And so it’s come again; the once a year tradition of spending a hour in the company of our favourite Time Lord. And like many tales at Christmas, there was something magical in the air in every sense and the ghosts of Christmas were certainly out in a way we never saw coming
The fairytale aspect was discovering the Doctor now lies on a cloud, hiding above a world he has turned his back on, yet walks the streets with a Sontaran and a memory worm. The magical stairway that climbs into the sky echoed Jack and the Beanstalk and it was visually beautiful.
The whole episode was a force of nature as severe as any snowstorm that left you dazzled and exhausted as we ended with more questions than answers and hints that something’s out there that the Doctor has faced in the past and about to face in the future.
In every fairytale are horror elements and here we see a young boy being lured by a faceless snowman that talks to him. It’s almost like the witch tempting Hansel and Gretel to her gingerbread house. Then there was the ice monster haunting a young girl’s dreams before appearing in full form in her bedroom. And there is always something eerie about ice cracking for no apparent reason when you know someone drowned there.
The titular Snowmen were excellent, the best Christmas monster so far. But they were the foot soldiers for Doctor Simeon (Richard E. Grant) and the entity that he was servant to in a giant snowglobe. The revelation that this was the Great Intelligence from the Patrick Troughton second Doctor era has been rumoured for months and here it was in full glory voiced by Gandalf himself, Sir Ian McKellan. The Doctor defeated him twice before, once in the Himalayas (The Abominable Snowmen) and once in the London Underground.
There he had very different and I was disappointed that the Yeti didn’t appear from beneath the Snowmen. However, the Doctor’s reminder that his battle against his old foe in the London underground in the Web of Fear was the key to its identity but then something weird happened. Why didn’t the Great Intelligence know who the Doctor was? And why did the Doctor bring up the London Underground when he couldn’t remember who the Great intelligence was and who printed the business cards for the Great Intelligence Institute? And this time it can’t be explained by cracks in the universe. To the casual viewer this was a reference that probably went right over their heads but I could feel the older fans collapsing in excitement. Something bigger is coming; something that is tied to this and I really hope the Yeti are back next year.
But that was what I came away with from this year’s story; a multitude of questions and mystery. With the introduction of Clara, the new companion played Jenna Louise Coleman, no one but no one could have seen the end coming. We all expected to see her board the Tardis and travel off with the Doctor but not so. The girl who dies twice and both times in the Doctor’s company uttering the same words. She still likes making soufflés and manages to bring the Doctor out of his depression at losing the Ponds and help him find his zest for adventure again through one single word: ‘pond’. She and Matt Smith bounce off each other as if they have known each other for years and her death is a shock to all.
The team of Jenny Flint and Silurian Lady Vastra who are married apparently along with Sontaran butler Strax (returning from the dead with the help of an unnamed friend of the Doctor after the events of Demon’s Run). However, Strax is now a little mental and thinks everything can be settled by grenades but he is not as stupid as he seems and is a great foil for the Doctor. They will all make a return in the future in an episode apparently called the Crimson Horror. Personally, I can’t wait. Doctor Simeon is a wonderful villain and thankfully doesn’t fall into the Richard Briers possessed pantomime bad guy as seen in the last episode of the Sylvester McCoy Paradise Towers.
All in all this was a story of change. The arrival of new companion has changed and shattered all our expectations, the new look title sequence I really like, although I would rather have the Doctor’s face more prevalent like in the old days. The nod to the classic Victorian London set story, Talons of Weng Chiang, is wonderful as the Doctor again dons the outfit of Sherlock Holmes who apparently Conan Doyle based on Vastra and Jenny with a few alterations. The return of the Great Intelligence, the mysterious memory lapses on both sides and a companion that keeps dying and coming back in some other time and place and a brand new bloody brilliant Tardis interior. Tie all this together in a huge red bow and the beginnings of a brand new arc that may be related to Gallifrey and a reenergized Doctor on a brand new quest and I’m a happy man.
By the way, I love the new Tardis interior which together with the new outfit echoes classic Jules Verne and for the first time for me makes the Doctor and the Tardis a team again.
Roll on next year.
4 out of 5 Nerds