Doctor Who returns again for its annual Christmas special in "Last Christmas."
My experience with the Doctor Who Christmas specials is a bit odd. In America, when the series was first airing on the Sci-Fi channel, now renamed "SyFy," they never aired the Christmas specials on Christmas. It was not until Matt Smith's era that the Christmas specials aired on Christmas day, so the earlier specials are not all that memorable for me compared to the rest of the episodes of each season, which means I cannot really compare those earlier specials to the new ones. With that out of the way, let's move forward with the review.
Opening with Clara encountering Santa Claus on her rooftop, Santa promptly attempting to explain that what she is seeing is completely normal. Of course, the Doctor pops in with his TARDIS and takes Clara away on a new adventure.
As soon as the dream crabs were introduced, my first thought was the facehuggers from Alien. Honestly, nothing makes me squirm more those facehuggers from Alien, and the dream crabs reproduced some of the nail biting tension that made Alien and Aliens so great, albeit to a lesser degree. To top it all off, the old guy, whose name I am sure no one remembers, actually said the dream crabs were like the face huggers from Alien. After explaining the movie what the movie is about, the Doctor replies with the humorous line "Alien?! That's offensive! No wonder you keep getting invaded!" Finally! Doctor Who actually acknowledges the existence of a sci-fi film!
Additionally, the designs of the weapons and the set are all reminiscent of the Alien franchise, with other elements reminding me of John Carpenter's the Thing, and it all makes sense as to why everything looks futuristic since this is a dream world.
My favorite aspect of the dream-crabs is how they use multiple dream levels to ensnare their victims, and it reminds me of Inception, but in a good way. Throughout the episode, various things, like Clara meeting Santa on the rooftop, stood out to me as possible plot holes, yet, as the episode continued, all of the small things were promptly and cleverly answered. The dream world added another layer to the usual creepy suspense that Moffat's best work features, and it is very conducive to his style of writing. The scenes with the dream crabs are fittingly suspenseful, particularly the scene with Clara under the table, which also reminded me of one scene from Aliens.
Towards the end where the "crab-head" versions of themselves attack, it was reminiscent of various other Doctor Who adventures where slow zombie-like creatures lumber towards the adventures. However, the somewhat derivativeness of the scene is not all bad, since it was still decently suspenseful and served to move the plot along.
Oddly enough, no seemed to care that the old guy actually died. They all had their happy moment on Santa's sleigh, but no one seemed to really like the guy anyway.
After seemingly escaping the dream crabs' clutches, the Doctor and Clara reunite with a surprise twist. Clara is older, much older. Unfortunately, the makeup for her old-age is not that great. It is not terrible by TV standards, but it still could have been better.
Having avoided most of the press about whether or not Coleman was returning for another season, the episode almost made me think that this might be her last adventure with the Doctor, so the scenes with her older self were both unexpected and actually rather good. Thankfully, as revealed at the end, Coleman is returning in "The Magician's Apprentice" next year.
As for the supporting cast, Faye Marsay as Shona McCullough is rather fun as she bordered on annoying, but never actually became a hindrance to the story. In fact, her banter with Nick Frost's Santa is rather good.
Nick Frost as Santa is a lot of fun! He does not receive as much screen time as expected, but he makes the most of it, and the revelation that Santa is a construct of the dreamers' minds to lead them out of the dream world is very clever and Inception-y.
In the end, "Last Christmas" accomplished exactly what it needed to do, bring the Doctor and Clara back together after the fallout of the season finale, and it did so in a smartly written Christmas adventure.
Overall: 9.3/10- Eerie, mind-bending, and wonderfully whimsical, "Last Christmas" combines the best aspects of Doctor Who with a decent Christmas message to create one amazing Christmas special.
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