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A Few Notes on "The Snowmen"

By November 19, 2012

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He does look grumpy, doesn't he? Matt Smith in

He does look grumpy, doesn't he? Matt Smith in "The Snowmen."


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Back in 2010, The Doctor was merrily goading a damaged, Scrooge-esque character (played by Michael Gambon) into finding something positive within himself in the face of a broken love. This year, the tables are turned, and the Doctor's the one in pain.

Season 7 was structured so that the Christmas special, slated to air Dec. 25 on both BBC One and BBC America, would take place in the wake of the loss of Amy and Rory. In some years the Christmas special is not particularly relevant to the overall arc of the series or its title character. But it's clear that "The Snowmen," dealing with Eleven's darkness and his struggle to accept a new companion, may well be as vital to continuity as the Tenth-Doctor-introducing, Harriet-Jones-moral-event-horizoning first Christmas special, "The Christmas Invasion."

Head writer Steven Moffat, who took longer than he'd planned to write the story (leading to a shuffling of the production schedule), called attention to the altered landscape this year. "The Doctor at Christmas is one of my favorite things—but this year it's different," he mused. "He's lost Amy and Rory to the Weeping Angels, and he's not in a good place: in fact, he's Scrooge. He's withdrawn from the world and no longer cares what happens to it. So when all of humanity hangs in the balance, can anyone persuade a tired and heartbroken Doctor that it's time to return to the good fight. Enter Jenna-Louise Coleman..."

Other aspects of the production emphasize that Eleven is turning a corner after having spent all his tenure so far with the Ponds, including a makeover (and a new monster) as well as the new companion.

Star Matt Smith, meanwhile, used his publicity quote to draw out the special's highlights. "For this year's Christmas special we have the wonderfully villainous Richard E. Grant as Doctor Simeon," he said, "as well as lizards, Victorian assassins and deranged warriors from the future, who all return to convince the Doctor that he should board the TARDIS again and save the world." He added: "I hope everyone enjoys it!"

I hope we enjoy it too. A storyline like this, of course, cuts a fine edge: there's considerable risk it will come off too big if the universe is begging the Doctor to go on and not be so sad. Moffat has played the melodrama of the Doctor's godlike function in the universe both ways, so we'll have to trust that the story won't be so heavy-handed.

In this connection the resonance of having Richard E. Grant on hand is intriguing. Grant, after all, actually played a rather damaged version of the Doctor himself in the animated BBCi drama "Scream of the Shalka" (as well as one of the revolving-door Doctors in "Curse of the Fatal Death"). Perhaps his presence might have provided some tacit influence on the tone of the story; at any rate I'll take it as a good omen.

Looking beyond the Christmas special, it's been confirmed that the bottom half of season 7, to air in the spring, will feature both Cybermen and another episode by Neil Gaiman, who won a Hugo for "The Doctor's Wife."
Tags: Doctor Who, The Snowmen, 2012 Christmas Special
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