Doctor Who Christmas specials have been a tradition to watch in my family ever since the 2005 special “The Christmas Invasion.” This year, things were different, as for the first time ever my family and I had no interest in watching on Christmas Day. We had been disappointed with Series 8 and the 2014 Christmas special’s trailers suggested it would follow that same trend, and we didn’t want to be disappointed on this family holiday. I caught up on the episode later, but the question still stands: were we right to skip the Christmas special on Christmas Day?
The whole premise of this year’s special, “Last Christmas” was that everything since Santa’s (Nick Frost) appearance at the end of Series 8 has been a dream concocted by the Dream Crabs (who are a lot less cuddly than their name would lead you to believe). This allows the writers to craft a disjointed script with little to no character motivation and logic, and then shrug it off. (“Clara, why did we come here in the TARDIS?” “It’s a long story.”) What’s amazing though, is that for the most part this does actually work.
The whole concept remained very strong until the end, when everyone just disappears from Santa’s sleigh. The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) wakes up to discover Clara (Jenna Coleman) is now an old woman, but it is all still a dream and her and The Doctor wake up once more. But if they’re still in the dream, aren’t the others who disappeared from the sleigh still dreaming too? Aren’t they still having their brains sucked out? Plus, The Doctor saying he is now able to remove the Dream Crab from Clara’s face – unlike before, simply because now he’s “awake” – despite the fact that it’s all still a dream was a bit weak, and took me out of the story for a the moment.
Another minor flaw in this crazy dream world scenario comes when Albert (Michael Troughton) is grabbed by the Dream Zombie. When taken through the screen, the process of his demise should be complete. So, wouldn’t he then awaken as a Dream Zombie in the real world? Isn’t having one of those walking around… kind of an issue? Santa said that, “Depending on the number of Dream Crabs, this could be the last Christmas!” And that sounds pretty serious, but hey! Let’s just fly away and forget about all that.
Still, the walking victims of the Dream Crabs were very creepy, and Doctor Who now has a new “Don’t …” catchphrase. Don’t Blink! Don’t Breath! Don’t Think! Don’t Think about the thing that’s trying to kill you! Honestly, Steven Moffat, is there anything we can do? Yet, this ‘not being able to do things’ route has worked well for Doctor Who, and Moffat has managed to come up with plenty of interesting monsters because of it. Hopefully, this species returns again in the future as their general premise is very strong and could easily be used towards a much better story.
Nick Frost gives a real interesting take on Santa Claus, with the idea that Santa is just a quick-witted lad with a lot of logistical work to sort out and is sick of people not believing in his existence. He also had some very entertaining lines which I’ve been quoting all week! The character did miss a little magic, however, and Santa should have appeared more imposing in certain situations. In the end, it feels like Nick Frost dressed as Santa saying funny lines. Fortunately, Nick Frost is very funny so that wasn’t an issue most of the time.
The whole idea of The Doctor being a fairytale has been played out multiple times, and some just recently. What’s even more tedious is the squabbling between him and other fictional legends. Some might consider this a story arc continued from “Robot of Sherwood,” but both episodes can easily be summed up with the following: Doctor meets impossible person, Doctor doubts impossible person’s existence and motives, Clara believes in impossible person’s existence, Doctor tries to save the day, impossible person ends up saving the day, apparently impossible people can exist, the Doctor is also an impossible person. No plot points were progressed, it’s just a rehash of a framework used earlier this season and we discover nothing new about The Doctor’s character. We don’t need to be told how magical Doctor Who is! Create majestic plots and we’ll actually feel the magic.
Clara’s dream with Danny (Samual Anderson) is the strongest scene so far this season and there’s absolutely no fault with it. The tension was fantastic, as was the acting from Coleman and Anderson. Their work together was some of the best we’ve seen for quite a while and it proved what a strong relationship they really had. In fact, had this scene happened sooner I’d have cared a lot more when Danny died.
Their short scene also felt the most Christmas-y, which made it very enjoyable to watch. It would have been better for the whole episode to be this visually bright, rather than its constant hue of dark blue. Though, that did work with its creepy underlying theme and was rather unsettling. That chalk board was also brilliant to watch, a very simple trick of editing but with great results.
In the end, part of me is happy that Clara is still around – Jenna is a great actress and I love seeing her on screen – but literally everything has happened to this companion at this point and she’s had her fair share of story arcs. It really might be time for a new companion and this episode built up a perfect scene for a goodbye. Would have been sad to bid farewell to another character on Christmas Day, though, so surely we can all appreciate the upbeat ending.
As an episode of Doctor Who, “Last Christmas” was pretty good and should be seen simply for the interesting ideas. But this isn’t just any episode – this is the Christmas Special. Does this episode deserve to be placed in our schedule of feasting, nostalgic slideshows of family holidays and boardgames? No it does not, and I don’t regret skipping it on the day after all.