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New Series Episode 99:
The Snowmen

Plot

The Doctor has retired to 1892 London. Despite the protests of old allies such as Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax, he is determined to keep out of mankind's affairs. However, a governess named Clara has stumbled upon a plot which only the Doctor can unravel, involving the death of her predecessor in ice and the sinister Dr Simeon, who controls monsters made of sentient snow. And there is another mystery afoot: Clara is the spitting image of Oswin Oswald, whom the Doctor saw die in the Dalek asylum...

Production

The first two Doctor Who Christmas specials written by executive producer Steven Moffat had been inspired by classic literature. A Christmas Carol (2010) was based on the Charles Dickens ghost story of the same name, while The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe (2011) played on CS Lewis' children's novel The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe. However, Moffat didn't want this practice to become routine, and decided that the 2012 special would simply be set in the traditional Christmas environment of a snowy Victorian London, much like 2008's The Next Doctor.

For the new storyline, Moffat instead looked to Doctor Who's rich history. One of his favourite adventures was 1968's The Web Of Fear; although the featured monster in that serial had been the Yeti, Moffat instead decided to bring back the entity which controlled them, the disembodied Great Intelligence. Furthermore, the 2012 special would have the key task of introducing the Doctor's new companion, after he had been separated forever from Amy and Rory in the preceding story, The Angels Take Manhattan. As such, the Doctor would begin the adventure withdrawn and reclusive, retired from his adventures in time and space. This was an idea originally proposed by former script editor Douglas Adams in 1979, but which had been dismissed by then-producer Graham Williams.

In late January, it was decided that the new companion would come from contemporary London after all

The original concept for the new companion, developed in the fall of 2011, was that she would be a Victorian governess named Beryl. Over the next few months, however, the production team reconsidered the difficulty of writing for a regular character who was more than a century behind the viewing audience. Finally, in late January 2012, it was decided that the new companion would come from contemporary London after all. The governess in the Christmas special would now be an alternative version of this character, part of a story arc which would begin in the Season Thirty-Three premiere, Asylum Of The Daleks, and culminate in its finale. The governess would now share the same name -- Clara Oswald -- as her modern-day counterpart; “Beryl Montague” became her alias (although, in the broadcast episode, only the surname was mentioned).

Since Doctor Who returned in 2005, the Christmas special had generally been made either as the first story of the year's production schedule, or on its own. However, Season Thirty-Three was unusual in that it would be divided for broadcast into two blocks on either side of Christmas: five episodes would air in the fall of 2012 to conclude the adventures of Amy and Rory, with eight more held back until the spring of 2013 to chronicle Clara's time in the TARDIS. Consequently, the 2012 Christmas special would be made in the midst of the recording slate. Initially, it was planned to form Block Four, with filming to start in May. However, Moffat was making slow progress on the script, forcing its postponement. Hide was brought forward to take the special's place in production.

The Christmas special would now be part of a two-episode Block Six. It was decided to take advantage of this circumstance by having both stories feature a trio of returning characters. These were the Silurian adventurer Madame Vastra, her associate Jenny, and the Sontaran nurse Commander Strax -- all of whom had featured the year before in A Good Man Goes To War. The trio had proved highly popular, and indeed Moffat had had preliminary discussions with the BBC about producing a spin-off series featuring them before realising that his obligations to Doctor Who and Sherlock would preclude this. Neve McIntosh, Catrin Stewart and Dan Starkey all confirmed that they were interested in reprising their characters -- although Starkey may have been somewhat surprised by the offer, given that Strax had died in his earlier appearance.

Consideration was given to providing no on-screen title at all

Moffat finally completed a draft of the Christmas special in mid-June. At this stage, it was referred to as “The Snowman” -- although some consideration was given to providing no on-screen title at all, since it was thought that the title sequence might be held off until the end of the episode, illustrating the Doctor's return to his old self. Early drafts incorporated another ingredient to the mystery of the Snowmen, associating them with sightings of riderless hansom cabs. There were also more flashbacks to Dr Simeon's early life, and medical equipment used to try to revive Clara after her fall was implied to be responsible for Strax surviving the events of A Good Man Goes To War. Moffat was also uncertain about an epilogue featuring the 2013 version of Clara, which appeared and disappeared between several drafts. When it was finally decided to preserve this scene, a false ending to “The Snowmen” was concocted to safeguard the surprise; this saw Vastra and Jenny comment on how the events of the story had reinvigorated the Doctor.

In addition to the new companion, it was also planned that “The Snowman” would debut a completely redesigned TARDIS console room. Doctor Who was in the process of relocating from its former studio facilities at Upper Boat to its new permanent home at Roath Lock in Cardiff Bay. There was no way to preserve the TARDIS set designed by Edward Thomas for 2010's The Eleventh Hour, and so this became an opportunity to give the current production designer, Michael Pickwoad, the chance to leave his own mark on the TARDIS interior. Moffat indicated that he wanted to move away from the organic feel of recent console room sets and instead embrace the idea of the TARDIS as a machine, citing in particular the look of the time machine during the 1970s.

Richard E Grant had played the Doctor on two previous occasions

Apart from Jenna-Louise Coleman as Clara -- who had already been cast to play another alternative Clara, Oswin Oswald, in Asylum Of The Daleks -- the other major new role in “The Snowman” was Dr Simeon. This went to Richard E Grant, who had come to prominence in the 1987 movie Withnail & I opposite Eighth Doctor actor Paul McGann. Born Richard Grant Esterhuysen in Swaziland (then a British protectorate), he studied drama at the University of Cape Town before moving to London. Grant parlayed his success in Withnail & I into a prolific career on both sides of the Atlantic, including films such as Bram Stoker's Dracula, Gosford Park and The Iron Lady, and TV shows including Absolutely Fabulous, Frasier, and Dalziel And Pascoe. In 1995, he played the title role in the Oscar-winning short film Franz Kafka's It's A Wonderful Life, which was written and directed by the future Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi. Grant had himself played the Doctor on two previous occasions. In 1999, he was one of several incarnations of the Doctor in Steven Moffat's Comic Relief sketch The Curse Of Fatal Death. Then, in 2003, he played a putative Ninth Doctor in the online animated adventure The Scream Of The Shalka, which had been intended to be the official continuation of Doctor Who until it was announced that it would be revived on television in 2005.

The director assigned to Block Six was Saul Metzstein. He had recently completed Dinosaurs On A Spaceship and A Town Called Mercy, as well as the “Pond Life” minisodes which would be released online. For the first few weeks, Metzstein focussed on the block's other episode, The Crimson Horror; the script for “The Snowman” was still being finalised at this time. At last, filming for the Christmas special began on August 6th, the first of two days at the Coal Exchange in Cardiff Bay for scenes in the GI Institute boardroom.

Several locations were used to represent Darkover House, the home of Captain Latimer and his children Francesca and Digby (played by real-life siblings Ellie and Joseph Darcey-Alden). First, on August 8th and 9th, scenes in the study and the front garden were recorded at Fields Park House in Newport. After August 10th was spent on material in the old graveyard (at Cathays Cemetery in Cardiff) and in the hansom cabs (at Roath Lock), Treberfydd House in Bwlch offered the back garden and the hallway on the 11th. Then, on the 13th and the 14th, Insole Court in Cardiff was the site of the playroom and the Latimer children's bedroom; the sequences involving Simeon's workmen shovelling snow were also taped there. The latter part of the day on the 14th took cast and crew to Cardiff University, which served as the corridors and anteroom of the GI Institute. Finally, it was back to Treberfydd House from August 15th to 17th for the bulk of the remaining Darkover scenes.

On November 23rd, recording began on two projects related to The Snowmen

Metzstein's team then relocated to Bristol for two days, with various street scenes filmed at St Nicholas Market on August 20th, and Portland Square posing as the area below the parked TARDIS on the 21st. On the 23rd, the chase across the rooftop of Darkover House was recorded at Roath Lock. The same day, recording began on two Moffat-scripted projects related to “The Snowman”. One was a prequel which would be broadcast during November's Children In Need charity event as The Great Detective. The other was destined for release through iTunes and Amazon in March 2013, and was meant to explain how Strax had survived his apparent death in A Good Man Goes To War and wound up working with Vastra and Jenny. Entitled The Battle Of Demons Run -- Two Days Later, it was directed by Doctor Who producer Marcus Wilson.

August 24th saw Llandough Castle in Llandough transformed into Vastra's orchid house. On the 27th, the young Walter's house was actually Treowen Manor in Dingestow, where the establishing shot of the Rose and Crown pub was also captured. The next day, inserts were recorded at Cardiff University, while street and alley scenes were filmed at Roath Lock. The latter work continued on the 29th and 30th, before moving on to the new TARDIS console room set for the first time. Taping on August 31st still focussed on the TARDIS -- both inside the time machine and outside on the cloud where the Doctor had concealed it. The cloud scenes were completed on September 3rd, together with some material in the Doctor's cab.

Although the scheduled end of Block Six had been reached, some additional recording in the TARDIS had been held over to September 17th. However, it had now been decided that additional filming was required to complement or replace the existing footage; as such, September 20th and 21st saw several of the sets for “The Snowman” back in service at Roath Lock. Various pick-up shots were then taped at Roath Lock on September 22nd, October 18th, November 9th and November 23rd. Furthermore, with Grant, McIntosh, Stewart and Starkey all returning for the season finale, The Name Of The Doctor, there was now an opportunity to record extra material involving their characters. As such, Vastra and Jenny confronted Simeon at Insole Court on November 21st, while on the 28th Vastra spoke to the Doctor over the phone from her living room (replacing a version which took place in her orchid house); this was actually Merthyr Mawr House in Merthyr Mawr.

A third prequel, Vastra Investigates, reminded viewers of Vastra's background

A final piece of filming related to the Christmas special was a third prequel, entitled Vastra Investigates. Again written by Moffat, this served to remind viewers of the background of Vastra, Jenny and Strax, while also hinting at a mystery involving the snow (which seemed to be falling from a cloudless sky). A scene in Vastra's carriage was recorded by Metzstein at the Coal Exchange on November 16th, while he was working on The Name Of The Doctor. The bulk of the minisode, set in a Victorian house where Vastra has just solved a mystery, was filmed on November 29th at the Mansion House on Richmond Road in Cardiff, under director John Hayes. It was released on the BBC Doctor Who website on December 17th.

By now, the name of the Christmas special had been amended slightly to The Snowmen, and it was decided that both the title sequence and the episode title would appear in their customary place near the start of the broadcast. Furthermore, along with a new companion and a new TARDIS interior, The Snowmen would sport a new title sequence, replacing the one introduced in The Eleventh Hour. For the first time in twenty-first-century Doctor Who, this would feature a glimpse of the Doctor's face, as had often been the case during the programme's original run.

In post-production, a final major element was added to The Snowmen when Academy Award nominee Sir Ian McKellen recorded the dialogue for the Great Intelligence. In addition to being a critically-acclaimed actor, McKellen was popular with genre fans due to his work on the X-Men, The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit movie franchises. Several elements of The Snowmen were discarded in editing. This included material involving a little boy (Max Furst) and his mother (Devon Black) who live near the site where Simeon's labourers were working, and suggestions that the monsters were snowmen built the previous year given new form. The coming of the Ice Governess was originally foretold when a formation appeared in the middle of the Latimers' pond which resembled an upthrust arm. Also deleted was an inscription on Clara's tombstone: “Remember me. For we shall meet again.”

Sources
  • Doctor Who News.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #37, Autumn 2014, “The Snowmen” by Andrew Pixley, Panini UK Ltd.

Original Transmission
Date 25th Dec 2012
Time 5.14pm
Duration 59'43"
Viewers (more) 9.9m (7th)
· BBC1/HD 9.9m
· iPlayer 1.4m
Appreciation 87%


Cast
The Doctor
Matt Smith
Clara
Jenna-Louise Coleman
Captain Latimer
Tom Ward
(more)
Dr Simeon
Richard E Grant
Jenny
Catrin Stewart
Madame Vastra
Neve McIntosh
Strax
Dan Starkey
Digby
Joseph Darcey-Alden
Francesca
Ellie Darcey-Alden
Alice
Liz White
Uncle Josh
Jim Conway
Walter
Cameron Strefford
Walter's Mother
Annabelle Dowler
Bob Chilcott
Ben Addis
Clara's Friend
Sophie Miller-Sheen
Lead Workman
Daniel Hyde
Voice of the Great Intelligence
Ian McKellen
Voice of the Ice Governess
Juliet Cadzow


Crew
Written by
Steven Moffat
Directed by
Saul Metzstein
Produced by
Marcus Wilson
(more)

Stunt Coordinators
Crispin Layfield
Gordon Seed
Jo McLaren
Stunt Performer
Annabel Canaven
First Assistant Director
Nick Brown
Second Assistant Director
Heddi-Joy Taylor-Welch
Third Assistant Director
Delmi Thomas
Assistant Directors
Danielle Richards
Gareth Jones
Location Manager
Iwan Roberts
Unit Manager
Monty Till
Location Assistant
Iestyn Hampson-Jones
Production Manager
Phillipa Cole
Production Coordinator
Claire Hildred
Asst Production Coordinator
Gabriella Ricci
Production Secretary
Sandra Cosfeld
Production Assistants
Rachel Vipond
Samantha Price
Asst Production Accountant
Rhys Evans
Assistant Script Editor
John Phillips
Script Supervisor
Steve Walker
Camera Operator
Joe Russell
Focus Pullers
James Scott
Julius Ogden
Gary Norman
Camera Assistants
Meg de Koning
Sam Smithard
Evelina Norgren
Assistant Grip
Owen Charnley
Sound Maintenance Engineers
Ross Adams
Chris Goding
Gaffer
Mark Hutchings
Best Boy
Stephen Slocombe
Electricians
Bob Milton
Nick Powell
Gafin Riley
Gareth Sheldon
Supervising Art Director
Paul Spriggs
Art Director
Amy Pickwoad
Standby Art Director
Nandie Narishkin
Assistant Art Director
Richard Hardy
Set Decorator
Joelle Rumbelow
Production Buyers
Adrian Greenwood
Holly Thurman
Art Department Coordinator
Donna Shakesheff
Prop Master
Paul Smith
Prop Chargehand
Ian Griffin
Set Dressers
Austin J Curtis
Jayne Davies
Prophand
Jamie Southcott
Standby Props
Helen Atherton
Rob Brandon
Dressing Props
Paul Barnett
Mike Elkins
Jamie Farrell
Graphic Designer
Chris Lees
Graphic Artist
Christina Tom
Storyboard Artist
Andrew Wildman
Petty Cash Buyer
Florence Tasker
Standby Carpenter
Will Pope
Standby Rigger
Bryan Griffiths
Practical Electrician
Christian Davies
Props Makers
Penny Howarth
Alan Hardy
Props Driver
Gareth Fox
Construction Manager
Terry Horle
Construction Chargehand
Dean Tucker
Scenic Artist
John Pinkerton
Assistant Costume Designer
Fraser Purfit
Costume Supervisor
Carly Griffith
Costume Assistants
Katarina Cappellazzi
Florence Chow
Gemma Evans
Make-Up Artists
Katie Lee
Elin Rhiannon
Vivienne Simpson
Casting Associate
Alice Purser
Assistant Editor
Becky Trotman
VFX Editor
Joel Skinner
Dubbing Mixer
Tim Ricketts
ADR Editor
Matthew Cox
Dialogue Editor
Darran Clement
Sound Effects Editor
Paul Jefferies
Foley Editor
Jamie Talbutt
Graphics
Peter Anderson Studio
Additional VFX
BBC Wales Visual Effects
Additional Editing
Matthew Cannings
Online Editor
Geraint Pari Huws
Colourist
Mick Vincent
Music Orchestrated by
Ben Foster
Original Theme Music
Ron Grainer
Casting Director
Andy Pryor CDG
Production Executive
Julie Scott
Post Production Supervisor
Nerys Davies
Production Accountant
Jeff Dunn
Sound Recordist
Deian Llŷr Humphreys
Costume Designer
Howard Burden
Make-Up Designer
Barbara Southcott
Music
Murray Gold
Visual Effects
The Mill
Special Effects
Real SFX
Prosthetics
Millennium FX
Editor
William Oswald
Production Designer
Michael Pickwoad
Director Of Photography
Stephan Pehrsson
Script Producer
Denise Paul
Line Producer
Des Hughes
Executive Producers
Steven Moffat
Caroline Skinner


Working Titles
The Snowman

Updated 4th June 2014