Saturday, March 30, 2013

Doctor Who review: The 2012 Christmas Special: The Snowmen

HUGE NEWS today coming out of Doctor Who Magazine that I HAVE to mention first. Both David Tennant AND Billie Piper are confirmed to be in the 50th anniversary. I haven't read the article but the post I read noted the special will be 90 minutes. It will remain to be seen if it is the actual Doctor or 10.5 who was left with Rose in the parallel universe. And if it is 10.5, will he be wearing different clothes? Okay, there's lots of review unless I can pare it down, sorry in advance, but here goes...

"The Snowmen" was shot beautifully, and the music throughout was incredible. I'll just get that out of the way. I have been so happy with the quality of the episodes this series. It starts with bitey snowflakes in space falling towards the Earth. In 1842 England a young boy builds a snowman, not joining in with the other kids. The snowman talks to him, says he doesn't need the others and that he can help the boy. Flash forward 50 years to a grown Dr. Simeon supervising men who are scraping snow into jars off the snowmen in the yard. The jars make their way to the G.I (Great Intelligence) where Simeon feeds them into a large snow globe with swirling snow and the voice of Ian McKellan, the same voice that spoke to Simeon as a boy. The workers are fed to the snowmen, who are now animated with icy shark teeth.

The last time we saw Jenna, she was Oswin Oswald, junior entertainment director for the starship Alaska, who was turned into a Dalek. Now we find Clara working as a bar maid in the Rose & Crown pub. Out back a snowman appears instantly and she asks The Doctor, who happens to be passing, about it. Here we have gloomy Doctor, wearing Amy's glasses. It sparks his interest, but he passes on the mystery, tells Clara she should keep her name, and leaves. Clara chases. In a carriage The Doctor is speaking with Madame Vastra via an interesting victorian looking microphone that has no doubt been sonickd up. She is mocking The Doctor about meeting new people, saying it always starts with the same two words. When The Doctor claims Clara doesn't even know the name, Doctor, Clara pops through the roof of the carriage and asks those two words, "Doctor who?"

The new credits are crazy. I don't even know where to start. There's just so much going on. I see elements of more than one classic credits. It was great seeing Matt's face. It felt bigger, grander. In a way like the tv movie. The theme had an eerie element to it, and I loved that. The tradition this series continued and the title letters had a frosted look to them. I actually hope they keep at least the music, but all in all I really like it better than the last opening.

Dr. Simeon visits a home with a pond where the year before a governess had drowned in and been frozen. Simeon wants what's in the ice. Vastra and Jenny confront Simeon and discuss this new snow that has memory and can learn. Vastra hopes it's listening to the right people, since it would make a great weapon. Simeon makes a cute comment about the rumor that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based Sherlock Holmes on Madame Vastra, who fails to elicit a reaction when he sees her skin. Here I'm going to say that I'm gay and even I'm getting a bit tired of Vastra and Jenny constantly announcing the fact that they are a couple. We get it. We got it way back on the first time. Anyway, madame Vastra threatens to enlist help, but Jenny reminds her that The Doctor never helps anymore, but they need him.

Strax and The Doctor are spying on the G.I. and what their interest is in the snow. Strax is so silly, and most of the time it works. The Doctor won't investigate and then we start hearing a commotion coming from the carriage, reminding us about Clara. The Doctor wants to use the memory worm on her. One touch and you lose the last hour of memory, a bit and you could lose decades. Clara's amused while Strax comically struggles to find the worm. Then the snowmen pop up instantly. The Doctor says they're feeding off her thoughts because she was thinking about them, so imagine them melting. It worked, they melted. Since she needs this knowledge to fight possible future encounters, The Doctor cannot use the memory worm on Clara. I love Clara. I loved her instantly in Asylum. She's so brilliant and strong and smart and clever and more than a verbal match for The Doctor. and she's just so adorable.

So Clara gives Strax the slip and follows The Doctor to the park and sees him reach up to pull down a ladder that appeared out of nowhere. My heart skipped a beat when she jumped up and was able to grab hold of the ladder. The music for Clara I also love. The invisible spiral staircase into the clouds was beautiful and felt like a fairy tale. I loved it when she reached the top and they panned around until the TARDIS was shown behind her. I'll say here that aside from some scuffs the TARDIS looks normal and come back to that later. She came so close, missing the opportunity to go inside when chased around the TARDIS. But she goes back down the stairs, leaving her shawl behind.

Back at the G.I. the snow globe says the snow will thaw and the drowned woman and screaming child will give them form. In the morning Clara wakes up, leaves the pub, noting the absence of snow. She won't share what her other job is, but in a carriage she changes into posh clothes and arrives at the house with the frozen pond as Miss Montague, the governess. She encourages the father, Capt. Latimer, to be more involved with his children, which seems to frighten him. The daughter, Francesca, is having dreams about the old governess. She had fallen into the pond, it froze, and she was trapped for many days. She tells her in dreams she is returning that night, Christmas eve. They keep showing ice crystals forming together in the pond, which despite the thaw is still frozen. Her brother, Digby, says casually that maybe Frannie needs a doctor.

Clara goes back to the park and calls out to the sky for The Doctor, attracting attention. Jenny sees her and takes her to Vastra, who gives her a one word test to tell The Doctor of the danger and why he should help. She tells Clara The Doctor used to be a hero, the savior of worlds, but after suffering losses prefers to be isolated. Clara thinks hard about the one right word, and decides on one that can do nothing but grab The Doctor's interest, "Pond."

The Doctor goes to the G.I., posing as Sherlock Holmes. It was great using the music from "Sherlock" when he came in. They didn't have to go far to get that permission. He rattles off a series of Sherlock style deductions but all prove to be wrong. The Doctor doesn't remember the Great Intelligence yet. He battled them twice as the second Doctor in the 60's. But he does figure it all out with his Doctor style deducing. they need a new form, more human, something that won't melt, and they need a frozen example of human DNA, which leads The Doctor to the pond.  At the pond there was a sweet little hello moment between The Doctor and Clara. But the ice also cracks and the governess comes out.

I swear I'm trying to condense. Clara is telling her definitely true stories to the children. They mention the one where she was born behind the clock face of Big Ben, accounting for her accute sense of time, and how she created fish because she dislikes swimming alone. This time she was telling them about The Doctor. What if her other stories are true too? Oswin means something like friend of God. Then the governess comes in and they run. The Doctor sonics her and she melts. he noticed in the mirror that without realizing it he had put on his bow tie, something he hadn't felt like in a while, and mumbles something about old habits. Outside Simeon turns on a machine to freeze the house and create an army of snowmen. The governess refreezes and they run.

Suddenly everything seems to be happening, The Doctor and others running downstairs chased by the icy form of the previous governess, Vastra and Jenny at the front door sending a screaming maid right into Strax, and she faints. Capt. Latimer looks so confused. Jenny throws up a force field to keep the governess at the top of the stairs. Vastra sees how The Doctor has missed this.

Clara doesn't listen to The Doctor when he leaves the room, follows him and kisses him. I wonder what that's about. Clara doesn't seem the type to be bawdy, but is very aware of her effect on men, like Capt. Latimer. He hands Clara an umbrella, saying it will get them out or something. He sonics the force field to let him through and Clara follows. The Doctor pretends to be upset. To the roof. Clara follows. Actually she doesn't follow but grabs The Doctor's hand and drags him along. Clara works out the umbrella test, it's for her to pull down the ladder to the TARDIS staircase. One of my favorite 2 lines was as they went up the staircase and Clara asked how they got up so high so quick, to which The Doctor tells her it's a clever staircase, taller on the inside.

Okay, when they reach the top and you see the TARDIS, doesn't it look filthy? Not like it did earlier. What's that all about?  But forget that because I LOVE the new TARDIS interior. The console is sooooo classic. The spinning discs above the console are awesome. I'm looking forward to seeing more in a few weeks. Here we come to my favorite line in the episode. I love Steven Moffat for this line. When Clara sees the TARDIS, runs around it, comes back inside and says, "It's smaller on the outside." Brilliant. And then we get reminded. Clara asks if there's a kitchen because she likes to bake souffles. There's recognition, but not full awareness of the signifigance of those words. Clara asks him why her, he could've reached the ladder, so the umbrella was for her, to which he says he never knows why, only who, and gives her a key to the TARDIS. She cries, not knowing why, and The Doctor tells her to remember, remember this moment. There's that word again. The Doctor told Amy in Asylum, then Oswin used it. This isn't the last time, either. Suddenly from the open TARDIS door the governess grabs Clara, dragging her out as The Doctor chases, but not fast enough to stop them going over the edge of the cloud, falling to the ground below.

The Doctor materializes around Clara's body, and the broken pieces of the governess, and brings them inside. Some device Strax has is holding her alive, but it's only temporary. The Doctor offers to bring a piece of the ice lady to the G.I. He carries it in a tin that has a map of the 1967 London underground, essentially giving them the idea they used to attack in the 1968 story "The Web of Fear' with the second Doctor.

The Doctor strips away the snow globe's disguise, revealing the voice of the child Simeon. Instead of a piece of the ice lady, The Doctor brought the memory worm, which bites Simeon, erasing his memory of the G.I. But the snow globe survives and raises a larger army of snowmen. Suddenly the snow melts everywhere. The critical mass of snow was at the Latimer house and mirrored something so strong, a whole family crying on Christmas eve.

Clara has moments left when The Doctor returns  She closes her eyes and he begins to turn. She speaks. "Run, run you clever boy," opens her eyes and finishes, "and remember." The Doctor's confusion on his face is not something you see often. The Great Intelligence begins to ring a bell for The Doctor, but his attention is diverted when he sees Clara's name on her tombstone, Clara Oswin Oswald. He puts it together that it was souffle girl... again... and she died both times! Something impossible is going on. He goes to find Clara. Fast forward to present day in the same graveyard where Clara is taking a shortcut past her own grave, declaring she doesn't believe in ghosts.

I don't know if Clara is tied in with the 50th, other than just being in it, but consider this. The date of birth on Clara's grave was November 23, 1866. November 23rd is the anniversary of the show. More important right now is what was written on her tombstone. "Remember me, for we shall meet again" and that is going to happen today!

Up next: "The Bells of Saint John"
I'm going to need to watch it a few times, but it should be up tonight, possibly before airing on BBCAmerica.
54Minutes 10Seconds to "The Bells of Saint John"

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