Christmas Day brought about the start of a new era on Doctor Who, as the Doctor himself reminded us while we met the woman destined to be his new companion along with the revamped TARDIS and title sequence. It might have felt a little abrupt to wipe the slate clean that way after the fall of the Ponds, but instead it felt more like turning over a new leaf, a reminder that change is constant when you’re a Time Lord, and each change is the start of the next great adventure, rather than something to be mourned.
This episode was a somewhat dark and dreamy entry into the Doctor Who canon, which seemed appropriate given the Doctor’s low spirits. A wintery glumness hung over the scenery, with a thread of hope that grew over the course of the episode; it was a well-balanced glimpse into the Doctor’s depression that still kept his overall story moving. One of the most visually spectacular moments was, of course, when Clara climbed the spiral staircase up into the clouds to find the TARDIS, taking us up into a skies high above Victorian London and giving up a sweeping view of the world, but even that managed to carry a tinge of darkness. The somewhat darker, sharper mood managed not to be excessively sentimental, though, just stark and appropriate.
After his losses, the Doctor wants to go into hiding and nurse his wounds, and he’s developed a sense of resentment after confronting his often solitary role in life as saviour to the universe, accompanied by people who inevitably die or move on. He is a man with friends across the known boundaries of space and time, yet he’s frequently left feeling terminally alone, isolated as the last of his kind and traveling aimlessly in search of some larger meaning in his life. Along the way, he encounters any number of interesting things that often tie together in unexpected ways, in a story with narrative groundwork that can be surprisingly well-laid; ‘The Snowmen’ hinted at some of the possibilities that may lie ahead this season.
Let’s start with Clara Oswin Oswald, who appears to be a bundle of riddles wrapped up in a mystery inside an enigma. Who is she? How does she end up where she does? And how on Earth does she keep coming back to life after rather fantastically and obviously dying? The Doctor has a mission now in the form of tracking her down and learning her story, something we know is going to happen because Jenna-Louise Coleman has been clearly identified as his next Companion (oh, to have someone other than a pretty white girl for a Companion!). But what is he going to find when he gets there, and will he be ready for it?
Clara is clearly no ordinary human, if she is human at all, and she has the sharp wit and tongue to not just keep up with the doctor, but run circles around him if she feels so inclined. This woman of many identities is clearly highly adaptable and prepared for anything she encounters and reminds me a great deal of River Song at her peak. That was brought home in ‘Asylum of the Daleks,’ which sadly ended with the usual Moffat woman-hating twist, in that particular instance in the form of viewers confronting the fact that she’s actually a Dalek in denial about the loss of her humanity. That version of Clara sacrificed herself to save the Doctor and his friends, but not before making it clear that she had a fondness for souffles.
Because naturally women do so love baking things; Clara told us as much again when she went into the TARDIS and immediately asked about the kitchen facilities, which are of course the first thing one would want to know about when encountering a spaceship that’s significantly bigger on the inside than one might expect.
If I sound perhaps a tad jaded, it is because I refuse to get my hopes up about Clara as a character and Companion, as I’ve been many times burned by Moffat and have no intention of showing vulnerable pink flesh again any time in the near future. She’s a character with tremendous potential, and about the only thing I can count on Moffat to do is destroy her; I expect we’ll see yet another iteration of Moffat’s obsession with mothers within short order, and we’ve already been subjected to the reminder that the Doctor is apparently so magically mesmerising that he draws women like flies to honey. What more could lie in wait for poor Clara in service of the Doctor’s character development?
A few other intriguing threads were laid here; we got to see Vastra and Jenny happily married, and I hope we’ll be seeing more of them in the future even though it looks like the Doctor is on his way to finding a companion. And I suspect we’ll be seeing more of the Great Intelligence, unless that Easter Egg was actually a red herring. Several things seem to be coming together very rapidly this season, and they could spin into something quite intriguing; yet, I fear a repeat of the ruining of River Song and the destruction of perfectly interesting characters and storylines. If there’s one thing I can count on Moffat to do, it’s to spoil a perfectly good thing.