Doctor Who: Last Christmas (EPISODE REVIEW)

One thing all fans of Doctor Who can look forward to on Christmas Day? A brand new episode. Although the episodes are generally very hit or miss (more often misses really), every few years we get a good one. And hurray! 2014 is one of those special years. Last Christmas, written by Steven Moffat is a blast, with just the right amount of Christmas peppering so that it’s not entirely overkill or under-incorporated.

The episode begins with Clara waking up to the sound of, well, elves bickering. Santa’s gotten stuck on her roof. She’s rightly and truly confused. And then the Doctor comes to tell her that the fate of the entire world may depend on if she believes Santa exists or not. Off the bat, this had me quite wary. Again, it seems the fate of the entire world is suddenly at stake. Every episode. Really? But I didn’t allow myself to dwell on the matter. The point isn’t brought up again, so I moved right on with the episode.

We enter a science station of unknown intent on the North Pole. 3 workers are trying to instruct the 4th on how to get past the infirmary station with the infected patients. She must distract herself any which way she can to get through the room without thinking about the patients, because as soon as she thinks of them they attach themselves telepathically to her. Their faces are covered by an alien life form which feeds on their brain activity. Naturally the first thing she does is dance for nearly a whole minute, slowly wading her way down the room. This was the second point throughout the episode where I had a moment of serious doubt. Now we have an enemy we can’t even THINK about, and she’s DANCING? Moffat’s scraping the bottom of the barrel at this point, surely.

Shortly thereafter we learn rather brilliantly that when these Dream Crabs (as they refer to the face-hugging aliens) attach themselves to you, they create a fairly realistic dream reality, as they slowly suck at your brain. This shoe-horns in one of the scariest scenes in recent memory. The chalkboard scene in which the writing kept telling her she was dying was terrifying! I loved it. It even felt like a dream just watching it! But we actually get a surprisingly satisfying conclusion to the Danny Pink saga. Even in her dreams, her last Christmas with Danny was tragic and beautiful and heartwarming all at the same time. It gave credence to Clara’s love for his character that she knew him so well. So well in fact that her dreams were capable of making him a reality with a believable personality again. No mention of a pregnant Clara, or an explanation to Orson Pink however.

One of the great things about the episode is that it clearly steals many a concept from other sources (Alien, The Thing, Inception, etc.) but it doesn’t try and sweep that under the rug. The most obvious example from the outset is the Alien homage, one that a member of the crew references when he compares their threat to Face Huggers. The Doctor doesn’t get the reference so he explains its from the horror movie Alien. The best line in the episode (for me anyway) is when the Doctor retorts that the mere idea humans have made a horror film about aliens is “offensive. No wonder you keep getting invaded.” Perfect. And the dumbfounded shock on Capaldi’s face as he says it. Well done.

Getting out of one dream doesn’t necessarily save them however. They still realize that it appears to be a dream within a dream, an idea that fits with the whole appearance of Santa. And thus begin the Inception parallels. The episode goes through two or three more dream state within a dream state scenarios. After a while this actually began to bug me though. It got to the point where we clearly understood what was going on, and we were ready to move on. I didn’t like the idea of Clara turning into an old woman either. That reminded WAY too much of The Time of the Doctor. And I never want to revisit that. But as the last quarter of the episode wound down, I realized my earlier misgivings weren’t worth taking stock in, as the episode moves past that rather quickly, and the fact that they were dreaming most of the earlier things anyway kind of prove them falsities from the start.

One thing that I thought really leant itself to my enjoyment was the portrayal of Santa himself. An extremely bold, cheeky… audacious portrayal. He was hilarious. I didn’t really get the tangerine thing though. British joke/tradition? As far as why only the six individuals were infected, this may be a plot hole. But fear not. I think I may have an explanation. There’s a reason all 6 of them dreamt of Santa Claus. There’s a reason why it worked out that they all came from different times, however the different individuals only got attached to these creatures on Christmas Day. These were individuals who clearly caught him in the act of breaking into their homes, and he needed to make it seem as though it were a dream. And naturally Santa recruited the Doctor to help these individuals out. Why do you think the Doctor woke up outside of his TARDIS? Because he was given this Dream Crab the moment after Death in Heaven. Santa totally gave people Dream Crabs, the jerk!

All in all, what a wonderful episode. Now we enter the long wait. The first episode of Series 9 shall be called The Magician’s Apprentice. Not to be confused with C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew. Or Disney’s The Sorceror’s Apprentice. Or perhaps the many books that have been written with that title. Let’s not forget, Capaldi’s Doctor has repeatedly been referred to as the magician (especially in this episode), so that’s our first clue. Until more news is forthcoming, thanks for reading my 2014 Doctor Who reviews!

18 thoughts on “Doctor Who: Last Christmas (EPISODE REVIEW)

  1. Is it just me or did anyone else imagine how much better the episode would be with matt smith and TBH I was kind of hoping that Clara was really old and that was how they ended her companionship with the doctor. I’m Going to miss Danny Pink quite a bit though I was hoping he would be as involved with the adventures as Rory or even Mickey.


    1. No, to me it felt very much like a Peter Capaldi take on a Christmas special. This was clearly written for Peter’s Doctor and not Matt.


  2. From what I understand the tangerine thing was a joke about how Peter Capaldi would get a single tangerine and doctor who magazine for christmas every year. Makes his “Nobody likes tangerines” line pretty hilarious.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pretty much agree… A surprisingly good episode, with a great Santa. I actually liked the old-lady Clara bit until it turned out to be a dream… Not just because I want Clara out, but because it would’ve been a satisfactory ending for her. I’m so sick of the constant “I’m leaving! Wait no I want to come back!” with the Doctor just going along with it like he’s not sure what else to do. This would’ve been a way for her to leave with grace.

    On the other hand, I liked the plot, but it’s getting more confusing in hindsight, as other commenters have said. Why these six people? Why are they dreaming of a North Pole science base? How exactly did Santa’s presence work, and when did the Doctor get his facehugger? Sigh.


  4. I also didn’t like the older Clara ending, but for different reasons. The scuttlebutt for this episode indicated that this would be Clara’s swan song but when Jenna Coleman said she wanted to stay, it was quickly rewritten and the original version became a dream. That I’m kind of happy because if it wasn’t a dream it opens a lot of disturbing questions. So, Clara stayed in the dream world for 62 years pining for the Doctor and Danny? The episode said that the Dream Crabs slowly dissolved the brain, but I thought it more like minutes instead of years. Or did she wake up by herself (she mention she went traveling and had other suitors) and the production crew change a few scenes so that way it would make more sense as a dream?

    Also, as I understand it, the Doctor was first attacked by the Dream Crabs and then they pulled Clara in because of his memories of her. The other 4 people were just “collateral damage.” It doesn’t make much more sense but that is how the episode presented it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The Doctor makes a special mention to say that the Time Crabs can link people across time and space. As such, she could easily have been grabbed when she was old and simply dreamed she was young again. Much like how the oldest lady was paralyzed but could walk in the dream.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m always a little worried… but I liked this one more than I thought as well. I could have done without the repeated “wait, we’re still in a dream” segments… but I don’t know what else they could have done with the time… so maybe the time-filler was necessary. I didn’t hate it, but whenever a movie or TV show does the dream-in-a-dream thing they always overdo it a bit.

    I did kind of wonder why only those 6 people… and how those particular people were grabbed, especially the Doctor… but I guess I can let that slide.


  6. I really loved the Santa angle, particularly since Santa was played by Nick Frost from Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End. This episode also helped me really decide to like Capaldi. I’ve been a bit back and forth with my opinion of him, but I decidedly liked him in this episode. I also liked how Clara basically told him he was Santa Claus and then how they showed some of the parallels between him and Santa (the sleigh being bigger on the inside…). Definitely one of the better Christmas episodes, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Loved this episode, best Christmas episode yet which, as rightly noted, tend to be misses rather than hits with the odd exceptions. Here, though, I loved it. It hit just the right balance between being another Doctor Who episode and a Christmas movie and I adored it. Loved all the references, had so much fun picking out the movies they were including though it got a bit obvious after a while what was going on. I just kept waiting for the obvious dream twist that I had been waiting to see what they were going to do with.

    On the other hand, loved the old lady Clara bit. The old makeup was awful, though, but that kind of make up is ludicrously difficult to get right so not surprised. On the other hand, for a moment I was wondering if they were gonna write her out like that and I wouldn’t have minded that much. Your relationship with the Doctor is always a bittersweet one and this would’ve driven the point home that much harder. I knew Coleman was gonna stay on for at least a while longer but it made me wonder if that was just them going “HA! Fooled ya.”

    Either way, loved it. Great fun, the most Christmasy thing I watched this year. Weirdly enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You didn’t like the old-Clara scene?
    I really enjoyed the reversed parallel to The Time of the Doctor. It’s a nice tribute to one of Eleven’s last scenes and now Twelve knows what Clara felt like when she was in his place.
    And with this in mind it is not surprising that The Doctor wants Clara to stay, though I do think her journey should find an end soon.

    It’s nice that their relationship doesn’t end on a “we lie to each other to keep each other safe”-note, but Clara has established herself as her own character quite well, therefore I wouldn’t see that many possible development for her. Though I wouldn’t know how you could make her leave the Tardis. I personally don’t really see her joining UNIT like Martha and Mickey, or keep investigating like Sarah Jane and I do believe killing her off wouldn’t be a good conclusion for her story either. Still, they shouldn’t keep Clara that much longer, maybe she’ll become a human ambassador on Gallifrey when they finally find it. 😀

    I by the way didn’t really get the Dream Crabs appearance either. It sounded all a bit like the Silents in a smaller scale and it did seem like Santa had something to do with it and was the reason for them… (hence the final tangerine).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think Time of the Doctor might be my least favorite episode. Or up there in my top 5. I think its a mockery of my intelligence and of the 11th Doctor’s time in the TARDIS. Why should his last episode be surrounded by people he’s never met before? Why is he in an old man costume throughout it all? Surely his run as the Doctor was marked by his youth. I just think it was handled with extreme distaste.


      1. Really?
        I thought it was an interesting twist to the general tone of Eleven’s time.
        He was always portrayed as childish, but was still the oldest Doctor in his time.
        He knew the planet got into its predicament through HIS Tardis exploding, the people on the other side were looking for HIM. So it was HIS fault that they were in danger.

        He also knew that he had no regenerations left and it was said he’d die here and therefore gave his last to protect the people he had dragged into his mess. He send Clara away because he could not see her die for him and we see most of the story from her perspective and it is therefore a short amount of what really happened on Trenzalore.

        I thought it was interesting, not necessarily what I would have expected of a Christmas Special, but still an interesting way of telling the final story of the Eleventh Doctor and introducing the Twelfth.


      2. It was far too much a fairytale ending for me, one of the biggest complaints from me in his run. And then there was the campy yelling his last speech out. The wooden cybermen. Random placing of the Weeping Angels. Daleks, again. The only bit I enjoyed about Time of the Doctor was the bit just before the regeneration. Where Amy Pond showed up for the briefest of moments. And then a lackluster (offscreen mind you) regeneration. It was a huge disappontment to me.


      3. That’s true with the foes, I didn’t really understand that either.
        It’s interesting how different we saw this episode. 😀
        I didn’t really like the inclusion of Amy – even though the first face this face ever saw-bit was nice – because it put Clara in the back seat and she was the one experiencing the regeneration first hand…I believe that is one of the reason’s why I enjoyed the reversed old-age-scene…

        How was the regeneration offscreen? We had the energy outburst that destroyed the Daleks, the slow turn back to young-Eleven and then the “sneeze” into Capaldi (and got the phone call in Deep Breath)


      4. The sneeze is what I meant. So quick. For an episode that tried so hard to be bombastic and grandiose it ended up being quite anticlimactic.


  9. The episode was better then i thought it would be but im really un happy that clara is returning in the next season as i really dont like the her, i was sure they were going to kill her off 😞

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s