Recap: Doctor Who 2012 CS "The Snowmen"
Elementary, my dear potato...
"It will build an army of ice... and it will be the last day of humanity on this planet."
— The Doctor
Written by Steven Moffat, "The Snowmen" is the 2012 Doctor Who Christmas Episode
It's Christmas Eve 1892, and the falling snow is the stuff of fairy tales. When the fairy tale becomes a nightmare and snow turns out to have really sharp teeth this year, Madame Vastra, her wife Jenny Flint and their Sontaran friend Strax
(who has by now been revived) call on the Doctor for help. But the Doctor is in mourning, reclusive and determined not to engage in the problems of the universe. He's parked his TARDIS high above the clouds and refuses to get emotionally invested in Earth issues again.
Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax investigate the snow, knowing full well that the Doctor's mourning is just a phase and that they need just the right kind of trigger to get him going again. This trigger turns out to be a young barmaid-slash-governess called Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman
). Her employer's previous governess drowned rather nastily in the garden, and stayed frozen for days before anyone was able to thaw her out. This, as it turns out, enabled the sentient snow (actually a telepathic alien parasite, voiced by Sir Ian McKellen
) to get a blueprint of the human genome, and it's about to use that blueprint to take over the world. Helping the snow are brainwashed Victorian scientist Doctor Simeon (Richard E. Grant
, who has incidentally played the Doctor a couple of times
before) and his beautiful Steam Punk
When Clara mentions the word "pond" (as in what the governess died in), it sparks the Doctor into visiting Simeon's lab, pretending to be Sherlock Holmes
. He realises that the snowy menace might actually threaten to destroy the Earth. After rescuing Clara and the children from the now-revived and very icy ex-governess, he takes Clara up to his TARDIS, decides to start taking on companions again, hands her a TARDIS key — and watches in horror as she's captured by the ice and promptly falls several kilometres to her death. Strax manages to keep her alive, but just barely, and the Doctor rushes to confront Simeon a second time and destroy the sentient snow once and for all. However, when the Doctor uses the memory worm to wipe Simeon's mind and break the "link", the snow reveals it has already become its own entity, and animates Simeon's now empty body to try and kill the Doctor. But Clara, knowing that the parasite is telepathic and can be destroyed by a thought, spends her last moments wishing it to die. As it turns out, Clara's mind is able to destroy its immense power merely by thinking...
and the tears of the children she cared for make the snow melt once and for all.
At the funeral, the Doctor finally realises that Clara's familiar voice wasn't just a coincidence, and neither was her mentioning soufflés. Her name was Clara Oswin Oswald
. He also realizes that Simeon was working for something very familiar: the Great Intelligence
, who picked up a thing or two from this encounter about the strategic weaknesses of the London Underground, and will eventually go on to bother the Second Doctor with that knowledge.
- 10-Minute Retirement: It's been about four years (following the Paternosters' story so far) that the Doctor has been refusing to go adventuring, but since he's dragged back into the game fairly quickly, it's only for about ten actual minutes of his screen-time in the episode.
- Achilles in His Tent: The Doctor has a full-blown case of this for most of the episode.
- Action Girl:
- Well, maybe she doesn't do much more than toss a weird grenade thingy in this episode, but Jenny definitely looks the part, especially when she corners Simeon in the alleyway.
- And Clara managed to run fast enough to jump onto a moving carriage and climb onto its roof. In a barmaid's outfit. Likely one that included a corset. Yakima Canutt, eat your heart out.
- Vastra is seen be-sworded once again, but she doesn't really get much of a chance to demonstrate her skills this time around.
- Actually Pretty Funny: When Clara catches Vastra in her "Truth is singular, lies are words, words, words" argument by highlighting how much she rambles about how the Doctor is not kind, it cuts to Jenny stifling a giggle.
- All Love Is Unrequited: Captain Latimer is clearly nursing something of a crush on Clara, but she's politely not interested in him.
- And the Adventure Continues: The episode ends with the Doctor racing off in the TARDIS, his sense of wonder and adventure restored, to find out what the deal is with Clara, er, Oswin, er Clara Oswin.
- Animate Body Parts / Organ Autonomy: Played for Laughs, as the Doctor's right hand still seems to have a mind of its own at times; when the Doctor intends to communicate to Clara that he's definitely not coming into the house to meet her and is leaving, much to his frustration he accidentally signals that he'll be up there in five minutes. He also goofs around with a Mr Punch puppet and merrily pretends the puppet snogs him, then hits him. And he realises he's absent-mindedly put on his bow-tie without realizing it. Apparently, his own hands are just as eager as everyone else for him to snap out of his depression and get back to adventuring as normal.
- Possibly a Call Back to the Tenth Doctor, who had to replace his right hand when it was cut off soon after his regeneration.
- Antagonist Title: The episode is named after the Monster of the Week, the Snowmen. Also doubles as a Continuity Nod to "The Abominable Snowmen", the episode where the Great Intelligence debuted. And as Christmas Episode the same year The Snowman made a comeback.
- Arc Number: Clara's Arc Number is 23. (As in November 23, the anniversary of the series)
- Arc Words: Pond.
- From this ep onwards we have "impossible/not possible".
- "Run, you clever boy. And remember."
- Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?:
The Doctor: When you find something brand new in the world, something you've never seen before, what's the next thing you look for?
Strax: A grenade!
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Captain Latimer's response to discovering the Doctor and Clara together, the Doctor's innocent insistence that he's Clara's "gentleman friend" and they've been upstairs kissing, that Clara's a working-class girl and moonlights as a barmaid, that the house is surrounded by evil alien snowmen, that there's a lesbian Silurian detective, her wife and a Sontaran butler in his foyer, that his maid's fainted and there's a demonic ice-sculpture version of his children's former governess that's inexplicably talking like Mr Punch coming after them from the top of the stairs: "You have a gentleman friend?"
- Aside Comment: The Doctor's final line of "Watch me run" is delivered right into the camera.
- As You Know: With a lampshade hanging; after Simeon (rather creepily) summarises the story of Latimer's previous governess drowned in his pond and was frozen in there for for a month, Latimer archly points out that he remembers the incident, and that it was unpleasant enough to ensure that he's not exactly going to forget it for a while.
- The Atoner: Part of the reason the Doctor decides to save the day is out of guilt that Clara was attacked and mortally injured by the Ice Governess while she was under his care (and he was showing off for her).
- Awesomeness by Analysis:
- This is the episode in which a Sontaran manages this. The Doctor is openly impressed. Appropriately enough, it's a matter of military tactics, but his clues are entirely within the way the enemy approaches them.
- Clara does a pretty good job herself when she deduces not only what the Doctor's plan is, but that he actually wanted her along as well.
- Back from the Dead: Strax. He was Only Mostly Dead.
- Battle Butler: Strax is a more literal example of this trope than most.
- Been There, Shaped History: Arthur Conan Doyle was apparently inspired to create Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson by Madame Vastra and Jenny, except he left out the "Silurian" and "wife" bits. Despite what Simeon believes, he apparently kept the absurd amounts of Homoerotic Subtext going on, however. Doyle seems to have combined Jenny and Strax together to create Watson, adding Strax's military and medical background to the character.
- Big Damn Kiss: Between Clara and the Doctor. Oh, and the Doctor snogs a Punch puppet (or, rather, the puppet snogs him, it seems).
- Bigger on the Inside:
- The TARDIS, obviously, but Clara subverts the usual statement of "Bigger on the inside" by instead stating "It's smaller on the outside".
- The Doctor also tells Clara that the spiral ladder is "taller on the inside", to explain how they were able to climb it to the cloud so fast.
- Bittersweet Ending: The Intelligence is dissipated and the Doctor finally snaps out of his funk thanks to the mystery of Clara's impossible existence, but the Intelligence will one day return to terrorise humanity in "The Abominable Snowmen" and "The Web of Fear", and this version of Clara died in the process.
- Bizarre Alien Sexes: Part of a Running Gag with Strax is his constant inability to tell male and female humans apart. The Doctor notes that at least he has a good reason, since because Sontarans now reproduce by cloning, all concept of gender for them went out the window quite a while ago.
- Blood Knight: Strax repeatedly tries to encourage the situation to turn violent. To give him his due, when it actually does turn violent (and through no fault of his own), he reacts to it very professionally and shows a lot of tactical knowledge.
- Book Ends: The previous episode ended with Amy and Rory looking at their own grave before being taken from the Doctor. This episode ends with Clara standing over a grave with her name on it, after another version of her dies as a result of his actions.
- Born in the Wrong Century: Jenny is mentally at least a century ahead of her time. She's coping well.
- Breath Weapon: The Snowmen attack by breathing frost at their victims.
- Brick Joke: Simeon comparing Vastra to Sherlock Holmes later pays off when he easily dismisses the Doctor's Holmes disguise due to reading the Holmes stories in the Strand magazine.
- British Accents: Clara has two. The first is the Received Pronunciation she uses in front of her employer. The other is her cockney "secret voice" that she only uses around the children.
- British Stuffiness: Captain Latimer can't open up to his children to give them the comfort they need, or admit that he finds his nanny attractive. It takes Clara's death to unwind him enough to give the children a hug.
- Bubbly Clouds: The Doctor has engineered some to park his TARDIS on.
- The Bus Came Back: The Great Intelligence was last seen way back in the Second Doctor serial "The Web of Fear". (Which takes place in its future.)
- Bystander Syndrome: The Doctor frequently says that the snowmen are not his problem, and does only the bare minimum for Clara at first.
- Call Back: A number of previous events are major plot points in the episode.
- Came Back Wrong: Invoked and Played for Laughs with Strax, when the Doctor comments that he isn't sure his brain "made the return trip".
- Canon Discontinuity: It is made very clear that Sherlock Holmes is an entirely fictional character in the Whoniverse, albeit possibly inspired by Madame Vastra. (The Doctor Who Expanded Universe previously had a different explanation in the Doctor Who New Adventures novel All-Consuming Fire.)
- Chekhov's Gun: The Memory Worm. Which becomes a Nice Job Breaking It, Hero when it's used to defeat Simeon, because it turned out the Snow had become powerful enough to not need his memories any more, and in fact allowed it to use his body as a human vessel.
- Christmas Episode: Christmas is only mentioned a few times, though.
- Comically Missing the Point:
- Continuity Nod: A number of minor background references to previous events are featured.
- Couch Gag: The Doctor Who logo has an ice texture in the intro.
- Crapsack World: The Doctor has come to see the universe as this, saying that the only thing he's learned from saving it over and over again is that "the universe doesn't care".
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Strax spends the teaser to this episode wanting to declare war on the (uninhabited) moon, bungles with a memory-wiping worm and can't tell girls apart from boys. On the other hand, he's still a Sontaran and instantly assesses a dangerous situation accurately.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Or "Ice Time Lord" in this case — the longer he spends around Clara, the more difficult the Doctor finds it is to maintain his cold demeanour and the more hollow and unconvincing his protestations that he's not getting involved start to sound.
- Delayed Reaction: When discussing the TARDIS, the Doctor remarks to Clara that it's "no more a box than you are a governess". Clara gets a head full of steam about this and angrily rants to him about how he's just like everyone else who underestimates and dismisses her — and gets so caught up in it that as she follows him into the TARDIS she fails to notice for a few moments that the interior dimensions don't match the exterior.
- Despair Event Horizon: Losing the Ponds has apparently pushed the Doctor over the edge into this; he's retreated from the universe and no longer cares about adventuring. Or possibly taking River to Darillium was the last straw.
- Development Gag: Clara's headstone in 1892 states that she was born on 23 November 1866 and that she died on 24 December 1892, meaning she not only shares the same birthday (though not the year) as Doctor Who itself but that she was also 26 years old when she died — the exact same age as Doctor Who was when it was cancelled in 1989.
- Discriminate and Switch: Inverted when Simeon taunts the green, reptilian Madame Vastra, remarking on that the public would never accept her as a renowned detective due to being a... woman.
- Disney Villain Death: How the Ice Governess kills herself. And Clara.
- The Dragon: Zigzagged all over the place. We're first led to believe Simeon is The Dragon to the evil Snow. It's then revealed that in fact the Snow was just echoing the thoughts of Simeon himself as a child, who was bitter because he didn't get on well with the other children. Once the Doctor wipes Simeon's memory, however (in theory breaking the link), it turns out the Snow has become powerful enough thanks to fifty years of bitterness and Victorian values to no longer need Simeon's thoughts, and in fact uses his freshly mind-wiped body as a vessel through which it can act — and nearly take out the Doctor — itself.
- Dramatic Irony: The Doctor never saw Oswin's human face in "Asylum of the Daleks", so unlike the audience he has (or at least seems to have) no idea of any connection at all between Oswin and Clara. Until Clara uses the same dying words as Oswin, and he sees her full name on her gravestone: Clara Oswin Oswald.
- Eating the Eye Candy: Clara makes no secret that she's enjoying watching the Doctor climb the ladder to his TARDIS before her.
- Emotion Eater: The snowmen feed on thoughts.
- The End of the World as We Know It: If the Doctor doesn't stop the snowmen, they'll kill every human on the planet.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys / When Trees Attack / Rule Of Threes
Strax: Suggest an attack with automatic laser-monkeys, scalpel mines, and acid!
- Everything's Better with Spinning: The new TARDIS interior is a gorgeous collection of circular patterns and Circular Gallifreyan. The top of the console properly spins, and there is a circle of flashing lights near the ceiling.
- Evil Gloating: Simeon is not entirely immune to this, dropping hints about his plans to Madame Vastra.
- Evil Sounds Deep: The Great Intelligence... at least until the Doctor strips away their disguise.
- Exact Words:
Simeon: I said I'd feed you. I didn't say who to.
- Expy: Sherlock Holmes, whose adventures were apparently based upon that of Vastra.
- Fainting / Screaming Woman: Alice, the maid.
- Failed a Spot Check: At the end, the modern-day Clara appears oblivious to the fact she's standing next to a tombstone with her name on it.
- Famous Last Words: Oswin's last words were "Run, you clever boy, and remember," and since he never saw her human face, the Doctor doesn't seem to make the full connection between Clara and Oswin until she says the same words. His attention is caught, however, by mention of soufflés, and he apparently recognised her voice at some point.
- Fanservice with a Smile / Lady in Red: Clara wears a very nice◊ red dress as a barmaid.
- Fantastic Racism: During the Eleventh Doctor's retirement in Victorian England, he displays a lot of this towards his Sontaran ally, insulting his race's looks and suggesting Sontarans are entirely stupid, directly to his face.
- Female Gaze: During the scene where Clara and the Doctor are climbing up the ladder to escape from the Ice Governess, Clara is staring at the Doctor's bum.
- Fisher King: A non-magical example. After the loss of Amy and Rory, the Doctor has remodelled the TARDIS interior with a darker colour scheme, the decoration has become more spartan and sterile and he's not bothering to turn on the lights. It has nothing to do with his depression, seriously!
- Foreshadowing: Clara can effectively fight the parasite simply by thinking hard. The reason why was finally revealed in the season finale.
- Freudian Slip: Clara's employer accidentally calls her "pretty".
- Funny Background Event: As the Doctor and Strax are arguing about the snow, we can see their stagecoach rocking back and forth and hear Clara's protests from inside.
- Glasses Pull: The Doctor takes off his reading glasses when Vastra tells him the secret word to convince him to go out adventuring again. It's "pond", by the way, and as has been noted, the glasses he's wearing are actually those that used to belong to Amy Pond.
- Guile Hero: Clara proves herself to be a match for the Doctor in this department when she convinces him not to erase her memories of the past hour.
- Have We Met Yet?:
- The Great Intelligence hasn't met the Doctor before. The Doctor has met it, though — the first time was when he was still the Second Doctor. And now we know why it was rather fixated on the London Underground. However, for reasons as yet unexplained, the Doctor appears to not explicitly remember his previous encounters, only that the name Great Intelligence is familiar. But then, it has been 9 lives since he last encountered it. In real life this is believed to be an in-joke relating to the fact the two stories in which the Great Intelligence was featured were lost at the time — and, thus, erased from the Doctor's memory.
- And as it turns out, Clara and Oswin are somehow the same person, but in different lifetimes.
- Hellbent For Leather: Jenny's skintight battle suit débuts, albeit briefly.
- He's Back: Summed up nicely with one line:
- Holding Hands: The cliché where the hero pulls the Damsel in Distress along by the hand while fleeing danger is spoofed when Clara ends up pulling along the Doctor, who complains that he's the one who's supposed to do it.
- Idiot Savant: Strax's stupidity in most situations is a matter of great exasperation for the Doctor and his friends (it's implied that his mind was damaged when he was resurrected), but when he's actually put into a military situation he instantly determines the enemy's intentions.
- I Do Not Drink Wine: Madame Vastra.
Madame Vastra: There are two refreshments in your world the colour of red wine. (sets glass of red liquid on side table) This... is not red wine.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Captain Latimer's first response when things start going wacky is to head for the drinks cabinet. The Doctor pours one too... then hands it to the Captain.
- Ironic Echo: Madame Vastra tells Clara to respond to her questions with one word, claiming that the truth is singular but lies are words upon words. When Clara responds to her question about why the Doctor would help her with the word "kindness", Vastra launches into a lengthy speech about how the Doctor is not kind, how he is a cold and distant God-figure way too far above humanity to be interested in their concerns. Clara's one-word response?
- Jumped at the Call: Clara positively forces her way into the plot, and has to drag the Doctor part of the way.
- Kiss-Kiss-Slap: The Doctor and his trusty new companion, the Punch hand puppet.
- Lame Comeback: The Doctor doesn't quite keep up with Strax's ribbing.
The Doctor: Oi! Shut up! You're not clever, or funny, and you've got tiny little legs!
- Lame Pun Reaction:
The Intelligence: You are not of this world.
The Doctor: Takes one to snow one. (he giggles; no-one else does)
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: The Doctor asks Strax to fetch a "memory worm" so they can wipe Clara's short-term memory, but after Strax handles the worm without proper protection (twice!), he forgets he was supposed to fetch it in the first place.
- Late-Arrival Spoiler: The episode's first trailer gives away the The Reveal near the end of "Asylum of the Daleks" in the first 20 seconds.
- Leitmotif: Having been hinted at in "Asylum of the Daleks", Clara's theme debuts properly here as she follows the Doctor into the clouds.
- Living a Double Life: Clara works as a barmaid under her real name and as a governess under the name "Miss Montague". Her reasons for doing so have not yet been revealed.
- Male Gaze: The camera lingers on Clara's ample cleavage◊ when she's changing in the carriage for her other job as Governess.
- Meaningful Echo: Strax first addresses Clara as "boy" when they first meet, and it's played for humour. He again refers to her as "boy" towards the end, but it's a lot more serious as he's trying to urge her to fight to stay alive.
- Meat Puppet: The Great Intelligence takes control of Dr. Simeon's body after the Doctor drains his memories.
- Meet Cute: Between the Doctor and Clara, early in the episode. Played for Drama a bit more than is usual. The Doctor feels conflicted, as he's enjoying her company and is tempted to start making friends again, but is worried that would only lead to him getting another companion into danger, something he greatly fears. He politely brushes off Clara's attempt at socialising and tries to force himself to stay a stoic loner by walking away. Doesn't really work, as Clara is so intrigued by him that she chases down his carriage in an effort to find out who he is.
- Missing Mom: The mother of Francesca and Digby.
- More Teeth than the Osmond Family: The snowmen have mouths full of pointy teeth.
- Motor Mouth: As fast as the Doctor can talk, Clara is faster. That rumour that Jenna-Louise Coleman got the job partly because she could out-motor Matt Smith was proven here, especially the scene on the roof.
- My Eyes Are Up Here: Played with when the Doctor and Clara are squabbling about who goes up the ladder first:
The Doctor: You first!
Clara: You first — I'm wearing a dress. Eyes front, soldier!
The Doctor: (beginning to climb the ladder) My eyes are always to the front!
Clara: (watching him climb the ladder) Mine aren't!
The Doctor: ...Stop it!
- Mythology Gag:
- Simeon is played by Richard E. Grant, who previously played an unofficial Ninth Doctor in Scream of the Shalka and the Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death.
- Clara's gravestone says she was born on November 23, the date "An Unearthly Child" aired in 1963. She also lived to age 26, the same age as classic Doctor Who when it was cancelled in 1989.
- The Doctor's main look is based on his second incarnation, but in this episode...
- He's dressed in a way — particularly with the ascot instead of bow-tie, and the added vest — that evokes his Eighth.
- His slightly mangled top hat is reminiscent of the hat the Second Doctor used to wear in his early episodes.
- His use of a hook-handled umbrella as a tool for lowering a ladder recalls The Seventh Doctor's use of an umbrella as an Improvised Weapon.
- The rebuilt Tardis more resembles the clean, machine-like appearance seen in the classic series as opposed to the whimsical hodge-podge used in the reboot.
- The Doctor's difficulty in remembering the Great Intelligence is a meta-example — the stories that the Great Intelligence appears in have been mostly wiped from the archives. Of course he can't remember them. Ironically, one subplot of the season involves the Doctor erasing himself from history. Ironically, within a year of the episode's broadcast, one of the Great Intelligence stories ("The Web of Fear") would end up being recovered except for one episode.
- Nice Hat: The Doctor wears a top hat now. Top hats are cool.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
- A Timey-Wimey Ball example; when the Doctor confronts the Intelligence, he mentions the London Underground in 1967 and how it's a "strategic weakness in metropolitan living". By the end of the episode, it's revealed that the Intelligence will go on to become the Great Intelligence, which confronted the Second Doctor twice — and the second time, it used the London Underground in 1967 as a launchpad for its invasion. The clear implication is that it got the idea from the Eleventh Doctor. Lampshaded by Vastra and Jenny at the end, when they gently (but sarcastically) rebuke the Doctor about this very problem.
- The Doctor using the memory worm on Dr Simeon to remove his memories in an attempt to depower the Snow just empties his mind for the Snow to move in and take over, creating the Great Intelligence.
- No, Except Yes: The Doctor manages to move the solid cloud holding the Tardis above the Latimer house. When Clara asks if he can control clouds, he claims that's impossible. "The wind, a bit."
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Note how, having completely mangled his deductions of Simeon and his assistant while posing as "Sherlock Holmes", the Doctor then goes on to instantly peg what the sinister snow-globe machine in Simeon's office is all about and why he's interested in the frozen pond at Captain Latimer's house.
- Official Couple: Having merely had buckets of Homoerotic Subtext in their first appearance, Vastra and Jenny now openly proclaim that they're married.
- One Head Taller: The height difference between the Doctor and Clara is actually important because the Doctor wouldn't need an umbrella to reach his invisible ladder to the TARDIS, whereas she would, so the fact that he brought it with him lets Clara know that he wanted her to come.
- The Oner: When the Doctor takes Clara into the TARDIS, the camera follows them across the cloud, through the doors and into the console room in a single unbroken take. It is the first time in the show's history that this kind of shot has been done going from outside to inside the TARDIS.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: An in-universe example. When the Ice Governess bursts in and terrorises Clara and the children, Clara reverts back to her real accent:
Clara: Bleedin' 'ell!
Digby: You're doing your other voice!
Clara: Yes, luv, didja notice?
- Plucky Comic Relief:
- Clara walks the line a bit too.
- Permission to Speak Freely: Parodied.
Strax: Sir, permission to express my opposition to your current apathy.
The Doctor: Permission granted.
Strax: Sir, I am opposed to your current apathy.
- Rebuilt Set: The Doctor has changed the TARDIS to a new "desktop theme" following the end of "The Angels Take Manhattan".
- Recurring Character: Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint and Strax from "A Good Man Goes to War" return in this episode. Although not identified on screen in the episode itself, a prequel to "The Snowmen" reveals Jenny's last name; Flint.
- Retcon: Of the Doctor Who Expanded Universe, which revealed the Great Intelligence to be an Eldritch Abomination from the universe before this one, and part of the Lovecraftian pantheon. Here, it's what happened when a Victorian scientist merged with a horde of mimetic-but-unintelligent alien snow.
- The Reveal: The audience is immediately aware of the suspicious resemblance between Oswin and Clara, but the Doctor is not. He appears to make some connections through the episode (her voice and her love of soufflés), but he doesn't seem to completely put it together until Clara says the same Famous Last Words and her gravestone reveals her full name is Clara Oswin Oswald.
- Running Gag:
- Strax still can't tell the difference between male and female humans.
- He's also rather fond of grenades.
- Safety In Indifference: The Doctor at the start of the episode has decided that after losing the Ponds he is no longer willing to commit himself to helping Earth and humans — it hurts too much to emotionally invest himself in his companions (and therefore humanity as a whole), only to have them die or leave. Clara breaks him out of it.
- Sarcastic Confession: Vastra tells the Captain's maid the utter truth so the woman will just run away on the spot.
Vastra: Good evening. I'm a lizard woman from the dawn of time, and this is my wife.
- Say My Name: An unusual example because the person saying it doesn't realize the meaning to the Doctor. Specifically, the Doctor is playing Achilles in His Tent and has refused to help the Earth. Clara must convince the Doctor to bust out of it, tell him about the danger, where it is and why he should help with only one word. Which one does she use? "Pond."
- Scenery Porn:
- The dimensionally transcendental staircase leading up to the TARDIS' home in the clouds.
- There are also some great, lingering shots of the new TARDIS control room.
- The Scrooge: The Doctor wants nothing more to do with fun and adventures after being parted from Amy and Rory at the end of "The Angels Take Manhattan". It could also be interpreted as a combined hit from every loss he's suffered to date: Amy and Rory hitting hardest because by that point it's clear that he really truly tried his hardest to ensure their safety.
- Sherlock Scan:
- The Doctor tries this when he's masquerading as Sherlock Holmes. He's not very good at it:
The Doctor: Now, shut up. I see from your collar stub that you have an apple tree and a wife with a limp. Am I right?
The Doctor: Do you have a wife?
The Doctor: Bit of a tree? Bit of a wife? Some apples? C'mon, work with me here.
- Interesting, considering how he was able to dissect Kazran's dysfunctional relationship with his father two Christmas specials ago. Justified by the fact he wasn't interested in the two men, he wanted to know about the big globe with power leads in it, with snow blowing around like crazy, knowing full well it was an alien device. When he's making deductions about this and the Snow, he's a lot more on the ball.
- Skewed Priorities: The Captain is more concerned that the Doctor is a possible love interest for Clara than the impending attack on his house. Or the obvious non-humans (who just prompted one of his servants to scream and faint).
- Slasher Smile: The snowmen make big toothy grins right before they try to eat someone.
- Snowlems: Of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster variety.
- Socially-Awkward Hero: As is typical by this point, the Doctor responds to Clara's flirting and kissing him in the second half of the episode in the manner of a bashful ten-year-old.
- Solid Clouds: Justified. The Doctor and Clara can stand on the Doctor's cloud because it's specially made of "super-dense water vapor".
- Some Kind of Force Field: The Force Field created by Jenny is invisible but glows red whenever the Ice Governess slams into it.
- Stairway to Heaven: Invoked with the Doctor's gorgeous spiral staircase.
- Staying Alive: The Doctor's curiosity is reignited by the realisation that Clara has some form of this going on.
- Subverted Catchphrase: When Clara first sees the inside of the TARDIS, the Doctor gleefully waits for her to say it's Bigger on the Inside...
Clara: It's smaller on the outside!
- Suggestive Collision: Clara gets her bustle caught while climbing out the window, gets yanked out by the Doctor and ends up falling on top of him. His immediate suggestion that she takes off her clothes in no way helps lower the UST.
- Take Off Your Clothes: The Doctor tells Clara this after her dress gets her stuck at an inopportune moment, and quickly clarifies that he doesn't mean it like that.
- Tempting Fate: The Doctor is adamant that Clara will never be able to find him again, so of course...
How refreshing to see you taking an interest again. Was she nice? The Doctor:
I just spoke to her. Madame Vastra:
And made your usual impact, no doubt. The Doctor:
No, no impact at all. Those days are over. Madame Vastra:
You can't help yourself! It's the same story every time, and it always begins with the same two words. The Doctor:
) She'll never be able to find me again! She doesn't even have the name "Doctor"! What two words? Clara:
(dropping through the roof of the carriage
) Doctor? Doctor who?
- Theme Music Power-Up: When the Doctor shows Clara the TARDIS for the first time, his Leitmotif fires up, representing the beginning of his return to his usual adventuring self.
- Title Drop: "Doctor who?" is asked on 4 separate occasions this episode. Could be a record.
- Too Dumb to Live: Clara dies because she and the Doctor get distracted and leave the TARDIS doors open while they're being chased by a monster.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: The Doctor in the beginning of the episode fully intends to erase (an hour of) Clara's memory rather than let her drag him into an adventure, only changing his mind when she points out she won't know what to do if she gets attacked by the snowmen again if he does. Compared to his normal attitude about memories, this is a very big change. In general, the Doctor is a lot more bitter, waspish and cold in this episode, although he snaps out of it by the end.
- Torture First, Ask Questions Later:
Strax: I suggest we melt his brain using projectile acid vision, then interrogate him. (Vastra and Jenny stare at him, prompting him to reconsider) Other way round.
- To Serve Man: The monstrous snowmen like to eat people.
- Tragic Keepsake: The Doctor wears Amelia's reading glasses while he's in mourning. As he gets into the case, he takes them off.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension:
- One-sided between Clara and her employer.
- And of course between Clara and the Doctor — whether that is one-sided is open to your interpretation.
- Wham Line: Vastra... and oh, boy, is it a doozy. "Hello, I'm a lizard woman from the dawn of time. And this is my wife." Cue screaming maid.
- When He Smiles: Since this is the first episode where the Doctor starts off looking miserable and spends a lot of time in that state, it's really noticeable when his goofy, child-like grin makes a reappearance.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Simeon was an orphan who spent 50 years filling up the Snow with all his loneliness and eventual resentment for the rest of the world. He's still treated in a fairly unsympathetic fashion, however, and even as a young boy doesn't seem to have liked other people or wanted to be around them that much.
- You Can't Fight Fate: The Doctor discusses this with Vastra when he believes Clara and Oswin are one and the same: since he already saw Clara's future in "Asylum of the Daleks", it is literally impossible for her to die now. Clara Oswin Oswald turns out to be something else entirely.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Dr Simeon kills all his employees after they collect the snow for him.
- Just You And Me And My Guards: Dr Simeon quietly rings for his men while the Doctor is rambling on. Being Genre Savvy, the Doctor does an Offhand Backhand locking of the door with his sonic screwdriver. By the time they get the door open, the Doctor has done a Stealth Hi/Bye.