Since Christopher Eccleston regenerated for the first time in the new “Doctor Who” series, and David Tennant re-emerged as The Doctor to fight a duel for the Earth against the Sycorax – the Doctor Who Christmas Special has become a world wide holiday tradition. Every year since, The Doctor fights for all of us to have a safe Christmas, and this year is no different, even with Peter Capaldi still adjusting to the role. In “Last Christmas” by showrunner Steven Moffat, The Doctor reteams with Clara, along with Nick Frost as Santa to save us all. Meet me after the jump for my review.
I’ve had it with Clara. She’s the relationship we all had in college, the serious first adult relationship that was really sooo high school. You know the one. You one where you kept breaking up but kept getting back together? Yeah, that’s Clara, who lies every bit as easily as The Doctor himself. How many times have they broken up now? The last time was in “Death in Heaven” and here we go again.
And lying is where we left it last time. The Doctor lied to Clara about finding Gallifrey and Clara lied to The Doctor about Danny finding his way back from death. They hugged it out and broke up for what was hopefully the last time. Those that disliked Clara quite a bit were happy, and those who did like her… well, here’s your Christmas present. She’s baaack…
We open on Santa Claus having crashed on Clara’s roof, along with his elves Ian (played by Dan Starkey, better known for his “Who” role of Strax) and The Wolf. While Clara and Santa argue his existence, and Rudolph and the other reindeer fly overhead, the TARDIS materializes and The Doctor takes Clara away, but not before having some terse words with Santa. They apparently know each other and have encountered each other before. Yeah, The Doctor and Santa have a past. It’s like Robin Hood all over again.
Santa is played by one of my favorite actors, Nick Frost. I have loved him since “Spaced” through Shawn of the Dead and the criminally underrated “Hyperdrive.” His Santa Claus is a smart funny badass. The politically sensitive elves rock, and the reindeer are as cool as they have been since the Rankin Bass days. The Robin Hood parallel is bothersome, but still, more Nick Frost as Santa please.
The monsters of the episode are perfect Steven Moffat monsters, as they have rules, like The Silence, or the Weeping Angels. These critters can only see you if you look at them or think about them. Third party perception. In the midst of trying to get her mind off the monsters, the Danny lie is undone. Danny Pink is dead. At least The Doctor registers proper shock at the revelation. Clara on the other hand really doesn’t seem to give a crap about Gallifrey. Yet another reason for me to dislike her. It’s all about her, always. Perhaps one could no-prize their way into saying it’s because of all the time she spent being the Impossible Girl and saving The Doctor throughout time, but I’m not buying it.
We jump to an exploration base at the North Pole where a young woman is trying to walk through the infirmary without thinking or looking at sleeping patients with the monsters on their faces. These sleepyheads wake the moment she thinks of or looks at them, so as a focus (or distraction) she uses the seasonally appropriate “Merry Xmas Everybody” by Slade as an earworm. My my, someone at “Who” likes their classic rock, don’t they? Queen earlier this season, and Slade in this episode.
Our main story takes place at that polar base near the North Pole, yes, I know, very The Thing. Earth has apparently been invaded by The Kantrofarri, the Dream Crabs. Those sleepyheads were victims of the creatures. The crabs attach to the head like facehuggers from Alien, and it’s even referenced with The Doctor noting the racism of a horror movie called Alien, “No wonder you’re always getting invaded.” Nice commentary this episode on political correctness here and also via the elves.
Apparently in defense against the Dream Crabs, one must question everything to detect lies. This is very delicate territory for Clara and The Doctor, especially after their last break up. The existence and presence of Santa of course doesn’t make things any less difficult. And then there’s the bit that every time someone questions the why of the location and supporting characters, the answer is “Long story.” Yeah, I figured out everyone was dreaming pretty early too. Sometimes Moffat can trick me and sometimes he can be quite predictable.
The Thing and Alien aren’t the only films being referenced here, there’s also Inception obviously. How can we be sure what is reality and what is a dream, and what is a dream within a dream? And that’s why one must question everything. You don’t know what’s real and what’s not. The Dream Crabs make things as real as possible to make yourself think you’re awake, and safe.
Therefore Santa is the mind’s defense mechanism. It makes a lot of cool sense and in the end it’s what saves us, or most of us. In one of the dreams within dreams we see an idealized Danny trying to make Clara happy. He is far too good to be true, perhaps it’s how she remembers him now, blocking out how she treated him in the past in reality. Yeah, I don’t like Clara, and she’s really not a good person.
In one particularly cruel dream within a dream fake out, Clara has stayed too long in her dream, and in true Matt Smith fashion, The Doctor arrives too late, rescuing her some sixty years later. Clara is old, the girl who waited, never marrying. The Doctor treats her as if she never aged, and in a wonderfully sweet call back to “The Time of The Doctor,” they share a Christmas cracker that needs the younger person to fully snap.
This would have been a bittersweet but fitting farewell to the Clara character, but we are tricked, and once again, this is a dream. Everyone wakes up, everyone assumedly forgets the pain of the past, like that old destructive college relationship, and makes nice. The Doctor and Clara are off on another adventure like nothing ever passed between them. Much like The Doctor was accused of being a good Dalek, I’d like to propose Clara would make a great Time Lord… because she’s such a good liar.
The Doctor and Clara return in 2015 in “The Magician’s Apprentice.”