Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Doctor Who" Recap: "Last Christmas" [December 25th]

After weeks of waiting — half in eager anticipation, half in anxious confusion — several million fans of a certain mischievous Time Lord have at last been able to turn on their televisions and return to the wild realms of time and space. In this particular holiday special, we not only got to visit the north pole - but also a certain pudgy gift-giver who lives there!

And so without further ado, allow not just one, but two writers to present to you:

A recap of the episode Last Christmas...   -Rica

...along with our reactions and questions about it.   -Jaime

And of course, allow us to declare the usual:

When last we left Clara and the Doctor, they were sitting in a cafe lying to one another about the empty holes in their hearts. Then they split up — seemingly for good. But now, as is wont to happen to anyone used to traveling time and space… something suspicious happens.

Clara hears a crash on her roof: it turns out to be Santa’s crashed sleigh, complete with Saint Nick himself, two elves, flying reindeer, and… a bunch of tangerines. Apparently Father Christmas loves them, and that's why they end up in the majority of stockings all over Great Britain (certainly not because of all that 'tradition' rot).

At any rate, Clara’s spotted and Santa (a bit more prickly than one would imagine him) tries to bluff his way out of the situation. He even mentions that she was on the naughty list in ’93. (And for anyone who’s keeping up with the fan theory that Clara represents the show’s fan base, that year Doctor Who produced two crossover episodes with the soap opera EastEnders; they were two of the most highly-viewed episodes of Doctor Who to that date, since Doctor Who had been canceled in ’89).

Just when Clara’s insisting (to Santa, ironically) that she’s outgrown fairy tales, the Doctor arrives.

Not only does he seem to dislike Santa (unlike the casual friendship with ‘Jeff’ he quipped about in A Christmas Carol), but he swaps snarky one-liners with him and never lets his angry eyebrows catch a break. The Doctor orders Clara into the Tardis most urgently, then whips her off through a snowy theme song with one single question that the fate of the world depends on: “Do you believe in Santa Claus?”

We then cut to a the North Pole — not Santa’s workshops, mind you, but a base for scientific research. At first, it’s unclear exactly what the four-man crew of this place is investigating…

You know, Moffat... we're getting kind of tired of
not knowing what's going on in the first ten minutes
of the show. My face hurts from making perplexed
faces at the TV screen and whispering, "What?"
every few minutes.

…but they’re sending one terrified young woman into the infirmary by herself, so it doesn’t look good.

Said infirmary houses four ‘sleepers,’ which appear to be human other than strange bulbous reptilian heads. Each lies on its own cot, and they’re dormant for now; but if you look at them or think about them, they will pick up that mental image and lock onto it, turning anyone to notice them into instant prey. “Don’t think about elephants,” anyone?

Don't blink, don't breathe, now, for this season... don't think.
It was only a matter of time, Moffat.

Surprisingly, the girl puts on some Christmas music and manages to dance her way across half the room… until the door opens to emit the Doctor and Clara. They come straight in and notice the Sleepers, which triggers their awakening.

As they hear the panicked girl’s explanation of how to avoid the Sleepers, the Doctor orders Clara to recite math problems in her head. She’s impressive at figures (thanks to all of the computer knowledge downloaded into her in The Bells of Saint John), but the math isn’t enough. So the Doctor asks her about Danny Pink, and tries to distract her by saying that he could be cheating on her at this moment.

Well, distract her it did. Clara gives the Doctor a good smack and drops the news: Danny Pink is dead.

Great job, Doc.

However, that announcement is still only a temporary distraction; the rest of the base’s crew burst in with guns to the rescue. Everybody runs, but massive clawed hands drop down from the ceiling onto them!..

…and Santa blows a hole through the wall to rescue them with tangerines, slinkies, and toy robots! Not to mention he’s riding a reindeer bareback, because… well, because he’s Santa Claus.

In fact, so all-powerful is Saint Nick that all he has to do is order the sleepers to return to bed and they do so.

Remind you of anybody and a few gas-masked sleepers?

"Go to your room!"
From there, everyone returns to safety outside the infirmary. With that done, Santa proves he is Santa with a little blackmail on some of the characters, and then we get on to one of the greatest villainous aliens in Doctor Who yet: the Nolanception Cr— I mean, the Dream Crabs.

It turns out those strange ghoulish hands are actually living creatures, which might be invading the world.

(But, really when isn't something invading the world?)

They were dormant in the north pole until people were sent up to investigate (which explains the origins of the base). But once discovered, the crabs awakened! They attach themselves like ‘face huggers’ to their prey and induce a dream-like state, where the victim is happy and content while their brain is slowly being injected with venom and then digested. The trick is not to trust anything you’re seeing or hearing… but the problem with deciphering fantasy from reality is that they’re both ridiculous (said the time-traveler in a flying blue phone kiosk).

And that’s where everything gets a little unnerving; while one of the base members (Ashley) starts pulling up footage from the base’s inception, she doesn’t explain how she got there. Instead, she just shrugs off the question by saying, “it’s a long story.” And she’s not the only one: nearly every person that the Doctor asks simply admits that it’s a “long story” as to how they got there.

My suspicious senses are tingling...

Anyone who’s watched Inception or Doctor Who for very long probably caught on at this moment: they didn’t escape when the crabs first dropped down on the infirmary; the very moment that Santa rescued them with slinkies was the start of the dream (because really, if that happens to you, you should probably pause to consider reality). So while Clara and the Doctor are admitting that they lied to one another, they (and the other characters) are in fact being eaten alive without knowing it!

Meanwhile, their specimen of dream crab gets loose (because they were talking about it) and manages to latch onto Clara! Then she enters what we’ll call Dream #1. She wakes up at home, on Christmas morning… with Danny Pink.

I knew it! I knew it! I knew it!
I knew they'd find a way to bring him into this!

Everybody may now cry for the obligatory five seconds.

As she dreams, Clara notices a chalkboard echoing whatever words the Doctor is calling to her from afar. He tries to insist that she’s dying, but after a moment she decides to shut him out and stay with Danny instead.

Back where the Doctor is calling to Clara from the North Pole base, the staff explain that the crab can’t be killed without killing Clara. So the Doctor decides that waking her up will kill the crab, but to do so for her, he must enter that dream world.

In the midst of some PG Christmas cuddling, Clara and Danny are disturbed by a knock at the door. It’s the Doctor, stepping in to insist that they’re all in a dream: and he knows it because he himself is dying by dream crab, too — and they have only minutes until the effects are irreversible. The proof? A tiny little “ice cream” headache in the side of their temples.

Despite Clara’s desire to stay, her mental projection of Danny is every bit as wonderful as the real man: he insists that she has to survive and move on. He says everybody cries at Christmas because “every Christmas is their last Christmas” together… but she’s lucky they even had this extra one.

And so, with an emotional audience sobbing in the background, Clara bids him a tearful goodbye and then wakes up with the Doctor back at the North Pole. The crabs dissolve (since they die whenever their feeds go wrong).

However, everyone on the base starts to get a clue about the fact that they’re still in a dream. Clara’s head has no wound from the crab. All of the staff have the same ice-cream headaches that she did. Santa Claus is still milling about nearby… and since it’s Christmas at the North Pole, of course he must be a mental fancy of theirs!

To test the dream world, the Doctor hands out the base manual to the four staff-members; since none of the four have read it, the first word of any page will be different for their every book. Sure enough, each book is different. That makes this place Dream #2.

Despite the fact that he’s only their mental projection, Santa wants to help. The dreams can’t stop personalities once they’ve beens started, and if anyone’s going to help people in need it will be Father Christmas. Of course, he also starts turning the Doctor’s proofs back on him: how bizarre is it that a time traveler flies in a blue phone box? He practically has everyone turn on the Doctor, but in the end it doesn’t matter: all they have to do is focus on that ice cream headache, and…

…they wake up in the infirmary! The Doctor wants to leave at first, but then he realizes something: including the four sleepers there were logically eight staff-members on the base. But then why were there only four manuals?

You know when the Eleventh Doctor focused on Oswinn Oswald's proclivity of milk and eggs when nobody else cared? I cared. And I got that same suspicious feeling... the one that always comes whenever the Doctor asks a simple question with the gravest expression in the world...

When asked how they came to be here, each person — even Clara — initially replies with the same automatic answer: “It’s a long story.”

Dream #3.

The four books still differ from each other. The four sleepers in the infirmary are, in fact, the four staff-members themselves. Even further, the base itself isn’t real! Dreams transcend space and time, so the six people in the room are scattered all over the world, dreaming on Christmas morning. And since this is a dream world, nightmarish things can happen… like the sleepers coming through the television to kill them!

Everyone else (minus one casualty, now dead wherever in the real world he was) flees outside to the Tardis, but it’s occupied by a Sleeper-Doctor and Sleeper-Clara thanks to dream logic! So how can they be rescued from the North Pole on Christmas Day?

Santa Claus!

After the Doctor gets to drive Santa’s sleigh for a while (and he gets quite a kick out of it, too!) they fly home to London. Each person wakes up one by one: one to her life as an older woman in a wheelchair, one to her life selling perfume, and one to a slummy apartment where she decides to forgive someone named Dave.

Just as the Doctor leaves Dream #3, Clara admits to Santa that she’s enjoying herself and she wants to linger just a little longer.

Of course, the Doctor suspected she might do that. He races to her house and zaps the dream crab’s neurocenters with his sonic screwdriver (WHY didn’t he do that before!?) and takes it off of Clara.

But this isn’t just any Clara. It’s sixty-two-year-old Clara.

Though she hasn’t seemed to have changed much where the aged Doctor is concerned, he still appears guilt-ridden as she has him in for tea. She tells stories of how she’s turned down proposals, learned to fly planes… and despite her seeming-contented life, the Doctor still wishes that he had a chance to do right by her again. Then who should show up in the doorway but a portly old man in a red coat with white whiskers: “How badly do you want it, Doctor?”

Dream #4.

The Doctor wakes up and travels to Clara’s house again to zap the dream crab off of her with his sonic screwdriver. She’s young again, thank goodness, though neither of them bothers to look for wounds in their temples or wonder if their headaches are gone.

The Doctor asks Clara if she’ll run off with him again… and she agrees, as happily and brightly as if he were Matt Smith again. As they race to the Tardis, the Doctor admits that he’s not sure why he ever deserved a second chance with her, or who could have granted such a wish… and as the Tardis ‘vorps’ into eternity we see a single tangerine lying in the foreground.

And so we come full circle, finding ourselves bent on that very first question of the episode that holds the fate of the world:

“Do you believe in Santa Claus?”

If so (and we’ve been given the Doctor’s remarks in A Christmas Carol to assume it is indeed so), then consider this episode’s events to be Santa’s gift to the Doctor, in order to bring Clara closer to him again.

But if not (seeing as he has thus far represented the dream world in this episode)…

Then the entire season to come (not to mention every previous season ever?) could very well be Dream #5.

Chris Nolan, eat your heart out.


I thought the episode was well-done. It kept me on the edge of my seat
and interested, unlike most of Season 8. This episode restored my faith
in the show; I was on the verge of giving up because I felt it had gone
downhill so fast in the last season. Capaldi and Coleman deserved so
much more. It had the exciting thrill that reminded me of what Doctor
Who is about: helping the ordinary person realize they are extraordinary
(Clara and the members of the team), dealing with awesome and
dangerous alien lifeforms/planets/etc., and saving the day with a small
dose of magic-like moments. 

I agree; it's really restored my faith in the show, and funnily
enough it also restored Clara's faith in the Doctor. The dream
crabs were an instant classic and even though Clara herself is
wearing thin on me, this was still a good episode to watch
(perhaps because I got to spend so much time shouting at her).

Though on an additional note, BBC America needs to hire
new announcers for their Doctor Who merchandise commercials.
Hiring Americans to do it was bad enough, but the imbeciles
can’t even pronounce ‘Dalek’ correctly.

Current Questions:

A. Is this still a dream? Or is Santa Claus real?
(It's been heavily debated at my house.)

It's currently subjective as to whether this is still a dream or not;
it depends on whether you believe in Santa. The tangerine at the
end represents Santa's presence (the tangerines were likely chosen
to be Santa's 'favorite gifts' because oranges are so often found in
traditional British stockings, along with a few other items like
chocolate coins and sugar mice).

B. Why do the BBC and Moffat and whoever else keep lying to us?
I heard multiple things that didn't come true for this episode.
Namely that Jenna Coleman was leaving and Clara's era as a companion was over.
Did they lie to keep us guessing, or is she really gone and next season will reveal all?

It was never confirmed to Jenna Coleman's last episode,
just rumoured... Perhaps Clara's dead and dreaming the
entire season... or perhaps every previous season up to
this very point was all a dream... our dream. Who knows?


She would certainly fit with him, despite all the care
they took to give her a 'satisfying' goodbye at the Doctor's
grave (and I use quotation marks because it was the exact
opposite of satisfying). I definitely would mind her kissing
him a lot less than I minded Missy's kisses...

D. Why didn’t the Doctor call Santa “Jeff” like
he did in A Christmas Carol? Is it because he’s
no longer his wacky Eleventh self?

Ah. Yes. Blimey. Sorry. Christmas Eve on a rooftop, saw a chimney…”

“Don’t worry, fat fellow will be doing the rounds later..."

"Father Christmas, Santa Claus, or — as I’ve always known him — Jeff.
-The Doctor, A Christmas Carol

E. How are they going to bring back Danny Pink?
They’re obviously too fond of him to let him disappear
forever, as is most of the fan base, I think. Is he just
going to haunt Clara forever like the epic ghost of her
conscience? He deserves to be a companion more than
her at this rate. Just think of all the fights that he and
the Doctor could get into!

F. How are they going to bring Missy back? I mean,
obviously they will since she’s a reoccurring character,
but she was shot by a certain Brigadier Cyberman
instead of by her own person-dissolver. So the logistics
of her return are trickier now.

I don't think Missy is gone either. It's been a while since I watched
the episode where she gets shot (or so we think), but I never
for one second believed she had been shot by the Cyberman.
I think they made it look like she did but she teleported
/used the dissolver at the same moment so she disappeared.
It looked weird and not like the normal Cybermen shots.
Plus, the Master continually finds a way to come back...
he's been doing it for decades of the show! 

G. Will we get to see Santa in future episodes?

H. Will tangerines haunt us for the entire next season,
signifying the potential dream that we're all in? After all,
we do need a new theme to haunt us now that the afterlife
plot has run its course.

Current Theories:
A. Missy’s person-dissolver didn’t kill its victims, but
rather transported them elsewhere. That theory still
doesn’t solve the logistics of how Missy survived being
cyber-zapped, but it might explain why she was so calm
about being ‘killed’ with it. Either way, if it’s true then
we’ll at least get to see Osgood again (since her death
was both traumatic and anti-climactic and undeserved).
     1. Notice the name “Osgood” could very well have a correlation
     to Clara’s many time-gangers, who bore the names Oswinn and
     Oswald and so forth. And remember that theory about Clara’s
     representation of the show’s fan base? Osgood certainly seems to be a
     concentrated version of that… so she’d better not be permanently dead!

B. If we’re lucky, I hope that the Doctor gets another
companion in addition to Clara for the next season. I
wouldn’t go so far as to say I dislike her, but I’m
starting to tire of her… this is why companions have
to switch so frequently.

I'm hoping for a second companion as well.
I like Clara, but I think her storyline has been
woven into a tangle that needs to be cut.
I want something new and exciting, different.
She feels too attached to Eleven still. 

So over-all, despite the difficulties of the past season, this was a Christmas special worthy of Doctor Who, and definitely worth the watching. Let's hope the new season takes after it.


  1. I heard that Jenna had decided to leave and then last minute changed her mind so Steven Moffat had to rewrite the end of the episode.

    This was a good post! I love hearing people's feels, and theories. :) Santa Claus was good, I wish we could have seen more of him and his cheeky elfs. And Capalidi was brilliant! I do believe he's my favorite doctor. I love his lines, I laugh so hard when he's talking.

    Really the only that I didn't like about the episode was Clara. I'm so done with her sobby relationship with Danny. I like Danny, I really do, and I think he and Clara are good for each other. But he's dead. And he needs to friken stay dead, I hate it that they keep dragging him out. It's just bad story writing. Farewell Danny you will be missed much. :'(
    And Clara...just stop. Just stop. Moffat has ruined you for me forever. :P

  2. Sorry to differ, but I can't get enough of Clara!