Doctor Who: Last Christmas

      Publisher: BBC/2Entertain 
      Label: BBC/2Entertain
      Format: DVD
      RRP: £34.99 (DVD) / 43.99 (Blu-ray)
      Starring: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman
      Directed By: Paul Wilmshurst
      Released:  2016-12-26

 

 


Clara Oswald investigates a strange noise on her rooftop on Christmas Eve and is shocked to find Father Christmas standing there. She is soon whisked away by the Twelfth Doctor to a polar base under siege from dream crabs, the Kantrofarri. However is this the real reality or just a dream state brought on by their enemies


 

One of the most memorable guest appearances of the year.

 

If there’s one thing that we can be sure of at the end of Last Christmas, it’s that Steven Moffat has seen Inception. Luckily the idea of multiple dream levels lends itself perfectly to his timey-wimey style of storytelling and it’s surprising that he has never tried something like this before, although that may be due in part to Amy’s Choice. Despite a stronger emphasis on horror and a moodier outlook, the Twelfth Doctor’s first Christmas special turned out to be one of the more enjoyable ones of recent years.

The base under siege format is reused as most of the action takes place at a remote outpost at the North Pole that find itself under alien attack. For me, the Twelfth Doctor has been at his best when he’s given a group to boss around and there are some great scenes here as he takes charge, especially when he makes them read aloud from the base manual in order to prove that they’re really in a dream. It’s a great example of the Doctor using his analytical skills and one that proves effective in establishing the menace. The base staff are likeable enough characters (Shona is even being touted as companion material now) but there’s never any proper explanation as to why it’s them in particular that the dream crabs pick and why they’re all in a shared dream being influenced by Shona in particular. Moffat has come under fire for the varied influences in this script but then Doctor Who has always been a magpie series, take The Brain of Morbius and Frankenstein for example, but perhaps we notice more these days. His biggest crime was to confirm our suspicions with Shona’s list however it’s needed for us to understand why we’re in a polar base (not that it’s that clear in the end anyway).

One trump card Last Christmas had was the casting of Nick Frost as “Sweet Papa Crimbo.” Not a kindly old gent, nor a sneering Santa in line with the new, grumpier Doctor, he lies between the two as a more enigmatic entity who engages in a wonderful war of words with the Doctor as they debate who is the more realistic. The march of the toys into the base is oddly creepy and the comedy elves give good support. At least Dan Starkey is allowed out of latex for this one. Moffat’s script hovers over the parent bothering issue of whether Santa is real and comes up with a pleasing solution. A Father Christmas Vs The Doctor special could have potentially been a shark jumping mess, and I’m sure that some see it that way, but for me the character is an enjoyable comic addition to a scary script and it’s one that few shows could pull off as well as Doctor Who.

The tone of the previous series is continued here, as there are some scary moments least not the dream crabs themselves looking not unlike facehuggers or dismembered hands. They even form a creepy mask around their victims’ faces. Clara’s dream sequence of a perfect Christmas as messages from the Doctor bleed through is a particularly effective scene. We are rather grimly informed that the reason we all get together at Christmas is because it will be somebody’s last which is in line with the tone of series eight, but is a bit morbid for a festive special. The episode is not without its uplifting moments though with Shona’s dance into the sick bay and the Doctor gleefully taking the reigns of Santa’s sleigh.

As the gang start to wake up, one last surprise has been sprung on us in the form of an aged Clara. Once again the series throws away another good potential ending for the character as old Clara is revealed to be yet another dream, thereby robbing us of one of the most bittersweet companion exits since Donna Noble. Whether not this was planned or a last minute rewrite after Jenna Colman decided to stay (if she ever really was going as rumoured) is unknown. The scene is still well played but knowing that it’s just another dream robs it of its power.

Overall, I liked this story and although it doesn’t have the same impact it did on first broadcast, it’s still an enjoyable special with the new Doctor finally feeling at home and one of the most memorable guest appearances of the year.


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