It’s become a staple now. Every 25th of December, Doctor Who returns to television screens for a between-series—or, in this case, since the series is split over the fall and spring, a mid-series—special, all of them ostensibly a Christmas special, although some with more obvious Christmas trappings than others. As the Christmas specials need to appeal to a wider audience base than the standard series episodes, they tend to be fairly disconnected (no arc plots, for example) and more light-hearted. They tend to aim more for pure fun than for thinking. There have been a few exceptions, of course, that are more connected to the main series and more significant. “The Christmas Invasion” had to introduce a new Doctor, for example, and four years later, “The End of Time” had to write that Doctor out. This year’s special, “The Snowmen” by Steven Moffat, is another one of these significant specials, having to appeal to its wider audience, introduce a new companion, and fit in with the continuity of the series it comes in the middle of. Given my general disappointment with many recent episodes, I went into this special with a certain amount of trepidation, but also a great deal of hope. This was an opportunity for great changes, but also an opportunity for things to go dreadfully wrong. At the very least, however, I was confident that it could not possibly be any worse than last year’s “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”.
And thank goodness I was right about that. It’s considerably better than last year’s special (although my wife feels that it’s even worse, so go figure). That’s not to say that it’s a perfect episode. Indeed, it’s quite far from that. There are a number of problem areas from two-dimensional characters to a groan-worthy resolution. However, it is possible to watch the episode and feel entertained, laugh a few times, and even experience a moment or two of tense excitement. I would still consider it amongst the weakest Christmas specials, but it’s not all bad.