Note: reviews can contain spoilers!
UK: The Independent: Overall Moffat has dished out a stronger offering this year. The story was apparently based on a piece written by Douglas Adams. This may the reason why this year was decidedly more comic than previous Christmas specials. The humour is largely thanks to Strax who provided most of the laughs through his Sontaran view of the human race. But it was also more disturbing in a behind-the-sofa way, even at Christmas a little scare isn’t always a bad thing. The Snowmen has now brought the Doctor out of his state of retirement and ready for action again after such a brooding period.
While the episode was enjoyable the problem was that the story feels truncated and rushed. Granted the time frame leaves little room for dalliances but it would have been nice to have seen more of Simeon’s developing relationship with the Great Intelligence. Grant is brilliant as the villain but more of him would have been even better.
UK: The Radio Times: Well, hats off to Steven Moffat. He’s just presented us with alternative abominable snowmen, and not only reintroduced the Great Intelligence but also established how this malignant, disembodied force came into being.
There are lots of lovely images (the Jack and the Beanstalk-like spiral staircase leading to the clouds), and my favourite moment being the truly wonderful effect of the camera (and hence the viewer) following the Doctor and Clara directly through the police box doors into the huge Tardis interior. Has this effect ever been achieved before..? I may have forgotten. And how was it done? Where’s BBC3’s Doctor Who Confidential when you need it!
UK: The Mirror: Suddenly, the Doctor is faced with an intriguing new mystery – one that involves, among other things, soufflés. So where the kids will look forward to it and the fans will discuss it endlessly, maybe the casual watcher will be intrigued enough to follow the Time Lord into his golden year, just to see how the latest curious twist of the twice-dead girl unfolds.
Where this year’s Who snowtacular fails is appealing to the dinner-bloated and mildly disinterested middle viewer. It’ll totally pass by family members who, at 5.15 in the afternoon, just want to sleep for a bit until they feel the need to attack the cold cuts. Through sprout-engorged eyes and a brandy befuddle, it’s a great piece of entertainment but it doesn’t hold up to much sober fanboy scrutiny. It’s miles better than anything else on, but for the casual Christmas viewer there’s little to hold the interest besides noticing how gorgeous the new companion is, and well... maybe the ending.
UK: The Telegraph: It was an enjoyable enough romp, I suppose, and I imagine that reference-spotters had a field-day. There were nods not only to The Snowman but also to Sherlock – cheekily suggested to have been, in “real-life”, the lesbian Silurian Madame Vastra. The shadow of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw could be detected in the CGI figure of the dead governess, made of ice and snarling “That’s The Way To Do It!”. There were shades of Dickens and CS Lewis and maybe even the smoke-fashioned staircase from the Mary Poppins film too in the episode’s best touch - having the newly refurbished Tardis float above town on a bed of “super-dense water vapour”, reachable only by a vertiginous spiral staircase.
At least twinkly-eyed Matt Smith was on irrepressible form as always, his careworn Doc emerging from ethical hibernation to save the world, again, and exchange repartee with, oh please no, his adopted comedy sidekick Strax (Dan Starkey) of the once terrifying now just silly Sontaran race. The sooner his luscious new companion, revealed as Jenna-Louise Coleman’s Clara – former barmaid and erstwhile Dalek (yes, really) – fills the Pond-shaped void in his life the better but I fear that if Moffat doesn’t rein in his tendencies to make every script a brain-teaser of Sudoku-like complexity, his young audience will melt away, fast.
UK: The Guardian: Welcome back, Merry Christmas, and wow. The Snowmen was easily the finest Christmas special under this regime. After last year's dog's giblets of an episode, it needed to be, but this poetic romp was actually the best since The Christmas Invasion, and possibly better. It had everything we like about Doctor Who (frights, romance, running, a menacing baddie, lizard people) while being just sentimental enough to tick off a lot of things we like about Christmas.
UK: Crave Online: Matt Smith was terrific as always, particularly during the inspired bit when the Doctor briefly impersonates Sherlock Holmes. But as the Doctor is won over by Clara, the audience is as well. And when Clara is lost, the Doctor makes the viewers feel that loss as well.
“The Snowmen” was a rousing “Doctor Who” story that feels like it matters in the long term of the series. A new TARDIS, a new opening sequence and a new companion? That’s the start of a new era for sure. And the prospects for it look good for now.
USA: Los Angeles Times: Clara appears to be a mirror image of the Doctor: fearless, curious and intuitive, a match not only of wits but of shared delight in the power of knowing. That is the perpetual tension that fuels the Doctor. A Time Lord weighted with the wisdom of the ages, believing himself to be the last of his kind, has only his sense of wonder to protect him from the great sorrow born of endless knowledge and experience. Fortunately it is boundless, like his energy, and of all the recent Doctors, Smith best captures the power of willful youthfulness. Not in appearance, though he is the most boyish of the canon, but in resilience, the springiness that allows a child to find miracles in the mundane, to truly believe that today will be better than yesterday.
The world always needs the Doctor, but perhaps never more than on Christmas day.
USA: New York Magazine - Vulture: There can’t be enough praise showered on Coleman at this point, who is quite simply a breath of fresh air for this series, at a time when it so desperately needs it. I’ve not fallen for a new companion this hard and fast since Rose Tyler, who had the benefit of being there when the series relaunched, so that’s not even a fair comparison. This new girl just devours the camera lens; a more photogenic companion we’ve probably never seen. It was easy to understand the Doctor’s reinvigoration through her, because as viewers we were experiencing the same feelings, and the scene in which he gives her the TARDIS key, only for her to be lost seconds later, was a serious tearjerker; that was more moving than anything in “The Angels Take Manhattan.”
I had mad, crazy love for both “A Christmas Carol” and “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe,” Moffat’s previous holiday outings, and hoped to feel the same about “The Snowmen,” but ultimately didn’t. Yet this episode held a much different function in the series than either of those entries, coming in the middle of a season as it did. Whereas his first two Christmas specials were entirely standalone tales, this one was anything but, steeped in the ongoing storyline as it was. What worked within it worked very, very well, and what didn’t was disastrous.
USA: EntertainmentWise: So, there you have it - it was one intense episode full of adventure and tense scenes, but what would Doctor Who be without all of the chaos? In between such madness the Doctor and Clara even managed to find a moment to embrace in a loving/unexpected kiss and joke around with each other, including Doctor Who doing a one man version of Punch and Judy - what more could you ask for? It gave us all a brilliantly entertaining hour on our Christmas day and I am sure it has left most of us wanting to know what happens next! We will just have to wait very patiently for later on into the year.
USA: io9: ... an episode that shows Moffat returning to form with a lot of fun and zaniness bolted onto a pretty successful fairy-tale framework. The overall task of this episode is to relaunch Matt Smith's Doctor with a new(ish) companion and a new(ish) semi-regular supporting cast, and in those terms it works beautifully. The story takes the classic "companion becomes fascinated with the Doctor and learns about him/tracks him down" storyline and does something new and interesting with it. And it advances the Doctor's arc of trying and failing to go it alone, which Moffat has been building since "The God Complex."
USA: Wired: I came away from this episode with a major question: Is Moffat setting us up for a new Doctor romance? Or is there more to Clara than meets the eye? The flirting between her and the Doctor reminds me a lot of the flirtatious relationship he has with River Song, and I wouldn’t put it past Moffat to be playing us. Given that Clara has a remarkable gift for not dying, could she be regenerating somehow? But then why is this the first time “Clara” has seen the TARDIS in this episode. Then again, we’ve never seen the first time that River saw the TARDIS. In “Let’s Kill Hitler”, she knew the Doctor had a time machine and didn’t have the standard “It’s bigger on the inside argument.”
Despite a few short-comings, this years Christmas outing is a good deal stronger than last years rather disappointing “The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe.” That was an episode with a lot of promise but a story that never seemed to gel. “The Snowman” had a story that, despite a sentimental ending with a families tears defeating the frozen menace, still held together.