Attack of the Snowmen: The Story of the Great Intelligence
John Hussey looks over the history of the Great Intelligence from its origins up to The Snowmen.
After witnessing the long awaited return of the Great Intelligence in 2012’s Christmas Special ‘The Snowmen’, I thought this would be a good opportunity to look back on the creatures’ involvement within the show and its encounters with the Doctor.
What is the Great Intelligence?
The Great Intelligence is a creature of thought and ambition, seeking only to regain a physical form after losing its own. Within the Prose story ‘Millennial Rites’, it is implied that the creature came from a race known as the Great Old Ones. The race were very similar to the Time Lords, in some ways being their equivalent, and existed before this universe until shunting to a parallel universe/or dimension in order to pass into the next universe. The Great Intelligence was once known as Yog-Sothoth before, at some point, losing its physical appearance. The creature exists as a sentient-being living within space searching for a new way of receiving a physical form once more. It uses its abilities of physic powers in order to control and manipulate the minds of others, which it has done throughout its appearances on the show in a bid to gain a new body. The creature also had the ability to prolong life, which it did with its second host Lama Padmasambhava, and could also reanimate the dead, which it did with its third host Staff Sergeant Arnold.
The Great Intelligence was, at first, simply a sentient life-form living within alien snow and generated existence via the thoughts and memory of Walter Simeon’s. After doing this for over 50 years, the Great Intelligence had grasped the knowledge of how to exist without a mental link. After its first defeat, the creature would go on to use Padmasambhava as its new host in Tibet, taking on the form of a brightly lit slime during its wait. Its final form was that of a deadly web which could resist itself against chemicals, explosives and even flamethrowers. This proved to be a handful for the military and the Second Doctor during their battle in the London Underground.
It is also fair to say that the creature has a fondness for Snowmen. Within its first attempt at invading Earth, it appeared in the form of snow, and created deadly Snowmen to attack Victorian London. It then went onto building robots disguised as the legendary Abominable Snowman, which were used during its next two attempts at invasion. Both the Snowmen and the Yeti share similar characteristics and features. They are both deadly killing machines and have sharp teeth and a ferocious growl.
First Televised Appearance
The Great Intelligence’s first appearance onscreen was back in ‘The Abominable Snowmen’, broadcast in 1967, where it had been using the mind of Lama Padmasambhava for over 300 years in an attempt to build another body for itself in Tibet. During those years, the Great Intelligence had Padmasambhava build an army of Robots disguised as Yeti to protect itself, controlling them via chess-pieces on a map. The Abominable Snowmen would ward off or kill strangers in the mountains and protect the Great Intelligence’s existence. That was of course until the Second Doctor arrived with companions Jamie McCrimmon and Victoria Waterfield. They and Professor Travers uncovered the secret behind the legendary Yeti creatures and their master’s plans for invasion. The Second Doctor managed to banish the Great Intelligence back into the voids of space, which deactivated its pet Yeti and also finally allowed Padmasambhava to die in peace after his prolonged life at the hands of the creature.
Second Televised Appearance
A couple of stories later the Great Intelligence returned in ‘The Web of Fear’, broadcast in 1968, to attempt another invasion of Earth. With its new form of a deadly web, which was brought about after its Yeti were accidentally brought back to life by Professor Travers – allowing the creature to return to Earth, it ensnared the TARDIS and brought the Second Doctor and his companions to Earth. In the London Underground, the Great Intelligence hatched up its plans to steal the mind and experience of the Second Doctor and then use the Underground as a means to begin its third attempt at invading the Earth by spreading its deadly web across the planet. With the help of old friend Professor Travers, and new friend Lethbridge-Stewart, the Second Doctor managed to once again defeat the Great Intelligence and its army of Abominable Snowmen. Once again the creature was sent back into the voids of space.
Third Televised Appearance
After a long awaited return, the Great Intelligence was brought back in ‘The Snowmen’, the 2012 Christmas Special, where we discovered its origins. The Great Intelligence arrived upon Earth within the snow and used Walter Simeon’s childhood brain as a link towards creating existence for itself. The creature then went on to cook up a plan to use the snow as a deadly army to invade Earth. Using Walter Simeon’s greed and dark ambitions, he was the perfect tool for the Great Intelligence to use in order to complete its plans.
By using Captain Latimer’s old Governess, who was frozen within the alien ice in the pond, the Great Intelligence attempted to form a bond with her DNA in order to gain the knowhow to completely exist within a body of ice. This plan almost succeeded, with the Great Intelligence gaining the body of Walter Simeon after the Eleventh Doctor erased his memory with the Worm in an attempt to break the mental link with the Intelligence. It prepared to invade the Earth with its invincible army of Snowmen, but of course the mental link with Francesca and the Ice Governess was still in effect and upon her sadness towards Clara’s death erupted; it caused the Great Intelligence to mimic her emotions and thoughts, thus turning them into tears.
The interesting thing about ‘The Snowmen’ is as those who have seen or read ‘The Abominable Snowmen’ and ‘The Web of Fear’ know, the Great Intelligence is still alive. The events of the story are set before the two Patrick Troughton stories. This implies that the Eleventh Doctor’s battle with the creature actually inspires the events of his past adventures and of course the Great Intelligence’s future attempts at conquest. The use of the Snowmen could explain why the creature goes on to create the Robotic Yeti. I mean Yeti does stand for the Abominable Snowman and it used Snowmen in its first attempt at invading Earth. Also with The Eleventh Doctor showing the Great Intelligence maps of the London Underground, and also explaining that it is a strategic weakness within the metropolitan area, it could explain why it used the Underground as a battleground for its third invasion.