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Recap / Doctor Who 2012 CS "The Snowmen"

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"Talking snow... I love new things."

"It will build an army of ice... and it will be the last day of humanity on this planet."
The Doctor

The one with the impossible girl and the voice of Gandalf as a snowglobe.

As well as the face of the Tenth Doctor from another universe and the Ninth Doctor from yet another universe.

Written by Steven Moffat. 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 for the Ponds, 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. Also, he changed the desktop of his TARDIS from whimsical wonderland to Spartan and sterile. Guess he put away his childish things. And learned his lesson about having glass floors.

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 named Clara (Jenna 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, powered by the energy of the young daughter's resulting nightmares about the governess, 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 Steampunk lab.

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 dragged out by the ice-governess and promptly falls several hundred feet 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: The Doctor has been refusing to go adventuring for sometime, but since he's dragged back into the game fairly quickly, it's only for about ten actual minutes of his screentime in the episode.
  • Absurdly Long Stairway: The Doctor parks the TARDIS in the clouds and uses a spiral staircase to get up to it. The staircase is taller on the inside.
  • Accent Relapse: 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, did'ja notice?
  • Achilles in His Tent: The Doctor hangs out on his cloud above the Earth because he's through helping. Clara drags him out of his "tent".
  • Action Girl:
    • Jenny definitely looks the part when she corners Simeon in the alleyway, and when she throws a grenade at the ice governess to trap her.
    • Clara ran fast enough to jump onto a moving carriage and climb onto its roof, and she did it in a barmaid's outfit that likely included a corset.
    • Vastra is seen be-sworded once again, and strikes against the Big Bad himself.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Matt Smith previously auditioned for the part of Watson in Sherlock, so when the Doctor tries to make deductions as "Sherlock Holmes", he's absolutely rubbish at it.
      Doctor: Now, shut up. Don't tell me. I see from your collar, sir, you have an apple tree and a wife with a limp. Am I right?
      Simeon: No.
      Doctor: But you have a wife?
      Simeon: No.
      Doctor: Bit of tree? Bit of a wife? ...Some apples?
    • The Sherlock Holmes allusions could also doubles as one for Steven Moffat, as the co-creator of Sherlock.
    • Richard E. Grant, who plays Dr. Simeon, previously played the Doctor in Scream of the Shalka. Had the 2005 series revival not happened, he would have been the official Ninth Doctor. He also played the Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, written by Steven Moffat. The Shalka Doctor was described as "Sherlock Holmes as the Doctor", making the various Holmes references another allusion.
  • 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, the camera cuts to Jenny stifling a giggle.
  • Age Cut: From Simeon as a child, to his adult version played by Richard Grant.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Captain Latimer is clearly nursing something of a crush on Clara, but she's politely not interested in him. (Or so she lets on; later, it's made clear she did have designs on him until a certain Time Lord dropped into her life.)
  • Anachronism Stew: Clara uses the phrase "invisible". Although the word was not unknown at the time, nor the concept of ethereal beings that can be seen through, Clara uses the modern context of the word as popularized by H.G. Wells, but his The Invisible Man wasn't published until several years later. This is a likely clue as to Clara's modern-day connection.
  • 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 and Oswin.
  • 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 story in which the Great Intelligence first appeared. And as the 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. It's appropriate for both this episode and this series.
    • From this eppisode onwards we have "impossible/not possible".
    • "Run, you clever boy. And remember."
    • Although not used exactly yet, the idea that the Doctor feels he has a "duty of care" is first introduced.
  • 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!
  • Aside Comment: The Doctor's final line of "Watch me run" is delivered right into the camera.
  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas: The Doctor versus murderous Snowlems on Christmas Eve.
  • As You Know: With a lampshade hanging; after Simeon 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 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 too busy showing off for her to notice the Ice Governess sneaking up on them.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis:
    • The Doctor is openly impressed with Strax's situational analysis. 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 wanted her along as well.
  • Back from the Dead: Turns out, Strax was Only Mostly Dead at Demons Run.
  • Battle Butler: Strax is a more literal example of this trope than most. He will threaten you with obliteration and then offer to hang up your coat for you.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Clara is pulled from the Doctor's TARDIS!Cloud and falls thousands of feet to the ground with a very loud impact being heard. Yet other than being dead (though she is temporarily revived by Strax), Clara doesn't have a visible mark on her, not even a speck of blood.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Arthur Conan Doyle was 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 kept the absurd amounts of Homoerotic Subtext going on. Also, Doyle combined Jenny and Strax together to create Watson, adding Strax's military and medical background to the character.
  • Big Bad: At one point, Doctor Simeon appears to be this, until his defeat allows the Intelligence to take over and become the Final Boss.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Between Clara and the Doctor during their bicker/flirt. Oh, and the Doctor snogs a Punch puppet (or, rather, the puppet snogs him). For those keeping score with later episodes, this stands as the only time any version of Clara is shown kissing any Doctor in this manner on screen. The original Clara is more prone to cheek kissing.
  • Bigger on the Inside:
    • The TARDIS, obviously, but Clara avoids 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.
    • invokedIt's normally redundant to mention that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside. But this episode is the first to show the outside of the TARDIS, the door open, and then have the camera pan inside in one continuous shot. You get to actually see what someone walking into the TARDIS would actually see. Prior to this, the transition from the outside of the TARDIS to the inside was done with a Jump Cut due to the inside being a separate set.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Intelligence is dissipated and the Doctor finally snaps out of his funk thanks to the mystery of Clara's impossible existence, and the captain has finally opened up enough to connect with his children, 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, because Sontarans 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 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. (In this case, however, Clara appears to not notice what's written on the tombstone.)
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Jenny is mentally at least a century ahead of her time. She's coping well.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The Doctor delivers the line "watch me run" directly to the audience. Oswin Oswald's look at the camera from "Asylum of the Daleks" is also replayed.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.)
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: In a heroic example, the Doctor doesn't remember where he's heard of the Great Intelligence before, having not encountered it since his second incarnation.
  • 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.
  • Call-Forward: The episode turns out to be a prequel to the decades-old "The Abominable Snowmen" and "The Web of Fear", showing how the villainous Great Intelligence was born. It turns out that an offhand comment from the Doctor gave the Intelligence the idea to set up shop in the London Underground in the latter serial.
  • 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".
  • The Cameo: A bit of an unusual example, but it makes sense given the context of the story arc: Jenna Coleman appears briefly in the final scene as a modern-day Clara Oswald.
  • 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 is introduced as the Doctor's way of keeping his presence in Victorian London a secret. One touch erases the last hour of memory; one bite will erase the last several decades. He later uses it against Simeon.
  • Cherubic Choir: Accompanies the first full performance of Clara's leitmotif. Appropriately for the trope, it is part of a dream-like sequence.
  • Chick Magnet: The Doctor, according to Vastra, no matter how grumpy he tries to be. Just a brief conversation is enough to send Clara running after his carriage to find out more about this intriguing handsome stranger.
    Vastra: How refreshing to see you taking an interest again. Was she nice?
    Doctor: I just spoke to her.
    Vastra: And made your usual impact, no doubt.
  • Christmas Episode: Christmas is in the background for this episode. The idea of gifts is present in the "bargaining with the universe". There's a family theme.
  • Christmas Miracle: It appears the universe does owe the Doctor a favour after all. He realises that having encountered Clara twice already, there's likely to be another one out there. A scene set in the modern day shows that there is.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • Simeon casting aspersions on the detective's relationship with her female Watson.
      Simeon: I doubt the readers of The Strand magazine would accept that the great detective is in reality a woman — and her suspiciously intimate companion.
      Madame Vastra: I resent your implication of impropriety! We are married.
    • There's the moment Clara comments on how it's getting cooler, with the Doctor thinking she's commenting on how cool his bowtie is. It's just like this Doctor to forget what time period he's in (where "cool" doesn't mean "awesome").
  • Continuity Nod: A number of minor background references to previous events are featured.
  • Contrived Coincidence: When Clara has to describe her problem with one word, she says "Pond," which is only peripherally related to her actual problem, but conveniently happens to be the last name of the companion the Doctor is mourning.
  • 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 from all manner of monsters 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: When the Doctor is out-snarked by a Sontaran warrior, he's definitely off his game.
    The Doctor: Do you think I'm going to start investigating just because some bird smiles at me? Who do you think I am?
    Strax: Sherlock Holmes.
    The Doctor: Don't be clever, Strax. It doesn't suit you.
    Strax: Sorry, sir.
    The Doctor: I'm the clever one, you're the potato one.
    Strax: Yes, sir.
    The Doctor: Now go away.
    Strax: Yes... Mister Holmes.
    The Doctor: Oi! Shut up. You're not clever or funny and you've got tiny little legs!
  • 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 pushed the Doctor over the edge into this; he's retreated from the universe and no longer cares about adventuring. Vastra says he is no longer the kind saviour of planets and that his isolation is unlikely to end.
  • 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: The Ice Governess pulls Clara off the TARDIS' cloud and crashes into tiny pieces.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: The Doctor moves 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."
  • 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 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.
    • Vastra, meanwhile, all but leers at Clara during the "one word test".
  • Empathic Environment: Justified due to the telepathic snow, which turns to saltwater rain in response to the Latimer family's sorrow over Clara's death.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: The children's teddy bears hit the floor as they run like hell from the Ice Governess.
  • Emotion Eater: The snowmen feed on thoughts and feelings.
  • 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.
  • Evil Gloating: Simeon is not immune to this, dropping hints about his plans to Madame Vastra and how there's nothing she can do to stop him.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The Great Intelligence has a deep and powerful voice until the Doctor strips away its disguise. Then the voice is lighter, revealing it to be the child Simeon's.
  • Evolving Credits: This episode debuts the intro used until Eleven's finale; as it was the 50th Anniversary, the intro essentially combined elements from all previous intros, ending with the Doctor's face for the first time since 1989.
  • Exact Words:
    Simeon: I said I'd feed you. I didn't say who to.
  • Expy: In-Universe, Sherlock Holmes, whose adventures were based upon that of Vastra and Jenny.
  • Eye Take: The Doctor does one when Clara mentions she likes to make soufflés.
  • Faint in Shock: Alice, the maid, sees all the ruckus going on with lizard women, snowmen and the potato guy. She screams and faints.
  • 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. (However, we later learn Clara has no middle name, so Clara Oswin Oswald isn't exactly her name.)
  • Fantastic Racism: During the Eleventh Doctor's retirement in Victorian England, he displays a lot of this towards Strax, insulting his race's looks and suggesting Sontarans are entirely stupid, directly to his face.
  • Finger Muzzle: The Doctor to Strax, and Vastra to Clara.
  • 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.
  • Foreshadowing: Clara can effectively fight the parasite simply by thinking hard. The reason why was finally revealed in the season finale.
  • Forceful Kiss: Clara grabs the Doctor and snogs him, then notes his Luminescent Blush.
  • 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 coach rocking back and forth, and hear Clara's protests from inside, behind them.
  • 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.
  • Good Shepherd: Vastra says that she and Jenny are married, which implies that they found a priest who not only didn't care that both of them are female but also didn't mind that one of them was a lizard.
  • 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. In real life, this is 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.
    • As it turns out, Clara and Oswin are somehow the same person, but in different lifetimes.
  • Held Gaze: The Doctor and Clara just before she plunges to her death. The Doctor and Simeon also have an exchange of Death Glares when the latter turns up at the Latimer house.
  • Hellbent For Leather: Jenny's skintight battle suit débuts when cornering a bad guy.
  • He's Back!: Summed up nicely with one line:
    The Doctor: Yeah it is, isn't it? Very cool... Bowties are cool!
  • 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, but when, he's actually put into a military situation, he instantly determines the enemy's intentions. And he drops any pretense of bumbling when he tries every tool at his disposal in an effort to save Clara's life.
  • 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.
    • It's also both too light in colour and far too transparent to be human blood. Perhaps Madame Vastra dilutes it with a rosé.
  • 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.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: Subverted; when Clara is telling the children about the Doctor as a bedtime story, she looks expectedly at the door when it opens, only for the Ice Governess to enter. However, the Doctor does arrives Just in Time for his "Doctor who?" Running Gag (as Clara did earlier when chasing after his carriage).
  • Indy Ploy:
    Clara: What are you doing?
    The Doctor: Between you and me, I can't wait to find out.
  • Internal Homage: Clara runs around the TARDIS to confirm it is indeed Bigger on the Inside while escaping a pursuing enemy, just like Rose did in the first New Series episode, with the crucial difference that Clara forgets to close the door behind her when she goes back inside.
  • Internal Reveal: The audience is immediately aware of the suspicious resemblance between Oswin and Clara, but the Doctor is not due to the fact he never saw Oswin's face and there are enough differences in their voices (Clara speaking with a cockney accent, for one) that he doesn't twig right away. He appears to make some connections through the episode (her voice does begin to sound familiar and her love of soufflés catches his attention), but he doesn't seem to completely put it together until Clara says the same last words and her gravestone reveals her full name is Clara Oswin Oswald.
  • 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 response?
    Clara: Words.
  • Jumped at the Call: Clara positively forces her way into the plot, and has to drag the Doctor part of the way. She actively begins investigating the snowmen on her own after first meeting the Doctor and even manages to figure out how to get up to the cloud, and she shows no hesitation when the Doctor invites her to be his companion.
  • Just You and Me and My GUARDS!: Dr. Simeon quietly rings for his men while the Doctor is rambling on. The Doctor offhandedly locks the door with his sonic screwdriver. By the time they get the door open, the Doctor has done a Stealth Hi/Bye.
  • Kiss-Kiss-Slap: The Doctor and his trusty new companion, the Punch hand puppet, have an affectionate relationship, and then *punch*!
  • 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 to himself]
  • 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 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 "Beryl Montague." Her reasons for doing so have never been revealed; presumably her rant about having "ideas above her station" has something to do with it, though it's also strongly hinted that she has designs on Latimer.
  • Long Bus Trip: This story marked the first appearance of the Great Intelligence since 1968's The Web of Fear, over 44 years previously.
  • Made of Iron: A possible literal example, as Clara manages to fall thousands of feet from the cloud, yet isn't turned into nearly Ludicrous Gibs. The fact the Ice Governess broke her fall shouldn't have meant much.
  • Male Gaze:
    • The camera lingers on Clara's cleavage when she's changing in the carriage for her other job as a governess.
    • Lampshaded when Clara tells the Doctor "eyes front, soldier" when she realizes he'll be able to see up her dress when they climb the ladder. So they change places and we get the female equivalent instead as Clara admires the Doctor's backside, refusing to look away.
  • Marry the Nanny: Downplayed. Captain Latimer clearly has romantic feelings for Clara and she might have been hoping for this outcome, but their relationship never progresses past employer/employee.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Clara concerning the TARDIS: "Is it magic? Is it a machine?"
  • 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 and it's 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, ramping the cuteness factor up to eleven by climbing onto the carriage roof and sticking her head in from above.
  • Missing Mom: The mother of Francesca and Digby doesn't appear. Although it would not be unusual for an upper-class Victorian mother to leave most of the childcare to a governess or nurse, it's strongly implied that their father is a widower (and thus it's okay he's interested in "Miss Montague").
  • 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.
  • 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 front!
    Clara: [watching him climb the ladder] Mine aren't!
    The Doctor: ... Stop it!
    Clara: No!
  • My Card: An early clue for the sharp-eyed viewer are Simeon's cards for the Great Intelligence Institute.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Simeon is played by Richard E. Grant, who previously played an unofficial Ninth Doctor in Scream of the Shalka and 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 bowtie, 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 had 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. Even more ironically, within a year of the episode's broadcast, nearly all of one of the Great Intelligence stories ("The Web of Fear") was actually recovered.
  • 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.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Inverted; the Doctor's explanation for being upstairs with Clara? They were kissing. Serves him right when Clara snogs him later.
  • 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 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 a plot point. 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.
  • 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 funk and get back to adventuring as normal.
  • Phrase Catcher: Lampshaded by Madame Vastra, when she notes the Doctor's recent encounter with a Plucky Girl.
    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's head appears through the hatch in the roof of the coach.]
    Clara: Doctor? Doctor who?
  • Plucky Comic Relief:
    • Strax's bungling with the memory worm and the frequent insistence on the use of acid are a large part of this episode's comedy.
    • Clara fulfills this role in a few scenes, as well, particularly while flirting with the Doctor while trying to escape the Ice Governess.
    • Averted with Jenny. Although she has many of the qualities one would expect from the "sidekick comic relief", her character is played pretty much straight. (Contrast with the other maid seen in this episode, whose entire function is to react comically to the arrival of Vastra and Jenny.)
  • 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 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.
  • Refusal of the Call: Despite clear evidence that something is wrong with the snow, the Doctor initially has no interest in it.
  • 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.
    • Also from the Expanded Universe, it was implied the Doctor was the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, whereas here Arthur Conan Doyle adapted various aspects of the Paternoster Gang, particularly Vastra, though it's possible he met the Doctor in the process.
  • Rich Language, Poor Language: Clara, who naturally speaks in a Cockney accent, lives a double life as both a barmaid in a tavern and a governess for a wealthy family. She uses an RP accent when at work as a governess to hide her working-class origins, though she occasionally uses her real accent (or her "secret voice") to amuse the children.
  • 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.
  • Screaming Woman: The maid, when encountering the Paternoster Gang.
  • 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 tried his hardest to ensure their safety. Like the trope name, he opens up by Christmas morning.
  • Sherlock Scan:
    • The Doctor tries this when he's masquerading as Sherlock Holmes:
      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?
      Simeon: No.
      The Doctor: Do you have a wife?
      Simeon: No.
      The Doctor: Bit of a tree? Bit of a wife? Some apples? C'mon, work with me here.
    • However, he's deliberately flopping to lower their guard. 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.
  • Ship Tease: Some viewers interpret this as a "love at first sight" scenario playing out between Clara and the Doctor. In fact, she's the only version of Clara to be shown outright kissing the Doctor romantically.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Skewed Priorities: 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?"
  • Skirts and Ladders: Defied when the Doctor and Clara are running from the nanny. When they reach the ladder to the TARDIS, Clara insists the Doctor go first because she's wearing a skirt. He tells her that he wouldn't have looked if she'd gone first, Clara admits she is looking as she follows him up the ladder.
  • Slasher Smile: The snowmen make big toothy grins right before they try to eat someone.
  • Snowlems: Of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster variety due to all the negative feelings that Simeon has poured into them over 50 years.
  • 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 vapour".
  • Some Kind of Force Field: The Force Field created by Jenny is invisible but glows red whenever the Ice Governess slams into it.
  • Spectacular 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.
  • Stairway to Heaven: Invoked with the Doctor's gorgeous spiral staircase that leads to the TARDIS.
  • Start of Darkness: The surprise origin story of the Great Intelligence.
  • Staying Alive: The Doctor's curiosity is reignited by the realisation that Clara has some form of this going on. How could she exist in two different times and places and die at both?
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: By the time Simeon's servants break down the front door, the Doctor has vanished out the back door.
  • 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 raises the UST. Clara, for her part, subverts the trope slightly by immediately understanding what the Doctor means, though she still takes her time getting off of him.
  • 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...
    Madame Vastra: 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: [snapping] 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.
  • Theme Tune: The main theme gets another new arrangement, once again courtesy of Murray Gold.
  • 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 fish, 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.
  • A True Story in My Universe: Here Arthur Conan Doyle is implied to have based Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson by Madame Vastra and Jenny.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension:
    • One-sided between Clara and her employer, who lets slip how pretty he thinks she is.
    • Between Clara and the Doctor — whether that is also one-sided is open to your interpretation. She definitely tries her best...
  • Verbal Backspace: When Strax suggests melting someone's brain with acid before interrogating them, he backtracks with "other way 'round" when he realizes the error.
  • Victorian London: Set in London in 1892.
  • Wham Shot: Simeon's business card reveals who the entity exactly was: The Great Intelligence.
  • 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.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Clara Oswald is a barmaid pretending to be a governess, as opposed to her last appearance, where she was a Dalek who thought she was human.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Simeon was a troubled child who spent fifty 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, 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.
  • Ye Goode Olde Days: When Clara first chases after him, even Grouchy Doctor can't help smiling and saying, "Those were the days..." However he continues to walk off. To no avail.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Dr. Simeon kills all his employees after they collect the snow for him.

"Watch me run."