Friday, 26 December 2014

Review: Doctor Who - Last Christmas

'Last Christmas, the Eleventh Doctor went away. But, the very next day, the Twelfth Doctor came. This year, to save them from fears, Santa turned up on a sleigh...' 

'Every Christmas is last Christmas.'

After the harrowing events of series finale 'Death in Heaven' the mid-credits reveal of Nick Frost as Santa Claus seemed utterly ridiculous. This was a year where the show had aimed to be darker and more sombre - and now it was introducing the decidedly magical and whimsical figure of Father Christmas into the Doctor Who world. It can't be real. Surely it was all a dream? Well, yes, it may have been. But, that's a long story. 

Yes, as if to assure fans that he had not gone insane, Steven Moffat shrouds Santa Claus' (d├ębut?) appearance on the show in a very traditional Who plot, albeit with a few clever twists. In fact, the whole thing was boldly cerebral for a Christmas special, on a day when we traditionally use our stomachs more than our brains. Not to mention creepy, The Kantrofarri are something of a hodge-podge of familiar monsters (the episode itself even acknowledge's Alien's influence on them  - resulting in the story's best line from the Doctor: 'There's a horror movie called Alien? That's so offensive. No wonder everyone keeps invading you.') but very effective nonetheless and fit well into this year's rousing roster of revolting reprobates who have suitably Moffatesque creepy powers including the Foretold and the Boneless.

Much like the previous two Christmas specials, 'Last Christmas' was an important instalment of the series ongoing plotlines rather than the traditional (this is Doctor Who's tenth annual Christmas episode, facts fans) standalone episodes. As such its heart is the Doctor and Clara's relationship, once again showing us that, though their friendship has not been easy this year, they have a deep affection for each other that keeps them together. The most touching and poignant parts of the episode are Clara's dream of a perfect Christmas and the Doctor's late arrival at Clara's. The scene with the elderly Clara, one who has travelled the world just as the character wished to do way back in 'The Bells of Saint John' and who needed the Doctor to help her pull a cracker just as she did for him in 'The Time of the Doctor', appeared to be a sad but fitting end for Miss Oswald... but appearances can be deceiving. Despite the evidence of the end of Series 8, the two best friends are sticking together. 

So what's next for the Doctor and Clara? I have a feeling we'll be seeing more of Faye Marsay's gobby Shona - the most fun and developed of this episode's guest stars. Perhaps the Doctor and Clara will gain a new companion in the first episode of Series 9, which we already know will be called 'The Magician's Apprentice.' After all, it was Shona who called the Doctor just that in this episode...

Although reminiscent of Inception and Who episode 'Amy's Choice', 'Last Christmas' was a highly original episode compared to most Christmas specials. Santa Claus' appearance was much publicised but really he and his comedy elves were just the tinsel decoration on the story branches of this Christmas special tree (yeah, I'll stop now) and was all the better for it. This was not my favourite Christmas episode but if every Christmas special is as good as 'Last Christmas' then we are sure to have a very merry Christmas for however long the Doctor Who Christmas tradition goes on for. Doctor Who - it's a long story.  

Nobody likes the tangerines - what's to be the Doctor's Christmas present this year?

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