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Recap / Doctor Who S5 E2 "The Abominable Snowmen"

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The Abominable Snowmen
Written by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln
Directed by Gerald Blake
Production code: NN
Air dates: 30 September - 4 November 1967
Number of episodes: 6

Jamie: Have you thought up some clever plan, Doctor?
The Doctor: Yes, Jamie, I believe I have.
Jamie: What are you going to do?
The Doctor: Bung a rock at it.

The One With… evil balls.

The Doctor visits Tibet in 1935 in order to return a sacred bell he was given last time he was there. He meets Travers, an English explorer trying to track down the mysterious Yeti, and the High Lama Padmasambhava, who has miraculously remained alive since the Doctor's last visit hundreds of years earlier.

It transpires that an alien creature — the Great Intelligence — has taken over Padmasambhava, prolonging his life, and that the Yeti seen in the area are robots, there to scare off or kill inquisitive travellers. The Great Intelligence is a non-corporeal creaturenote , trying to create a form for itself in order to take over the Earth. The Doctor banishes it back to the astral plane and Padmasambhava is able to die in peace.

The Doctor's previous visit was an unseen adventure at the time, but 54 years later, Big Finish would produce a story depicting it.

Only the second episode remains. An animated reconstruction was released in September 2022.


  • Adaptational Ugliness: A few examples from the animated version.
    • Ralpacan, who looked relatively normal in the surviving episode, is made bald and given a scarred eye.
    • From what few photos survived, Padmasambhava looked like a man with wrinkles and white hair all over his face. Here, he’s drawn as a shrivelled figure with no hair and misshapen teeth.
  • All Monks Know Kung-Fu: Justified; the monastery now has Warrior Monks because of the Yeti attacks.
  • And I Must Scream: Padmasambhava is fully conscious while the Intelligence spends hundreds of years using his body to carry out its plans.
  • Big Bad: The Great Intelligence.
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and Yeti: Robot Yeti.
  • Bold Explorer: Professor Travers is hiking in Tibet when he meets the Doctor.
  • Clear My Name: The Doctor is accused of murder by Professor Travers, and the monks accept the accusation. The Doctor insists that he didn't do it, but no one will listen to him at first.
  • Chromosome Casting: Victoria is the only female character in this story.
  • Cryptid Episode: The Yeti turn out to be robotic servants of a greater power. The Doctor has yet to meet an actual Yeti, although he glimpses one at the end of the story.
  • Dying as Yourself: Padmasambhava, released from the grip of the Great Intelligence and finally able to pass on in peace...
    "At soul is freed. Thank you for returning, Doctor, and...saving me from myself".
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Great Intelligence, unearthly, formless, and with weird highly sophisticated technology.
  • Evil Is Hammy: The Master (not that one) possessing Padmasambhava endlessly, hopelessly overacts everything he says and pulls this off in the audio recordinginvoked. You can even hear the microphone popping as he hisses and spits his consonants.
  • Famous-Named Foreigner: The story has characters with the names of prominent historical figures in Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Great Offscreen War: The Doctor's first visit to Detsen apparently involved a battle of some sort, during which he took or was given the Holy Ghanta and left, without seeing how it ended.
    The Doctor: That attack in 1630, what was the outcome?
  • Out-of-Character Moment: The normally cautious and timid Victoria is strangely bound and determined to get to the inner sanctum and see the head of the monks' order, despite being told over and over again not to do anything of the sort.
  • Real After All: Professor Travers runs afoul of some yeti that are actually robots controlled by an Eldritch Abomination. At the end, as the explorer is saying farewell to the Doctor, a real yeti appears.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Padmasambhava, who has been kept alive long past his natural lifespan by the Great Intelligence.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: The robot Yeti are created by the Great Intelligence to keep strangers away. A bizarre example, as the entity behind the Scooby Doo Hoax is a real Eldritch Abomination.
  • Yellowface: The story is set in Tibet with white actors playing Asians.
    • Subverted with the animation reconstruction. Director Gary Russell explains the alteration: "My only real bugbear about [original director] Gerald Blake's directing was casting white people to play Asian characters. That was an obvious thing that we were going to do – we were going to rectify that mistake that was made in 1967, because it's just bloody insulting."
  • You Don't Look Like You: Thonmi has a completely different hairstyle in the animated version.