Boy makes snowman. Snowman talks to boy. Snow grows stronger and attempts to attack London with frozen corpse. Put like that it seems simple enough, but I struggled to wrap my head around what was going on in this story. Perhaps I was too distracted by the stunning Jenna(-Louise) Coleman. But it’s probably because it was actually all quite hard to follow. I divined something about a disembodied “intelligence” possessing snow. And then there was something about the snow being a mirror for Richard E. Grant. And an old woman’s frozen corpse entered into it somehow. Although not unenjoyable to watch, it was a somewhat convoluted plot, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who would have failed to explain the plot after viewing. It didn’t help that the “snow monster(s)” was the show’s annual lame, laboured concession to seasonal themes; it was obvious the story would have worked much better if the threat wasn’t a bunch of poorly-realised CGI snowmen. Viewers familiar with the Great Intelligence might have had an easier time following it all, but that’s a pretty small constituency, especially for a Christmas episode.
Okay, gripe over. I hate to start with negativity, but I just wanted to get it out of the way. I have plenty of good things to say about this episode. This episode sees the Doctor coping, as we all were, with the pain and heartbreak of losing Amy. The first time we see the Doctor again after the unhappy events of Manhattan and he’s a gruff, Scrooge-like miser moping around Victorian London, resolved to have nothing to do with the world and its problems any more. He meets Clara, who seems set to tempt him out of his self-imposed solitude with her beckoning smile and her mysterious snowmen, but he shan’t be moved. “Those were the days…” he sighs sadly, wistfully, as he turns and walks away. Matt Smith portrays the Doctor’s jaded, weary, moody demeanour compellingly, and the Doctor in his miserable reclusion is written well. It was a powerful portrayal of how much the Doctor was missing Amy and Rory, and an effective tribute on the part of the show to how much Amy in particular meant to Matt Smith’s Doctor, and how much losing her means to him.
Perhaps it says something about Clara that the Doctor begins to thaw over her. He’s determined to remain in his sulky seclusion, contemning the world, but he can’t help himself when he meets Clara. And who can blame him? Clara is a wonderful character. She has “companion” written all over her, and the Doctor knows it. She’s inquisitive, perky, spirited, clever and brave, and not afraid to speak her mind to the Doctor. That said, she’s a bit of a standard Moffat major-female-character trope, her pertness, cheekiness and flirtatiousness strongly reminiscent of other Moffat female characters like Amy and River Song. Moffat doesn’t exactly differentiate his female characters to a great extent, but it’s early days here. And I’m not criticising necessarily, Jenna genuinely endeared herself to an audience still grieving over Amy. The portrayal of Clara’s collision with the Doctor over the course of this episode was wonderful, though. Unlike Amy, the girl who waited, Clara doesn’t wait around to become involved with the Doctor, even after he effectively tells her to naff off. The scene where Clara follows the Doctor back to the Tardis, and climbs her way up the Jack-in-the-Beanstalk-like ladder into the clouds was simply magical. As was watching the Doctor quickly finding himself irresistibly enchanted by Clara (dat kiss tho). “I never know why. I only know who.” He finds himself saying this with disbelief.
Some final thoughts. I’ve never cared much for the Paternoster Gang, here no more than anywhere else. I find them tedious. And I’m afraid I don’t find their comic relief very funny. They’re obviously there for the kiddies, but there’s a fine line between catering for the pre-adolescents in the audience and patronising everyone over the age of 12. Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh. I know there are plenty of mature fans who enjoy the Paternosters, and I’ll concede they’re sometimes good for a laugh, but in general I just find them a bit of a bore. The new Tardis interior is attractive; it has a dark, moody glamour about it, reflecting the Doctor’s emotional state, and the maturity he’s reached at this stage of his regeneration, but I’m obliged to say I find it a bit cold and soulless. I preferred Matt Smith’s original warm, fantastical, space-baroque Tardis interior. Finally, I rather liked the Doctor’s Victorian get-up. It suits him really well and, although the new costume the Doctor wore in Series 7b was also good, I wouldn’t have minded if he’d kept the Victorian garb (with the glasses, obviously).