OK, I haven’t been a fan of the Doctor Who Christmas special malarkey. For much of its 51 years, Doctor Who has managed to get by without experiencing or referencing Christmas. Pretty much like kissing and crying. And I’ve been OK with that, after all, Doctor Who has always been a fantasy escape route from the norm for me. Yet my tastes for what I want the Doctor to be doing story and character wise aside, with the exception of ‘The Christmas Invasion’ and ‘The Runaway Bride’ I’ve found the Christmas specials to be a bit naff. Yet I fully accept that if I were an actual kid and not a man child, then I might have enjoyed more of them. It is, after all, a kids show.
Firstly, I’ll get my Christmas related gripes out of the way. Santa Clause. Wow. He was shoe-horned into the story. Seriously, if I’m going to latch onto a saviour character I wouldn’t be picking Father Christmas. Give me Gandalf or Obi Wan Kenobi, or some other bad ass. Not a fat dude in a beard. Seriously though, even I, as big a geek as I am wouldn’t draw on fictional characters to defend myself in a dream. Wouldn’t most adults summon up a dream police officer? Not that kind of dream police officer. Behave. Adults believing in Father Christmas, even in a dream, I find that hard to buy. While it was great to have Nick Frost and Nathan MacMullen on board, they seemed a bit wasted in their parts, their scenes being mainly a one gag sketch that overstayed its welcome. The only Christmas bit I enjoyed was Samuel Anderson dressed in a Father Christmas outfit. Ding dong.
As for the regular components of Doctor Who, the Doctor and Clara lacked the chemistry they’d developed from their awkward misstepped beginnings. OK. A lot has happened to them in just one series and they parted on lies, but Doctor Who has brushed over worse for the sake of a story. Both seemed underserved by the story and their relationship lacked its sparkle and charm. I really like Capaldi’s Doctor, but I’m not keen on Clara, so her coming back on board at the end for all of season 9? — not that bothered. Would have been nice to have Capaldi find his own companion. Hopefully they’ll give Coleman a more even character to play with now.
My main issue with the story was in the premise itself–is this real or a dream? There’s nothing I love more than watching a story not quite knowing whether everything I’m watching and investing myself in is actually happening or going to be undone in a second. And yes, that’s sarcasm. Messing with perception or interpretation can work well, ‘The Sixth Sense’, but take it too far and you don’t know what you’re watching, I just had this with the movie ‘Oculus’. A case in point is the elderly Clara scene. I thought that this was setting itself up for a nice bitter sweet ending–nope. Didn’t happen. Actually, kudos to the Doctor Who team for not giving us a Christmas special that undoes the tragedy of the season 8 finale. Even kids’ genre shows need death as a reminder of the Doctor Who world being a dangerous one.
So, what did work? The parasite dream crabs were pretty effective. Although they did give us another involuntary bodily function that had to be denied to survive the episode’s monster–don’t
blink think. *yawn* — sorry, involuntary bodily reaction at something tired. They barely gave this any time to build up tension, and any they did develop they lost through the Christmas song and crazy dancing. Plus trying not to think of something is pretty impossible. Yes, the dream crabs were face huggers, but I like that they acknowledged the similarity, and they looked good and were used well, and the description of what they were doing was nice and grim and they came across as a genuine threat. The Danny Pink dream sequence could have been schmaltzy but was poignant, and the chalkboard rubber scene was nicely done. The mature female dreamer waking up in a wheel chair was a nice touch too. Glad they weren’t all depressing wake-ups though. I also thought Clara choosing to stay with Father Christmas was quite daring, as that was her trying to end it all to avoid facing life without Danny. Nice Christmas suicide attempt… The crab hosts coming out of the TV was nicely done, although it seemed pretty obvious it was going to happen so lacked some impact. Effects wise it looked great.
‘Last Christmas’ could have been a tense base under siege story, after all, Doctor Who has had plenty of practice in doing these well, and with less effective monsters, but it lacked the claustrophobia it needed and putting Santa Claus in it worked against it. It was watchable, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but for me there was the lack of magic between the leads that usually gets me through a not-so-good episode. As most of it didn’t happen, there’s not much to really enjoy or recommend. Not one I’ll be rewatching. A disappointing close to the year that got me back into enjoying new Who. Now, a long wait for season 9…