Mooning: The Snowmen
... No, really, you shouldn't have.
So in the spirit of the season, let's give a big "Bah, humbug" to the 2012 Doctor Who Christmas Special: "The Snowmen".
Rabid snowflakes fall to Earth from space. Beeecause I guess we've gotten to the point in Doctor Who that we're just slapping scary teeth on anything and calling it a monster. Can't wait to see the invasion of the rabbits from the planet Caerbannog.
Thanks to the helpful subtitle, we know we are in England, 1842. Children play in the snow while one plays alone with a snowman. We know he's playing alone with his snowman because his mother comes in and tells the audience that he plays alone and that he's a lonely little boy, rather than wasting a few extra seconds showing us that he's detached from the other children. The boy reiterates that he doesn't want to talk to the other children out loud, because this is how you define characters: by having them stand there and narrate how they're feeling.
The snowman starts talking in Gandalf's voice, and the boy initially runs away, but is easily convinced to return when the snowman says he doesn't need anyone else.
Cut to 50 years later, as helpfully indicated by another subtitle. The boy has grown into a dour old man, but at least he still enjoys getting people together to make snowmen. Hell, he's throwing a snowman party with all the vagrants in town, he's such an amicable fellow. He takes a jar of snow to fill his giant snowglobe, in which Gandalf lives. Despite having been working together for 50 years, Gandalf still feels the need to question the man's loyalty so that he can drop some plot points.
The man, identified as Doctor Simian (er... Simeon?), goes to the vagrants and says he'll feed them, but he failed his English class and neglected to complete the sentence with an indirect object. Rabid snowmen pop out of the ground and start devouring the vagrants and... Okay, seriously, this is just silly. It doesn't matter how many fangs you put on a snowman, a snowman just is not scary.
We cut to a bar, where Clara the barmaid is...
Wait, we're actually going to get to meet the companion?! Before the Doctor takes over the episode to hog all the attention to himself? So we'll actually get a look at the companion's life, her motivations, her personality, so that we have something to go on before the Doctor turns all that upside-down?! Why, thank you, Moffat, you've finally learned how to--
Oh, wait, no, she immediately walks outside and runs into the Doctor 10 seconds later without any opportunity to experience her pre-Doctor persona. Well, since the Doctor is no one special to her at this point, maybe we'll get a look at her character?
She asks the Doctor if he built the snowman that had randomly appeared. After two lines of dialogue about memory snow, they are instantly taken with one another. The Doctor goes to leave, but Clara chases after him, because apparently the line "Maybe it's snow that fell before and remembered how to make snowmen" was so amazingly poignant that she just had to tag along with him.
So amazing and poignant was that line, that when the Doctor gets into his carriage, Clara throws down her shawl, then runs after him so fast she nearly pops out of her dress. Jeez, I'd hate to see how hard she'd latch onto someone who offhandedly mentioned "Maybe it slices... AND dices."
A voice over the microphone in the Doctor's carriage congratulates him for engaging in such a stunning and impactful conversation with a girl. ... He said two sentences to her. About snow. Was this really supposed to leave an impression? I mean, apparently it did, but is he fishing around for people who would eagerly follow him just after hearing that? (Granted, Eleven's main criteria for a companion seems to be someone who will do whatever he says and gush praise all over him).
Clara then busts in through the roof of his carriage and gives a title-drop as we go into the opening credits and... agh, agh, my eyes! Yes, I know it's harkening back to some of the Classic Era credits sequences, but it's like they gave a five year-old a folder full of stock effects and he just started mashing buttons pasting them to the screen. "Yeah, we're flying through space, but there's FIREBALLS and EXPLOSIONS and LIGHTNING and BLINKING STARS and PSYCHADELIC HAZE and MATT SMITH'S FACE!" Good lord, what was wrong with just the simple "TARDIS flying through the vortex" theme? It's like each progressive intro takes what they had before, and adds more distracting junk to it. First lightning bolts, then blurry color filters, now this. This new opening is so busy that I completely missed the cast introductions because they just meekly fade onto the screen while all this exploding and flying around goes around in the background that utterly distracts you from it. The only part of it I like is the end where the TARDIS doors open onto the episode. But the rest of it looks like a dog ate all their special effects and then threw them back up onto the screen in a big, messy blob.
After the intro, Doctor Simian makes a house call and shows he takes after his parents' love of exposition, narrating the story of how the previous governess fell into the pond and drowned, and the pond froze over, and they didn't find her body until after it thawed. The master of the house thankfully informs him, "Uh, I know." Doctor Exposition leaves the man his card, a note with the letters "GI" on it... a "GI tract", if you will... and leaves.
Suddenly a ninja jumps in front of him, wearing something that would get her thrown in the asylum in the Victorian era. Vastra also appears, and Simian states that surely Doyle has been basing his Sherlock Holmes stories on these two, just changing the part about Holmes being a reptilian lesbian. Either that or Moffat misses writing "Sherlock" due to his stars being thoroughly distracted with Hobbit-related duties for the next year or two, and feels the need to self-reference.
Simian gives his "This is my plan, which I'm telling you because you can't stop me" speech, and Vastra yells that she's gonna go tell the Doctor on him, that meanie!
... Seriously, she is a sword-wielding ancient reptile whose intellect is apparently enough to inspire the Sherlock Holmes stories, so why can't she stop him herself?! But she instantly resigns herself to, "Oh foo! Only the Doctor can stop bad guys and I am impotent to do anything!"
The Doctor, in the meantime, is examining the mysterious prop snow that doesn't melt in his hand that he then declares must be alien in origin. Apparently they ditched Clara on the side of the road somewhere between now and before, as she doesn't appear to be anywhere around all of a sudden. The Sontaran Strax, who died in "A Good Man Goes to War" is here, indicating that this must be somewhere in his timeline prior to that. He provides the comic relief for the episode, and is admittedly the only character with any character to show up so far, which is appreciated.
Clara starts yelling from somewhere, indicating they locked her in a trunk or something because I guess she was incessantly begging to hear more witty dialogue like "Maybe life is a highway, and we're going to ride it all night long."
Turns out the Doctor had locked her in the cab, because despite insisting that he had no desire to investigate the alien snow, apparently he just couldn't wait to do it until AFTER getting rid of Clara, and figured the most logical course of action was to lock her in the cab and then wander off to investigate the thing he didn't want to investigate before coming back to deal with her.
The Doctor confronts Clara and tells her he's going to wipe her memory, by pulling out his sunglasses and neuralizer and... oh, wait, no, he sends Strax to go get the Plot Worm instead.
While Strax digs out the Plot Worm, the Doctor mentioned that Strax died and then was brought back to life. ... Okay, seriously, is that all we're going to get? "Yeah, well, he's alive now because I wanted him to be in this story, so deal with it"?
No. No. You can't do that. I know Moffat is big on "plot and character development is all that stuff that happens offscreen, to be referenced later in passing rather than actually shown", but you cannot reintroduce a previously-dead character with nothing more than a hand-wave. It completely cheapens death in this series if you can kill off a character for a manufactured dramatic effect, only to unceremoniously have them reappear later solely because you reeeeallly wanted them in the story and having them being dead now was inconvenient (Hi, Rory!). He even just said that Strax was a manufactured member of a clone army. If he'd said that this was a clone of Strax who had the same memory and personality as the previous one, I would have totally bought that. But, no, "He's a friend who gave his life, and another friend brought him back." You... just.... eeeaauuughhh...
Clara insists she won't leave until the Doctor explains how a snowman could build itself, because having him elaborate on that was apparently so important that she ran off from her job to follow him to get him to answer. Because if I asked someone "Who do you think built that snowman?" and they answered "Maybe it built itself", I would not take that as an indication that this person knows something magical and mystical and is wise in the ways of the world and must be prodded for further insight. I would take that as an indication they were telling me to piss off and stop talking to them.
Unfortunately, since Clara was thinking about the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, he appears. The Doctor implores her to stop thinking about it, and to picture it melted. Clara complies, and the city is covered in melted marshmallow goo. ... Hey, I think I've seen this in a movie before.
The Doctor realizes he can't wipe Clara's memory now, or else she'll forget how to get rid of the snowmen, so instead he just has Strax take her back to work. Instead, Clara sneaks after the Doctor, who loudly whistles in the middle of a silent field so as not to draw attention to himself or the conspicuous shadow hanging in the sky above him. He pulls a ladder out of the shadow and climbs up into it. Clara secretly follows, and follows him up the Stairway to Heaven.
At the top, she finds the TARDIS, resting on a cloud. She does a prank knock, then hides, trolling the Doctor until she runs away back down the stairs. The Doctor finds her other shawl, which she apparently picked up so that she could drop again, and intently sniffs it because... he's a creeper like that.
The next morning, Clara is off to her "other" job. Well, Moffat's already given us a kissogram, a model, and a bar wench, so certainly he can come up with another wholly respectable profession for a female character to have. Something that involves Clara stripping naked in a cab...
Oh, she's changing into her governess clothing. Well, that's certainly... the most respectable female profession we've had out of him yet, though it still amounts to pretty much being a nanny.
The childrens' father tells Clara (whom he calls "Miss Montague"), that his daughter has been having nightmares. Clara informs him that they're his children, and Latimer, having not thought of that, praises her wisdom.
Clara goes to see the children, who tell her that they've been having nightmares about their old governess coming back to life. Clara goes to examine the pond where she died and is shocked to discover that, while the thin layer of snow on the ground had melted, the pond had not thawed, because a thick layer of solid ice would melt at the same rate as snow.
Clara remembers what the Doctor said about the snow taking the form of what's in your head, and ditches her current job as well in order to go hunt him down. She starts yelling at the sky in the middle of the empty field and her actions draw a crowd, because she didn't realize that to not draw attention to herself, she needed to whistle conspicuously, not yell conspicuously.
Jenny shows up to drag her away and takes Clara before Vastra. Vastra says she's drinking something that looks like red wine but is not red wine, so it is obviously Kool-aid. Or cranberry juice.
Clara and Vastra decide to play Catch-Phrase, and Clara insists that the Doctor is a kind man who would save her despite him giving no indication of such. Vastra relents and admits, yeah, he used to be, you somehow saw right through him even faster than Amy did. She agrees to give the Doctor a message from Clara about what she wants him to help her with, but she's limited to a single word.
Clara chooses the word "Pond". The Doctor is amazed, because obviously this word has such a meaning to other people that only a person who uses it is worthy of being helped by him. So, if someone needed the Doctor's help feeding their koi fish and said this to him, he would jump up and declare, "Yes, this is a task worthy of me!"
Gandalf says, "Danger, Danger, Will Robinson", and he's telling the truth because he's only using one word. Simian asks him to elaborate, and he explains, "There is danger here," because that clears it right up.
Suddenly the Doctor bursts in, dressed as Sherlock Holmes, and accompanied by a parody of the "Oh, Sherlock, you're so eccentric" theme from "Sherlock".
... This episode is just one big self-indulgence for Moffat, isn't it?
The Doctor deduces the snow is a crystalline entity... but not a Crystalline Entity, because that was a killer snowflake from a different sci-fi show. He goes through Simian's files and finds a newspaper article about a woman frozen in a pond, and figures out that Gandalf wants to become a woman.
The Doctor goes to the pond at the manor, and realizes that when Clara said "pond" she actually meant "pond". Clara sees him from the window and beckons him up, and he reluctantly, or mistakenly, agrees.
Clara puts the children to bed, and uses the opportunity to get her contractual "all female characters with more than two lines must wax poetic deifying the Doctor" speech as a bedtime story.
Suddenly the Ice Queen bursts in and starts threatening everyone. Clara grabs the children and runs, assuring them the Doctor will be there. The Doctor appears from behind a puppetry stage and uses his Pocket Plot Device to destroy the ice woman.
... Well, that was anticlimactic.
Doctor Simian shows up and turns on his Dyson fan, blowing alien snow onto the house. The Doctor, meanwhile, makes eye sex with himself in the mirror while the ice woman re-freezes. The Doctor tries screwing her again, but the ice has "learned not to melt". Kind of like the Borg, I guess.
They all escape and run into Latimer, and the Doctor explains that he's Clara's boyfriend and they've been off kissing. ... Because that is totally something he would say. Wh... wha... you can't just make a character say whatever is convenient for you! Otherwise they're not a "character"! A "character" is defined by the limits on what they say and do, and if you remove those limits, then it's not a character, it's a Mary-Sue.
They stun the ice woman, who is now no longer any actual threat, and retreat into another room where the Doctor gives the explanation of the plot thus far. If the snow gets the ice woman, they'll all become ice women like the one they have easily neutralized, and that would be a threat.
The Doctor goes out to confront them, but Clara follows after him and insists he likes her, then kisses him. Beeecause.... what? Just... what? How does she even... when did they.... aauuuughhhh.
Okay, I know RTD started a running gag about the companions kissing the Doctor once a season. But the point of that gag was to show them kissing in the trailer, then in the actual episode have it revealed that the kiss was because the companion was possessed, or because they needed to do a genetic transfer, or because the Doctor needed a shock. And most definitely NOT because the companion was horny for the Doctor. But with both Amy and Clara's kisses, it's been played straight, to their detriment.
And she's just... throwing herself at him! Why?! At least Amy had the excuse of fantasizing about him for 14 years before trying to rape him, but Clara has just met him. We don't know anything about Clara's backstory or motivations, like why she's double-dipping as both a barmaid and a governess, or how she got this governess job in the first place, or why she reacts to things the way she does. Amy at least got exposition explaining why she wasn't afraid of the Doctor, but Clara hasn't even gotten that. She's just "sass" with no substance, same as every other Moffat woman ever.
The Doctor confronts Simian, who tells the Doctor he has five minutes to release the ice woman, or else... he'll wait 5 more minutes. I don't know, he never really made any kind of threat, and just turned and walked away.
The Doctor and Clara take the ice woman and run onto the balcony, which is covered in alien snow, thus giving the snowmen the ice woman, anyway. Clara tells the Doctor he's clever, and the Doctor realizes he's found his new companion, because what is a companion for other than someone to hang on his every word and praise him constantly?
The two of them get into a banter-off, which was, admittedly, well-done, and they escape together onto the magic ladder in the sky.
They reach the TARDIS, which has gotten another redesign, albeit offscreen and for no explained reason this time, much like 80% of everything else in a Moffat episode. The design harkens back to more of the Fifth Doctor era, though the chasing lights along the wall could get distracting pretty quickly.
Clara wonders if there's a kitchen, because she likes making souffles. And with that, we get a connection to Oswin from Asylum of the Daleks, an amazing feat of continuity by Moffat standards.
The Doctor declares her his new companion and immediately offers her the key to his house, because holy crap the guy is desperate.
Suddenly the ice woman pops in for a visit and decides she wants Clara all for herself, and drags Clara off the edge of the cloud. They fall about a mile, and Clara splats into a gooey pulp on the ground.
Or, at least, she should have, but since this is TV, she fell completely immaculately and didn't even get dirt on her face. Instead of catching her with the TARDIS like he did when River fell off the building in "Day of the Moon", the Doctor instead materializes the TARDIS on top of her to make sure she's extra flat.
They bring her into the manor, and Strax uses the Plot Device to bring Clara back to life. Hooray for more cheap deaths! I guess he could relate to her.
The Doctor asks the now-alive Clara if she'll come away with him if he saves the world, and she agrees, indicating that her job to the children couldn't have been all that important to her (well, given how readily she ran off all her other jobs to chase him down, I guess I can see that).
The Doctor goes to see Simian and tells him to go back to his office and he'll meet him there. And... Simian actually buys it. I mean, the Doctor leaves in his TARDIS, so it's not like Simian could watch him go and confirm the Doctor was actually going back to the GI Institute, he just happily gets back in his carriage and goes back home. If it was that easy, should have just told him, "We'll meet in Bermuda" and wave him off.
The Doctor, stupidly enough, actually goes to the office to meet him, and shows him his lunchbox with a map of the London Underground, informing them it's a key strategic weakness to the city.
Okay, I haven't seen many Classic Era serials, and I'm sure a lot of people are in the same boat, but this is apparently supposed to be a reference to a Second Doctor story. While I've always gotten on Moffat's case for ignoring continuity, this is not the way to do it. You do not base a key plot point of an episode around something that happened in an episode 45 years ago without providing any refresher context. You do not make a reference to an outside source if that reference would have absolutely no other meaning to someone who doesn't get the joke (for instance, the Sherlock Holmes reference from earlier is obviously supposed to be a reference to Moffat's "Sherlock" due to the music, but even people who didn't understand that would still understand the scene's use in the story).
But above all, why even say this? It comes completely out of nowhere, and it seems stupid for the Doctor to point out key strategic weaknesses of the city to an enemy for no reason. It's never brought up again or used in any way to move along the plot, so what was the point of this line other than to say, "Hey, I know this monster was in a Classic era episode, look at me make a reference!"
The Doctor uses his Pocket Plot Device to reveal that the snow is just a mirror of Simian's thoughts. Simian steals the Doctor's lunch, but finds his lunch to be full of worms. The worm bites Simian and erases all his memories, which leaves the snow with nothing to reflect.
Or not. The snow pulls the good old "I could do this all along but I was just manipulating this guy for the hell of it" routine and generates more snowmen and brings Simian back as a zombie. Vastra pulls her sword to go all ninja dinosaur on him, but he just punches her out of the way because she's a woman and is useless.
Back at the manor, Clara decides that she envies Rory and dies for the second time in one episode. The tears of the children get mirrored in the snow and turn all the snow to rain, which melts the evil snowglobe and the ice zombie attacking the Doctor.
The Doctor takes this to mean Clara has died because only her death could cause so much sorrow as to melt the snow, so TARDISes back to the house so he can catch her dramatic dying words. Whiiich happen to be the same as Oswin's dramatic dying words.
Clara dies for realz-ish and is buried, and Vastra and Jenny give more wink-wink nudge-nudges about an episode from 45 years ago that hardly anyone is going to understand without looking it up. And it turns out the Doctor apparently doesn't actively remember what the Great Intelligence is, so my guess is this is supposed to mean that his random line about the London Underground was supposed to prompt the Great Intelligence to invade it in 1967... or something.
The Doctor reads the tombstone and discovers Clara's full name is Clara Oswin Oswald, and that she had the same voice as... the Dalek. Who he actually heard talking in a Dalek voice, but that's been a point of contention about that episode, anyway. Still, Moffat was kind enough to flash back to five episodes ago to remind us who Oswin is, but as for that London Underground comment... pfff, people know what we're talking about when we reference an episode from 45 years ago.
The Doctor realizes that the same woman has now died twice in two different time periods, which shouldn't be that new to him since it happened with Rory all the time, but he runs off to find another copy of Clara, anyway.
Cut to the present day, and Clara/Oswin/Oswald III walks past her own gravestone, which she should have learned from Rory is a jinx.
I suppose I can chalk up the lack of character or backstory to this Clara to the fact that this version of her only lasted one episode. So hopefully Clara III has more of an existence and motivation defined by things other than the Doctor. And hopefully she doesn't start trying to get into his pants 20 seconds after meeting him. Since the Doctor is currently unknown to Clara III, my guess is he'll start out as more of a "stalker" character from her perspective. However, given "Blink" and "The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe", we know how Moffat women react to their stalkers...