Saturday, December 27, 2014

My Review of Doctor Who's 8x13: "Last Christmas"

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Paul Wilmshurst

Clara: “Because every Christmas is last Christmas.”

Except if you’re Clara Oswald and it mostly definitely turns out not to be last Christmas at all. It was teased for several weeks that this episode could be the one to write out the school teacher, there was a moment that came close to it and then the episode ended with Clara actually resuming her travels with the Doctor.

I liked that some of the lingering issues with Clara and the 12th Doctor were dealt with immediately. The Doctor knows that Danny is actually dead and Clara is aware that Gallifrey has not been found. Add to the fact that they manage to overcome a creature responsible for Inception like dream states, both of them can now start the next series with no baggage or lies holding either of them back. Kudos in that regard.

As for the dream state stuff – I liked the Kantrofarri/dream crabs. They looked genuinely creepy enough and the dream within a dream stuff worked a treat, given how largely it dominated this particular special. Clara’s dream state of course took some screen time but again it worked extremely well.

I know some fans weren’t exactly jumping for joy upon the idea of Danny returning for the episode but given that his death was a recent thing, it was hardly a shock that he returned though. Clara dreamed of having the ideal life with the man she didn’t get a chance to be with properly only for the Doctor to wake her up again to another part of the dream.

Now that was where things got somewhat more interesting as well. You have to remember the big hype of this episode was a certainly fellow dressed in red and I hate to admit it, but Moffat managed to do a great job with Santa Claus here. Not only did Nick Frost not overact the role (never a bad thing) but Claus and his comedy elves Ian and Wolf were relegated to scenes only of importance (mainly helping the Doctor, Clara and a Polar expedition crew of scientists realise they were dying) and because of that, managed to be fun and never outstay their welcome.

Speaking of the crew – there were a likeable enough bunch of people. While Albert probably got the least amount and was the only one to be killed off by the dream crab, enough screen time was given to Ashley and Bellows to make them memorable enough but on the other hand, there was Shona.

Watching this particular character in action, it really did feel like Shona was being auditioned for the role of companion. She asked the right questions, made the right observations, had a lot of screen time dedicated to her interactions with the Doctor, Clara and Santa and even wanted to swap numbers with them too. I’ve seen a lot of people hyping Faye Marsay’s performance in this episode and I wouldn’t be too shocked if she somewhat returned next series either.

However for the time being, the status quo with the Doctor and Clara has remained and it’s strange because until a certain moment, this episode did feel like it was going to be Clara’s last hurrah. The scenes with her as a 90 year old woman meeting her friend for the last time would’ve been a great way of ending her storyline and time on the show but I’m intrigued to see where else Moffat and Coleman intend to take the character.

Also in “Last Christmas”

Nick Frost’s name was added to the opening credits and the credits themselves were more Christmassy than the episode itself.

Santa: “Why did you stop believing?”
Clara: “Because you’re a fairytale. I grew out of fairytales.”

Keeping with the Inception theme, the tangerine was the spinning top of this episode. A clear answer as to whether or not Santa is real was not given here.

Santa: “My Little Pony.”
Shona: “Shut up, you.”

The Doctor (to the crew): “There’s a horror movie called Alien? That’s really offensive. No wonder you keep getting invaded.”

Michael Troughton followed his brother and father’s footsteps by playing Albert in this episode. Bellows in the real world was a wheelchair bound grandmother and Ashley an account manager for perfume.

Danny (to Clara): “Every Christmas is last Christmas and this is ours.”

Santa (to everyone): “It’s Christmas Day, it’s the North Pole and you’re dying. Who are you gonna call?”

This is the third Christmas special in a row not only to have Jenna Coleman but also Dan Starkey, playing another character this time – Ian.

The Doctor: “Do you know what I hate about the obvious?”
Clara: “What?”
The Doctor: “Missing it.”

Clara (to the Doctor): “I’ve always believed in Santa Claus but he looks a little different to me.”

Standout music: Slade’s “Merry Xmas Everybody”, especially when you consider Shona’s dance moves as well. Oh and that cracking list she had too.

Clara: “Merry Christmas, Doctor.”
The Doctor: “Merry Christmas, Clara Oswald.”

Chronology: Christmas 2014 I assume. Also both the Doctor and Clara will return in “The Magician’s Apprentice”.

I wasn’t initially sure about this episode and I even thought some reviewers were jumping the gun by declaring “Last Christmas” to be Steven Moffat’s best Christmas special yet (still “The Snowmen” for me) but truth to be told, I actually adore this episode. For a story that had Santa, comedy elves, Rudolph and the North Pole, it was more horror tinged than Christmassy and with an engaging potential companion in Shona and a renewed vigour with the Doctor and Clara, it’s hard to deny that this episode really won me over.

Rating: 9 out of 10

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