I thought this Christmas episode was a bit more substantial than the previous Christmas episodes, most likely due to it being part of an ongoing story rather than the usual twee and glib nonsense that usually appears.
So it’s Victorian times and the Doctor is retired and generally stalks about Pondless and unhappy. He meets sassy barmaid Clara who catches his attention with the alien snowmen she encounters. She follows the Doctor to a park and sees him disappear up a ladder. This leads to an entertaining sequence involving a spiral staircase that takes her up to the Tardis sitting on a magic cloud.
Now that I have typed that it makes it sound a bit, well, naff. But it was a magical little sequence. Doesn’t make a blind bit of sense but something about it appealed to me.
In Clara’s other guise as a posh governess we discover a frozen pond that is of interest to Richard E Grant’s doctor Simeon, a man who hears the voice of Ian McKellen when he talks to a big snow-globe.
The Doctor investigates Simeon in the guise of Sherlock Holmes. Expect a Doctor Who in-joke in the next series of Sherlock when it returns in 2019 for a one episode run.
Silurian Madam Vastra and her chums reappear from series 6. There’s a nice scene between Vasra and Clara where Clara has to answer every question with one word.
And here’s the spoiler.
While helping Clara escape from an ice creature, the Doctor – too busy showing off his new Tardis control room (well, it is very nice) – gets distracted enough to forget the door is open and allows said ice creature to pull Clara off his magic cloud and plummet to her doom. I did spend a good chunk of the episode wondering if it was the shortest run of a companion ever.
Eventually the Doctor makes the connection between Clara and soufflé-making Oswin from Asylum of the Daleks. The same girl has died twice. Impossible? A coda shows us another modern day Clara. So there are multiple Clara’s trout time and space and the doctor has to solve the mystery and give his new companion her key to the Tardis.
My theory, which will be wrong, is that she’s like Julian Glover’s character in City of Death, shattered through time and trying to get back together. You know, the Tom Baker story set in Paris? Except Clara won’t be a green alien with just one eye. Probably.
And in another interesting development it seems that Simons big snow-globe is actually the Great Intelligence from ye olde Patrick Troughton Abominable Snowmen/Yeti days.
So overall an enjoyable way to spend an hour and watching the spiral staircase bit again on the iPlayer.