Santa Claus brought Doctor Who fans a new companion this year, and she proves to be a keeper. As 19th century barmaid/governess Clara Oswin Oswald, actress Jenna-Louise Coleman ensures that the Ponds won't be missed. I know, that sounds like heresy in the wake of the immense fan-favorite Amy and Rory characters, but give the new girl a shot, she's going to be a classic. The baddie of the episode is underdeveloped, but I'm more than willing to forgive that for the great jumping-on point continuing showrunner/writer Steven Moffat delivered under our trees this year.
Of course we've met Clara before, in the first episode of the current season, where she met an untimely demise in a futuristic space station. So how is she still alive, and living in the 19th century? That's all part of the setup for the back half of the season next year, and consequently isn't answered here. What is evident is that she brings a sassiness, a sense of natural inquisitiveness and intelligence, and will be more than an equal match for Matt Smith's Doctor. She's also not at all hard on the eyes.
As for The Doctor, he's still in mourning about the Ponds, still living a mostly solitary existence, but surrounding himself with old friends from outer space who are inexplicably content living in 19th century England near him. When he discovers sentient killer snowmen and concurrently makes the acquaintance of Clara, he's pulled out of his funk and embarks on his latest adventure to save the world. Frankly, it's a bit tiresome that the stakes are so monumental once again, but there's plenty to focus on in the setup of Doctor and Clara's relationship if you choose to just gloss over the plot and baddie.
Clara meets and inexplicably chases after The Doctor, eventually stumbling across the TARDIS secretly hidden in the clouds at the top of an invisible winding staircase. That scene is pure magic, with Clara ascending the staircase until she's stargazing above the clouds, then walking on top of the clouds to examine the outside of the battered TARDIS. Why is the TARDIS so beat up? I'm sure we'll find out next year, but for now it serves as a metaphor for the tired, bruised Doctor, in need of some TLC he can only receive from forging a relationship with a new human companion.
Clara unearths the endgame of the fiendish icy villain (Richard Grant) and his snowy army of henchmen to rule the world through sentient snow, a plan she instinctively knows she needs The Doctor to thwart. She doesn't know how to find him, but catches the attention of one of his compatriots who brings her through a rigorous screening process run by another compatriot (returning scaly lizard lady Vastra) that cleverly allows only one word responses. Not surprisingly, Clara passes the test with flying colors, and The Doctor leaps into action to save the world once again. He also finally opens up the TARDIS to Clara, who amusingly remarks that it's "smaller on the outside". As for the inside...it's new! Yes, the TARDIS has undergone an interior metamorphosis that is gasp-inducing as Clara enters it for the first time.
But wait, it's Christmas, and the baddie is vanquished, but that doesn't mean there's a happy ending. Steven Moffat gives, and he takes away, and how that loss will play out next year is completely mysterious at this point. And who doesn't love a good Doctor Who mystery? For now, the good Doctor has been yanked out of his depression and is firmly back in play, and with Clara somehow signing up as full companion and an apparently romantic one at that, the New Year is already shaping up to be quite happy.