There are few tales as heart-warmingly, iconically festive as the traditional story of a lonely young boy who builds a snowman in his back garden, only for it to come to life and lead him on an exciting adventure…to destroy humanity.
Um…*checks copy of Raymond Briggs’ children’s classic*. Hang on, I’m pretty sure that isn’t how it’s meant to go. Although they did at least remember to include the bit about walking in the air, which in the Doctor Who version went something like this:
“I’m walking on a cloud.
I’m walking on a solid- clouddddddd,
The people far below,
Can’t see me because I’m invisible.
Oh look, a TARDIS.”
Yes, in typical Steven Moffat style, this year’s Doctor Who festive special turned a classic Christmas story on its head and mixed it with a steaming helping of Dickensian Victoriana/just the right amount of fairy tale magic. It wasn’t perfect- the ‘tears melting snow’ ending was a big soppy cop out- but it was certainly the most fun you could have in a turkey bloated hour with all your clothes on and your relatives in the room.
It also saw the return of Oswin, a.k.a. Clara, a.k.a. Emmerdale’s Jenna-Louise Coleman, the new companion last seen in the series seven opener Asylum of The Daleks.
But before we could get into the how and why of her anachronistic reappearance, we had the Doctor’s apathy to contend with. And what impressive apathy it was, too. You can’t get much more sulky and Scrooge-like than moving to live on a mass of frozen water vapour on top of a park in central London. In fact, the only way he could have become more crotchety would have been if he’d regenerated into Alan Sugar.
The problem was, this curmudgeonly post-Amy Pond behaviour simply wasn’t believable (and yes, I’m aware I’m talking about a programme that featured an invisible staircase, a reptilian Sherlock Holmes, a Sontaran butler and a zombified Richard E Grant).
The Doctor would never simply shrug his shoulders and allow the human race to die at the hands of toothy snowmen made from…but of course…alien ‘memory snow’. Not after saving it approximately 43,881,077 times in the past: it would be a colossal waste of effort, like spending 8 hours cooking Christmas dinner only to throw it all in the bin.
We’re supposed to believe he’s a different man, but it was obvious from the start that it wouldn’t last. He was more like a hormonal teenager than a world weary ex-hero and it was quite a relief when he dropped the pretence and reverted to type. From the moment the Doc burst into Richard E Grant’s snow-globe lair dressed as Sherlock (nice Steven Moffat crossover there), the episode kicked into a higher gear. And at half an hour in, it was about time.
Having said that, the real soul and centre of the episode wasn’t our newly Clarkson-like Doctor, and it certainly wasn’t the terribly CGI’d (that’s a word, honest. Look it up) Ice Woman. It was the mysterious and plucky Clara Oswin Oswald.
At first, it was surprising that the Doctor didn’t recognise her. Then, later, we were reminded that he hadn’t actually seen Oswin: she’d been trapped inside a Dalek exoskeleton when he met her- a fairly effective disguise. The only clues to her identity were a) her love of soufflés and b) her full name, as revealed on her gravestone.
Admittedly b) was quite a big clue. The Doctor should probably give back that Sherlock Holmes outfit.
Her death by falling- or failure to fly, to put a more positive spin on it- was a bit of a shocker. Two episodes, two deaths: is she going to turn out to be the Kenny from South Park of Doctor Who? There’s no way to tell at present. The only thing we know for sure is that the ‘Who Is Oswin’ mystery is going to be a fantastic hook for series eight.