This sullen, withdrawn, fatigued Doctor is not the same man who cheerfully battled Daleks and rode a triceratops like a pony. This Doctor is grieving. This Doctor is pain, and he cannot heal himself. He is a man in crisis. He is a man in hiding. Since when does the Doctor hide?
The morose shift in personality is due to the loss of Amy — and Rory, but… Amy — in the last story, when the Weeping Angels sent them into the past to live themselves to death. Now the Doctor has given in to his pain and doesn’t want to want watch any more companions die — by violence or by simply outliving them. He hates endings. He’s literally hiding from his past in London’s past while nursing two broken hearts.
In 1842, a small boy builds a snowman, which begins talking to him, promising to “help” him. Fifty years later, the boy has grown into Walter Simeon (Richard E. Grant), who still has a yen for snowmen, but has traded up for a giant snow globe in his lab at his Simeon Institute. The voice of his childhood snowman issues from the globe. Meanwhile, outside the Rose & Crown inn, barmaid Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) is puzzled by the sudden appearance of a snowman where none was before. She asks the passing Doctor (Matt Smith) if he built it, but he denies it. As he leaves, Clara follows, jumping aboard his coach. Inside, Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh) urges him to return to adventuring, but he insists the “Doctor” is retired. Suddenly Clara sticks her head inside and asks. “Doctor Who?”
The Doctor decides to erase Clara’s memories of him with a Memory Worm, but Strax (Dan Starkey) repeatedly (and comically) mishandles the creature, so the Doctor gives up. Clara asks about the snowman just as an army of them form. The Doctor realizes the snow is sentient and reflecting Clara’s thoughts, so he orders her to imagine the snowmen melting — and they do. Clara, tails the Doctor to a park, where she sees him pull a ladder out of thin air and climb it. She mimics his actions and clambers onto an invisible staircase leading to the TARDIS, camouflaged on a moving cloud platform. She flees before the Doctor catches her.
The next day, Clara reports for her other job, as governess for the Latimer family, which is still devastated by the drowning death of their old governess in their pond. Dr. Simeon arrives and shows unnatural interest in the pond, piquing Clara’s curiosity. She tries to contact the Doctor, but Jenny (Catrin Stewart) takes her to Vastra, who agrees to convey a one-word message to the Doctor. The word Clara picks is “Pond” — which gets the Doctor’s attention.
A disguised Doctor goes to the Simeon Institute pretending to be Sherlock Holmes. He examines the giant globe and notices a newspaper story about the drowned governess. He goes to the Latimer home and examines the pond. Clara is telling a bedtime story to the children when they are attacked by a reconstituted version of the dead nanny made entirely of ice. Clara protects the children until the Doctor shatters the Ice Governess (voice of Juliet Cadzow) with his sonic. When the monster begins to reassemble, they flee. Meanwhile, Simeon arrives with a device that starts an alien snowstorm. Simeon demands he be given the Ice Governess, and the Doctor realizes Simeon intends to use her as a template to build a frozen army to conquer the world. The Doctor and Clara flee to the roof, pursued by the Ice Governess. There, the Doctor pulls down the hidden ladder and the pair climb to the TARDIS. Suddenly, Clara is seized by the Ice Governess, and they both fall to Earth. The Ice Governess is shattered and Clara is critically injured.
The Doctor asks the dying Clara to travel with him, and she agrees. He then confronts Simeon with a box he claims contains the governess’ remains, and then he travels to the Institute in the TARDIS. There, he tells Simeon the globe is a dark reflection of him, and after pouring 50 years of hate and disappointment into the empathic snow, it became sentient. Simeon grabs the Doctor’s box, but it contains the Memory Worm, which erases Simeon’s entire adult life.
The entity in the globe declares it no longer needs Simeon, and seizes control of Simeon’s body to attack. Suddenly, the snow in globe turns to rain; the entity is defeated as Simeon dies. The Doctor explains that the empathic snow at the Latimer house absorbed the grief of the Latimer family as they watched Clara dying. The Doctor rushes back to hear Clara’s last words: “Run, you clever boy, and remember.”
At Clara’s funeral, a business card from the Institute that reveals the identity as the Great Intelligence — but the Doctor cannot remember why the name is familiar. When the Doctor sees “Clara Oswin Oswald” carved on her gravestone, he makes the connection to the “Oswin Oswald” he spoke to (but never saw) on the Dalek prison planet. He fires up the TARDIS, determined to track her down. Then, a century later, a woman who is a dead ringer for Clara strolls near Clara Oswin Oswald’s grave.
This story shakes up the DW template a little, giving us a Doctor who manages to (mostly) resist a mystery. The sullen withdrawn Doctor is a far cry from the 11th incarnation’s usual happy-go-lucky, what-could-go-wrong attitude. It is especially puzzling to see the Doctor pass on a mystery connected to a pretty girl. It was funny to watch Vastra, Jenny and Strax try to revive the Doctor’s thirst for adventure — or even just plain old curiosity. They practically had to drag him out into the field.
Given the Doctor’s inability to recognize the Great Intelligence, it might be forgivable that he hides the Memory Worm in a box depicting the London Underground circa 1967 and telling the GI that it represents “a key strategic weakness in metropolitan living.” It appears that he gave the Great Intelligence the idea to exploit London’s transportation tunnels in the late 1960s! Ooops. Oh, well, at least we know he’ll beat the GI.
This story returns to one of show-runner Steven Moffat‘s favorite tropes: the Doctor and another character interact “out of order” — or before they had even met. In the case, the Great Intelligence was just starting on a path to evil and hadn’t yet met the Second Doctor, but their epic struggles are in the dim and distant past for the 11th.
- Why can’t the Doctor recall battling the Great Intelligence twice before? His second incarnation defeated the hive mind in “The Abominable Snowmen” and “The Web of Fear.”
- What precisely happens to the Great Intelligence at the end of this story?
- Clara says the TARDIS is “smaller on the outside” — which, the Doctor notes, is a first — and asks if it has a kitchen in which she can make soufflés.
- There is no explanation for the new console room, and the Doctor doesn’t react to it; it’s like he’s seen it before.
- Simeon isn’t fooled by the Doctor pretending to be a fictional character; rather, he suggests Arthur Conan Doyle based Sherlock Holmes on Madam Vastra.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK (possibly of 2012):
“I promised to feed you. I didn’t say who to.” — Dr. Simeon, eliminating the human helpers who know too much