temporal shenanigans that Moffat like to put fans through. I think she’s a perpetual reincarnate; moment she dies – her mind and personality jumps to the next new body in the Oswin family line – hence why she shares some kind of common knowledge and heritage such as her love of making dishes out of eggs. How she got to be like this is going to be part of the big mystery for 2013, but I hope Moffat steers clear of the time rewriting routine. It would be nice to see that despite the Doctor’s involvement in Clara’s multiple lives that she still ends up being a Dalek.
Of course the other star was the Tardis itself; nice new modern console room – okay a bit smaller on the inside but certainly a lot more closer to the Classic Era – no more taps and trinkets, a proper twiddly knob console with Mac I-Pad monitors, and I love how the whole ceiling rotates as well when the column moves up an’ down!
The downside with the Special however isn’t the story, it’s sadly the scheduling. BBC One had to move the time to 5.15GMT rather than a later slot after rival channel ITV complaining of clashing schedules -- so this will have a big impact on UK viewers as most of us would be still suffering from post Turkey and Wine fallout. So I except most will make up with I-Viewer. At least the US will have better chance of enjoying it at a more suitable time.
Overall, a vast improvement on last year -- and more importantly a very good start to the new era.
Roll on Easter!