It’s that time of year again for the Doctor Who Christmas special. After much anticipation, the Doctor’s new companion is revealed in a snowy tale from long ago. But still, the question remains: Who is Clara?
When a relationship between a boy and his snowman turns into an attempt to take over the Earth, the Doctor, who has now spent a long time in the shadows, is coaxed into saving the world by a mysterious woman, Clara, who bears a striking resemblance to someone from the Time Lord’s past. But as Clara’s curiosity continues to draw her toward the Doctor, taking her on a grand holiday adventure, it’s the Doctor’s curiosity which is piqued, and the legend of the “Girl Who Twice Died” is born.
In this year’s Christmas special, a holiday-oriented story is traded in for a fantastical and compelling adventure into the legend that is the Doctor, sending both audiences and Clara into the depths of what it means to be a friend of the universe’s protector. Furthermore, the special breathes new life into one of television’s greatest series while putting a twist on the familiar companion introduction and building anticipation for the tales that lie ahead.
The actual title of the episode, “The Snowmen,” is somewhat used as a veil to hide the true focus of this year’s story, Clara Oswin Oswald: The Girl Who Twice Died. While the actual story of the Snowmen is interesting enough, and Ian McClellan does an admirable job playing the part of an enemy who never really felt all that imposing, watching Clara delve into the Doctor’s world turned out to be one of the most successful introductions of a companion in the history of the series. Even without the inclusion of a timey-wimey twist in the character’s tale, watching someone new seek out the Doctor’s help (and companionship) has never been so enjoyable.
As the story of the Snowmen unfolds, largely only returning to the forefront when it’s absolutely required to progress the plot, Clara’s journey with the Doctor begins by leading her up an invisible staircase, high above the city, to the Doctor’s TARDIS. The next step in Clara’s journey finds her abilities as a potential companion put to the test, as a long, beautifully written scene of single-word responses to questions asked by the Doctor’s friends once again reveals Steven Moffat’s masterful ability to make the simplest, smallest things extraordinary. Although Clara’s use of the word “pond” never really made sense during her “test,” the Doctor’s response to hearing it was entertaining enough to simply ignore its non-connection.
When Clara first made her appearance in the Doctor Who season 7 premiere, “Asylum of the Daleks,” it was difficult to judge her as a character, thanks to her completely inclusive storyline. Without having any other character to physically play off of, audience’s first impressions of “Clara” were based on what could be considered a radio play between her and the Doctor. But now that “Clara” still exists, an explanation of sorts was always going to be necessary. Fortunately, in true Moffat fashion, one was provided.
The Girl Who Twice Died, as Clara Oswin Oswald is now known, does not exist in a single timeline. Oswin Oswald is dead. Clara Oswin Oswald is dead. Yet, no matter how many times it happens, she still “pops up.” The mystery surrounding the new companion is that we’ve yet to truly meet the new companion, just an ancestor and descendant. However, whether or not that element will be played out is not yet to be revealed, but if the legend of The Girl Who Twice Died even slightly touches upon the potential that this type of story arc can bring to the series, the Doctor will undoubtedly have some thoroughly enjoyable adventures with his new traveler – no matter “when” it happens.
When Amy and Rory left the series, fans of Doctor Who had to prepare themselves for an introduction to a new character who will instantly become the second most important person on the long-running series. Even though this has happened numerous times over, it always takes a bit of adjusting (and perhaps complaining) before companions are widely accepted by the show’s viewers. Fortunately, and to the credit of Moffat, this holiday adventure with Clara helped to breathe new life into both the Doctor and the series at the same time.
Every so often, a new companion must be introduced to the Doctor, to the world in which he exists and the rules that he follows. And even though everyone watching already knows these rules, watching someone new be introduced to Earth’s protector, the Doctor, allows the series to flex its muscle and show its viewers – along with the companion – just how powerful and awe-inspiring one man and one show can be. This year’s Doctor Who Christmas special, “The Snowmen”, does just that – beautifully.
Doctor Who season 7 returns April 2013 on BBC and BBC America