I didn’t write anything about ‘The Power of Three’ because I was lazy.
I didn’t write anything about 'The Angels Take Manhattan’ because if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. And, still, lazy.
'The Snowmen’ was better than both those stories though, and gave me a little more hope for the future… while still displaying a few of the common irritations I’m finding in Doctor Who these days.
When we meet our hero, he’s sulking in Victorian England, grumpy about what is in this story a slightly ambiguous recent tragedy.[^1] This was a nice bit of subtltey, as it meant I could pretend he wasn’t this sad about his friends being back in time where he could easily visit them because he has a TIME MACHINE. I guess I’m still pretty angry about that pathetic, emotionally manipulative piece of shapeless, Doctor-less dross.[^2] Where was I?
Ah yes. So, the Doctor is grumpy, but he’s run into the lovely Clara, played by the same Jenna Louise-Coleman who played Oswin in 'Asylum of the Daleks’, which is enough to cheer anyone up. Clever, witty and adorable, she’s shaping up to be one of what you might call the Romana school of companions, which I can’t express my enthusiasm for highly enough. I like a distinctively peculiar companion origin. That said, the whole 'having been dead’ thing was Rory’s shtick, wasn’t it? I hope she does something new with it.
The episode is at its best with her and the Doctor, as she wakes the sorry bastard out of his stupor. And that’s a lot of the episode. But there’s also that pesky story thing again, and it’s probably the story’s main failing. There is a story here, but it’s a very itty-bitty one, and frankly it doesn’t deserve to have Richard E Grant in it at all. One of Smith’s best scenes is one where he pretty much ignores Grant, and unfortunately that’s about as close as they get to acting together. It’s a shame the story couldn’t have given Clara, the Doctor and Dr Simeon a bit more of a connection; as it is he just sort of wanders around with understatement and chilly menace until he’s somewhat brutally dispatched.
Meanwhile, there’s the Doctor’s assorted Victorian friends from 'A Good Man Goes to War’; Madame Vastra, Jenny, and the no-longer-deceased Strax.[^3] I like the show building up recurring characters, even if in this case, none of really feel like they’ve been introduced properly. Vastra and Jenny remain irritatingly over-theatrical for my tastes (maybe it’s just a Victorian thing), but Strax makes an excellent comic foil for the Doctor, despite appearing much stupider than I remember him being previously. Disturbingly, when the Doctor’s all Scroogey, he gets kind of racist towards Strax. Are we to understand that the Doctor’s always a xenophobic bastard, but he just holds him self back when he’s in a good mood? I hope not.
Oh, and there’s an evil plan involving snow that copies things, mostly, except when it doesn’t, which has free will sometimes but not other times and never really holds together as a consistent plot device. It’s almost more annoying because it gets really close to making crazy-sense at one point, but never quite gets there. Still, it’s hard to be grumpy about an excuse for deliciously horrible grinning snowmen and Ian McKellen’s mellifluous voice work.
Or, for that matter, a tease of a fascinating and refreshing new direction for Doctor Who.[^4] Here’s hoping.