I was rewatching "Asylum of the Daleks" again recently when I noticed something I missed the first time around. Right around the end, just before the girl we know for a fact is slated to become the new full-time companion (Who turned out to actually be a Dalek) self-destructs herself to end the threat of insane Daleks getting loose from the prison planet, this girl Oswin, who every single watcher has already fallen hopelessly in love with in less than half an hour, she signs off with the line, "Run, you clever boy," then looks at us out there in Realsville and says, "And remember."
Fast forward to agonizing months later, and nothing else until April, and we find The Doctor retired from running and living in isolation in the clouds above Victorian England. Occasionally, he'll answer the call of his friends in the era, the Silurian Madam Vastra, her swordsman wife Jenny, and the Sontaran nurse Strax, but for all intents and purposes he is a bitter hurt man with no desire to involve himself in the affairs of the world any longer.
He's a lot like his first incarnation, actually. The First Doctor, until he warmed to Barbara and Ian, had little to know interest in interfering in anything. Back then he more or less believed in the Time Lord policy of staying out of history, and it was getting caught not doing that that ended his second life and began his third in exile on Earth. Nonetheless he begins to take interest against his will upon meeting (Re-meeting) the girl who calls herself Clara.
Jenna Louise-Coleman does everything she did as Soufflé Girl in 'Asylum" but this time out in the real world where she's capable of physical comedy, consensual soft-kissing with The Doctor, and just all around being adorable. She bides her time both by being a Cockney barmaid and a high end governess for an infatuated widower. Meanwhile, snowmen grow teeth and start attacking Londoners.
All jokes about the time the show used a plastic chair to kill someone aside; Doctor Who is really, really good about taking silly things and making them bone deep terrifying. The snowmen are a ridiculous invasion, but they still manage to bring about an honest sense of menace.
But honestly, they take a backseat to watching The Doctor and the girl we know is to be his new companion. It's such an amazing part of the Whoniverse. What would "Rose" have been without Billie Piper running headlong into the TARDIS at the end, or "Partners in Crime" without Donna's matter-of-fact manner of establishing her place, or the "Eleventh Hour" without Amy's tortured memories of an amazing imaginary man?
To watch the process of The Doctor assigning crewmembers, especially ones whom he gives a key to the front door like Oswin, is the magical moment fans look forward to because it's the moment we all place ourselves in. Never before has a one been so much of a mystery. God damn you, Moffat, you killed her again!
Whereas all the other Christmas specials have been these incredible self-contained stories Moffat has turned "The Snowmen" into the greatest mystery of his career. The plucky, vibrant, and clever as hell Oswin does not survive the battle between The Doctor and the sentient snow that threatens humanity. Instead, she succumbs, leaving the Doctor with the line, "Run, you clever boy. And remember."
Now we're all spinning the most incredible and outlandish ideas trying as hard as possible to explain how Oswin of the Alaska in "Asylum" would leave clues to herself hundreds of years earlier to leave The Doctor. Here's some of the ones I've heard so far.
1. Oswin is some kind of incarnation of River Song. Perhaps something between the child in "The Impossible Astronaut" and Mels. I don't personally buy that one.
2. Oswin is some sort of living incarnation of the Bad Wolf entity, able to position herself as a message to herself across space and time.
3. Oswin is his daughter Jenny... which, ewww.
4. Oswin was a saved person from the Library, and River sent her to The Doctor.
I suspect the answer is really none of the above. Whatever is going on is a wide-reaching mystery that will define the last half of series seven. All I know is this; I wanted to see what The Doctor would be like without Amy Pond. She defined him so much that it's hard sometimes to really consider what he was in and of himself. It's like he was sometimes afraid to be.
Matt Smith, almost for the first time, brings front and center his Doctor as he reclaims the mantle as saver of worlds and the hero to his companion. We're left with an incredible mystery, but the hope for the 50th anniversary year looms high and strong. The stories to come will be the stories of legend.
And Moffat? If you kill her again I swear to God....
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