Doctor Who Christmas Special | ‘Last Christmas’

A Christmas tradition as strong as chewing on Turkey, singing carols or disowning family members during a Monopoly battle, the Doctor Who Christmas special graced our screen again. Usually these stories are drawn out, ridiculous or indeed a poisonous combination of the two venomous ingredients. Would this break the trend or be as predictably disappointing as a Christmas cracker joke?

This episode begins as it teased, with Father Christmas invading the lives of The Doctor and Clara as they reunite. This sends the goofy meter off all known charts along with his wise cracking Elves, has Doctor Who lore gone so dry they need to delve into Yuletide tradition? Or were they so scared they had driven away their younger viewers that they sent in the fat, jolly, red man with presents to rescue the youth appeal of the show. Luckily none of the above. Except the moment of Rudolph’s alarm nose, that made me cringe to the point of implosion.

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We then find a group of scientists harassed by aliens who only sense and attack you when you think of them, the Doctor and Clara bundle in with all the grace of the Hulk with a hangover and are promptly rescued by their Crimson saviour, the returning Santa! They discover the ‘dream crabs’ who consume their prey slowly as they present to them a dream world that keeps them happy and content and their brains are devoured. I think I may have read different Christmas carols and stories than Mr Moffat….

This is a rather predictable episode in ways and soon combines Alien, Inception and a dash of The Matrix for good measure. In fairness though if you are going to steal from films you could pick a lot worse and they even joke about the Alien similarity, with The Doctor chastising the entire human race for good measure! The quality of shot, effects and scenes and very good without it being so glossy that it loses the gritty tradition or horror feel. The music is also the usual combination of safe BBC jaunty jams and eerie whines with Christmas jingles for good measure, it’s not really noteworthy so arguably serves its purpose fine.

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The coup however is the story and script which of course is the meat and substance of this Christmas feast. Some of the lines are over the top and set pieces are flamboyant but this all justified and let’s the writers go all out without alienating the audience. The reunion between the main characters is a little understated but this works and it doesn’t take from the episode and it makes sense and they were as at fault as each other. The ending also gives it it’s due attention and clears up any speculation about Clara’s exit from her cosmic ballet with our favourite Timelord.

Their are lines of dialogue than snap and pop and it’s great to see Capaldi as the contrasting against the jolly merriment and hope of Santa, the belief and heart of Christmas and the calculating mind of The Doctor. Nick Frost uses his lines well and helps the story a lot more than he could have hindered it, proving his comedy and heart warming chops. The story is brilliant as well as the horror becomes claustrophobic and contained. The dream plot device is also well utilised, the layers of dream give a sense of floundering and disbelief at your own sense trusting no one especially yourself. It also justifies Santa as their subconscious screaming warnings to the victims. It explains the frantic start as well as The Doctor and Clara appear, they observe that you don’t question your dreams but accept it which also gives a commentary on what we accept when watching TV and this very show. Other nice touches include the Doctors method for testing, using the books and this also sets up and ominous verbal countdown to revelations.

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Some particular scenes stand out such as Clara visiting a future with Danny Pink, which in my opinion must be the easiest task known to man. It’s a great show of The Doctors affection as he dives in to save her and Clara’s turmoil is well acted and creepily portrayed with blackboard warnings to boot! The support characters are also varied and lovable and is explained well. Also the effect on their lives is shown individually and this feels like a journey for developed characters, something the series misses often. A revelation with the older lady is also brave and moving when she returns to her normal life on a bold, emotional level that shows maturity and understanding. The addition of Michael Troughton, the son of the second Timelord is a another subtle, gracious nod to the past.

The very end scene and the sleigh ride may be flamboyant but it is Christmas after all and is hard earned in the darker and more serious set of scenes. This is by far and away the strongest Christmas episode and part of me thought it was a shame it wasn’t a non-Christmas episode as it would be a strong episode in any series of the famous sci-fi show. The mature and dark approach and justification of the infused Christmas cheers is admirable and creative to appeal to its wide spectrum of an audience.

The verdict: A highly enjoyable and well crafted compliment to the show and the season. This is the most thought through and well flowing festive creation of this world and hopefully a new trend of satisfying Yuletide entertainment.

4/5

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3 thoughts on “Doctor Who Christmas Special | ‘Last Christmas’

  1. Didn’t think it was close to the strongest Christmas episode (and it’s not exactly competing against a packed field, is it?). It ended well, I admit, but far too much dross to sit through to get to the good end.

    A Christmas Carol is the best Who Christmas Special, and I’d put last years Time of the Doctor and possibly, maybe Voyage of the Damned above this one.

    And as I’ve said elsewhere, if you live for sixty years and ever meet anyone who could compare to Danny Pink then you never left the house.

    • Fair enough! 🙂 I’m sure you will be unsurprised to hear I totally disagree, haven’t enjoyed a single other Christmas special until this one.

      Wasn’t perfect but was for me very entertaining and actually felt like it had a purpose and was a chapter of Dr Who saga instead of just creating a Christmas buzz. The one last year was important with regard to its point but was incredibly drawn out for me and just a blown up, convoluted showcase, but that’s just me. Most people I know like voyage but I just didn’t enjoy it, seen that kind of thing before and it was like a pantomime version of it.

      I agree Danny Pink is awful, his character pointless and their romance unbelievable but that makes the great scenes even more impressive. I found them very creepy and well acted. Not too long either.

      Sorry you didn’t enjoy it!

  2. As usual, I think my opinion falls between the that of you two. I thought the Inception-style ‘dream within a dream within a dream’ was overly used, and the first third or so was a bit of a mess (narrative wise). Still, it definitely was fun overall/in the end. As to where it ranks in Christmas Specialdom… I think I need to re-visit them before deciding.

    For the reference – all the Christmas specials:
    2005 – The Christmas Invasion
    2006 – The Runaway Bride
    2007 – Voyage of the Damned
    2008 – The Next Doctor
    2009 – The End of Time, Part 1
    2010 – A Christmas Carol
    2011 – The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe
    2012 – The Snowmen
    2013 – The Time of the Doctor

    I had actually forgotten half of those had happened. >_>

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