OK Steven Moffat.
After nine months without me even starting a blog post, you writing about a Doctor who has withdrawn and refuses to engage with the world around him finally made me get back to blogging again. I’ve taken the hint!
And I’m glad I did as The Snowmen was funny but sad, mysterious but revealing, simple yet intricate.
As always with the best of Moffat’s Who, it raised questions as much as it revealed answers and weaved in themes and motifs the audience is already familiar with.
So whereas in previous years we’ve had A Christmas Carol and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe homages at Christmas, this year the Doctor was adventuring with another literary favourite, Mary Poppins.
Originally created by Pamela Travers in 1934, our Mary was the mysterious Clara who seemed practically perfect in every way as she enlisted the Doctor to help defeat killer snowmen.
The parallels were clear, firstly in her role as a nanny or governess who seemed to somehow know more than she should from her first moments on screen.
Not only was she the first to bring up the ongoing ‘Doctor Who?’ question, she then said her magic word – Pond, not Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious – to bring the Doctor out of his retirement.
Clara used an umbrella to take to the sky and escape from the ice governess, at least temporarily. She even helped Captain Latimer care for his children despite that ‘not really being his area’.
Looking back at the history of the character further, Mary Poppins is apprently descibed as ‘The Great Exception’ in the original novels, meaning she still possesses the powers other humans forgot as they grow up – very Who indeed.
Mary Poppins also appeared in eight books. The first three saw her come and go as needed, before Travers changed the focus from then on because “she cannot forever arrive and depart.”
Having appeared in two episodes now, each of which ended with her death, I wonder if Moffat feels the same about Clara or Oswin and we will see her stick around from now on.
I hope so, because the character is an interesting one and her story arc promises to be worth the time and attention we will have to invest to find out just who or what she is.
My focus on Clara shouldn’t detract from the rest of the episode. The new opening credits were great, with a delightful hat-tip to the old days in the brief appearance of Matt Smith’s face.
While I wasn’t sure about the new look TARDIS after seeing the preview images, it worked better on screen and suited the Doctor’s sombre mood, as did the old girl’s run-down outward appearance too.
I was thrilled to see Strax, Jenny and Madame Vastra again, with the cuddly Sontaran providing several laugh out loud moments. And I can’t have been the only geek to draw in a breath when Moffat’s two universes collided with Smith’s Doctor masquerading as Sherlock Holmes.
Richard E Grant looked relieved to get away from talking about hotel secrets on satellite TV, although the snowmen and ice governess were a bit of a – budget constrained – letdown.
I think we’ve just met the big bad for the rest of this season, if only because you don’t get Sir Ian McKellen in for a few lines in the Christmas special.
In short, The Snowman had the intricate but transitory beauty of a snowflake on a frosty night. The coming soon tease whetted my appetite for more and I can’t wait to climb back aboard the TARDIS in April to see what happens next.
Who knows, I may even write another blog post by then too ;-D