Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and Joyous New Year or Whatever, y’all. It’s been nearly three months since the last heart-wrenching episode of Who left the Doctor forever separated from Amy and Rory.
But that’s okay, because now we have evil Victorian snowmen to deal with. Have I mentioned how much I love the fact that British shows do Christmas specials? It’s the 26th square of chocolate in the advent calendar of real life. Plus we get a lot of other treats: new companion! New TARDIS interior! New credits!
So. It’s England, 1842, and this weirdo loner kid is playing with snow by himself. Or so he thinks! The snowman he’s building starts talking to him. And he grows up (50 years later) to be Dr. Simeon, and builds this evil laboratory in service to this evil talking snow (voiced by Sir Ian McKellen) that also serves as a prequel of sorts for the Great Intelligence, a villain from Classic Who.
The meat of this story isn’t REALLY about the Great Intelligence. It’s more about how the Doctor comes down from his literal big sad solitary cloud in the sky and engages again after losing his beloved Ponds. For the first half of the episode, he’s aloof and detached and has Madame Vastra and Jenny keeping potential wide-eyed, adventure-prone proto-companions at bay with an impossible one-word riddle test. What we don’t see is the Doctor in his sweat pants, eating Chinese food and watching YouTube videos of Corgi puppies until he cries, which is my self-prescribed way of combating depression.
That is because his wallowing is constantly interrupted by Clara, the governess of the Lattimore family, who notices that something is wack about the snowmen and won’t ignore it. Or him. She also manages to beat his riddle with the word “pond,” spurring the Doctor to action.
He investigates Dr. “Totally Evil” Simeon in a delightful moment that gives fans a kind Doctor Who/Sherlock crossover, but it’s nothing like the fanfic I’ve read. Dressed as Sherlock Holmes, deerstalker and all, he spits some mad deductions and figures out that the Great Intelligence isn’t actually snowmen, but a more psychic power that takes the shape of whatever a strong mind is thinking.
In the case of Dr. Crankypants Simeon, it was a snowman when he was a child. The Great Intelligence has been controlling the snowmen and is looking to control/replicate humans as well. The first one it’s creating is in the shape of the Lattimore’s former governess, who drowned in their pond that then froze over, so the Great Intelligence was able to acquire some of her DNA.
Clara is already living this ice monster Mary Poppins nightmare, trying to save the Lattimore children from her icy claws when the Doctor shows up and sonics her into cocktail-sized cubes. It’s a short victory as she rebuilds herself, T-1000 style, and comes at the children again. The Doctor is able to hold her at bay with some kind of forcefield as Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax show up to help protect the Lattimores.
With everyone seemingly protected, the Doctor and Clara lure the Ice Governess away and to the roof, and climb up to the TARDIS, where Clara distinguishes herself by being the only person to say that it is “smaller on the outside.” The Doctor gives her a key to the TARDIS—which is also a key to his hearts—and asks her to be his companion. She barely has time to accept before the Ice Governess appears behind her and drags her off the TARDIS and they fall several stories to the ground.
Instead of, like, running inside to catch her mid-fall with the TARDIS like he’s done many a time with River, the Doctor just watches her drop because of Dramatic Reasons. Clara hasn’t quite died, but the Doctor is capital-p PISSED and goes to stop this nonsense with Dr. Simeon and the Great Intelligence.
Hoping to break the psychic connection between Dr. Simeon and the Great Intelligence, the Doctor wipes his memory. Except that the bond between them has been going on for 50 years, so instead, memory-less, Dr. Simeon just becomes a vessel that the Great Intelligence can control. He attacks the Doctor, but soon collapses, dead, and the “snowflakes” that were the Great Intelligence outside turn to water. Tears, more specifically.
That is because the Great Intelligence is also connected with the more powerful mind of Clara, who, close to death and surrounded by those who care for her, is crying. Unfortunately, the Doctor can’t save her life, but when he sees her full name on her tombstone, he makes the connection between her and Souffle Girl from “Asylum of the Daleks.”
So I was really wrong in a big way when I thought that maybe her appearance in “Asylum of the Daleks” was a mere wink to fans. Somehow, Clara Oswin Oswald was in the Asylum. But she was also in Victorian England. And again, in present day England, as we see in the episode’s end. What? How? What? Glad you asked. The Doctor doesn’t know either, but now he has a mystery, and a future companion, to keep him going.
What Was Totally Awesome?
Ensemble companion action. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Madame Vastra and Jenny in A Good Man Goes To War, but I liked when the Doctor interacts with a group of companions/friends. Also, the new 80s TARDIS interior. It looks like the waiting area for a ride at Disney World, but it’s a ride I want to go on until I puke.
What Could Have Used a Little More Sonic?
I don’t have much to complain about that isn’t super nit-picky. But! I’m a Doctor Who fan on the Internet so that’s a given. I do like Clara and I am hopeful about where her storyline will take us. But I’d like her to be more of a character rather than a mystery/plot device/River Song Redux, so how about a break in fast-talking flirting and some actual character motivation in the upcoming season. Please?
4 out of 5 fezzes.
Callbacks to Classic Who, physical comedy with a Sontaran, and a way to make snow seem menacing. What’s not to love? It’s always hard to lose a companion or a Doctor on this show, but it also opens up wonderful possibilities for what will happen next. What will happen next? I have no idea, but I’m looking forward to it.
Personally, “A Christmas Carol” is still my favorite of the Eleventh Doctor Christmas specials, but this now comes in second. How does it rank for you? Are y’all excited about Clara’s mystery? Any theories as to who or what it is? Does anyone <SOB> just MISS RORY LIKE I DO?!
About the Contributor:
This post was written by Whovian extraordinaire Julie.