Sunday, 30 December 2012

Doctor Who: The Snowmen

“I said I’d feed you. I didn’t say who to…”

Gosh, there’s so much to talk about, isn’t there? 2010 aside, Christmas episodes are usually fluffy, light, and aimed at a larger and more drunk audience than usual. There’s an element of that, mind, but there’s also lots of other cool stuff that we’re obviously going to talk about. So I’ll just quickly get the actual “review” part of the review over with so we can do that.

This is a fun, exciting and magical piece of family Christmas entertainment, with a mix of scares (the Snowmen, with their sharp, pointy teeth- bloody scary), wonderment (the TARDIS is on top of a cloud, reached via an invisible staircase: the Doctor gets more and more like a good wizard all the time), good villains (Richard E. Grant and the voice of Ian McKellen) and laughs (Strax: Moffat is his usual comedy genius self and Dan Starkey is a bloody good comic actor). It’s exceedingly good. There. Let’s move on to the geeky stuff, shall we?

There’s a shiny new theme tune, which seems ok so far: I need time to get used to it and make a proper judgement. There are new and brilliant opening titles,which look to be 3-D ready and, in a nicely retro touch, feature a glimpse of Matt Smith’s face. Best of all is the retooled TARDIS interior, which kicks arse.

The Doctor is far from over losing Amy, moping in Victorian England ostentatiously refusing to do Doctorish things while his supporting cast Madame Vastra, Jenny, and their rather funny Sontaran butler Strax keep him company. According to Vastra he “prefers isolation to the possibility of pain’s return”, and is doing sod all. Of course, all this leaves a suspiciously large gap for a massive retcon; I won’t be surprised if Moffat later reveals that the Doctor has been up to something important in the London of 1892.

Moffat, being the co-creator of Sherlock, gives us a bit of metatextual fun, establishing that Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character in the Doctor Who continuity, probably based by Conan Doyle on the exploits of Madame Vastra and her lady wife. This also functions as a nice little shorthand as to what sort of adventures they’re getting up to while the Doctor, apparently, isn’t having any.

But let’s get to the point: Jenna-Louise Coleman making her debut (again) as Clara, as a dress rehearsal until she presumably debuts for good at the start of the next series. I like her. She’s ingenious, resourceful and, as my girlfriend remarked, similar to Alice off of Alice in Wonderland in the way she just accepts all these wonders and investigates them. I still reckon there’s a germ of truth in the charge that Moffat tends to write his women in a certain way, with River Song being as good a template as any, but much of that is down to the demands of the genre: the female lead in an adventure series is bound to possess certain traits.

Clara / Oswin so beguiles the Doctor that he invites her to travel with him after a ridiculously short period of time, until Moffat goes and does his misdirection thing and (eventually) kills her. Again. But by now the Doctor has realised: she’s the same person, twice. What is going on? He needs to “find” her, and seems possessed with a rejuvenated urge to adventure.

Some last uber-geeky things: The baddie is the Great Intelligence, making this a prequel to TheAbominable Snowmen, which aired back in 1967. The 1967 London Underground map rather tends to indicate that The Web of Fear was set in this year, which buggers up UNIT dating delightfully. And the origin story for the Great Intelligence here rules out the Lovecraftian theories as promoted in the Virgin novels back in the ‘90s.

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