The Great Intelligence's line, "Now the dream outlives the dreamer and can never die," echoes what was written about the Weeping Angels: "What if we had ideas that could think for themselves? What if, one day, our dreams no longer needed us?"
"The Snowmen" was influenced by The Dark Knight Rises (2012). The Doctor has become a recluse and is no longer interested in traveling through time and space and fighting evil, but is forced out of seclusion to fight The Great Intelligence and The Snowmen.
Steven Moffat compared the withdrawn Doctor seen at the onset of the episode to the first appearances of the First Doctor in 1963 and the Ninth Doctor in 2005. He also attributed the idea of a retired Doctor to a plot proposed by Douglas Adams in the 1970s, but rejected by the production team at the time.
This episode has individually stylized opening credits: following the revamp of the opening title sequence, the time vortex has changed to a vibrant red with several nebula-like effects, and the title logo resembles a fresh snowfall in color and pattern.
It was originally planned that this special would be the first episode to not have an opening credits sequence, instead opening with the title superimposed over a scene. In pre-production it was decided to have one, and a newly redesigned credit sequence and theme arrangement was devised.
Director Saul Metzstein explained that it was difficult to achieve the desired look for the snowmen. The first ones he likened to Zippy from Rainbow (1972) which was too "cute" of an appearance, and so the effects team created more menacing CGI faces.
Matt Smith described his Victorian-style costume as "a bit Artful Dodger meets the Doctor". Steven Moffat described the new outfit as a "progression" as the Doctor was in "a different phase of his life now" and felt more "grown-up" and fatherlike.
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.
The series 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 Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour (2010), 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. Steven 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.
Christopher Nolan's 2012 film "The Dark Knight Rises" is considered an influence behind the 2012 Christmas Special The Snowmen. The Doctor, now a recluse and no longer interested in traveling across time and space and fighting evil, is forced out of seclusion to fight The Great Intelligence and The Snowmen. In "The Dark Knight Rises", Bruce Wayne, now a recluse, is forced to become Batman again, to do battle with Bane and Talia al Ghul.
The original concept for the new companion 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.
Steven 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 was concocted to safeguard the surprise; this saw Vastra and Jenny comment on how the events of the story had reinvigorated the Doctor.
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 Doctor Who: A Good Man Goes to War (2011).
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."