After 9 previous Xmas Specials; under the banner of Nu-Who. It seemed odd; that the subject of Santa – as an actual character; had not been covered before now.
Santa was an ‘actual’ character, kind of Doctor mysterious with a slightly odd and dark edge – well played by Nick Frost. It made for a interesting play-off against the Doctor. As Santa was also more in the know than he was letting on. It was probably the best way, in which Santa should be played – on Nu Who.
Moffat provded another expected Moffat-esque slam-bang & thank-you-mam twist-athon, which went at breakneck pace and shoehorned in all of the xmas angles and contemporary horror inspirations, whilst not stopping to explain itself – very much.
Nu-Who felt so self-concious about this, they decided to tie it into a number of in-jokes; “ooh look they are like facehuggers”, one of the characters (Patrick Troughton’s son – ‘Michael’ in a small part) remarked. The same films later appeared on a character’s Xmas to-do-list. Aswell as a joke about calling a film “Alien” – offensive.
The Dream Crabs signature was to attach to their victims faces and digest their prey, whilst the victim was induced to sleep and dream of their deepest darkest desires (kinda reminds me of an old X-Files but I cannot remember which!). In Clara’s case, after being attacked; she dreamt she was having a perfect xmas – with Planky.However, once stuck in this state, even if the victims worked out they were dreaming; they would be ‘tricked’ into dreaming some more whilst believing they had woken up. Cue endless twists – “are we still asleep/awake”, etc.
They did however, have the admittedly unusual but clever signature of looking like big purple turkeys, stuck on their victims heads; (Monica from Friends?) in a bizarre Xmas nod. They also had the alien Xenomorph opening-drooly-mouth thing, going on.
Wasn’t sure about the psychic explanation, as the Doctor was attacked on an alien planet and Clara – some light years away in her bed on Earth (something about the crabs psychically seeking out the Doctor friends and a bunch of random Arctic base people?).
However, when the revelation came that Santa himself wasn’t real but was actually part of the dream world; some 5-year old viewers must have harshly had their Xmas beliefs and childhoods shattered.
That was, if they were still watching – (and not having shat themselves and ran away back behind the sofa) after the appearance of the Crabs (or Imagination Crustations?).
You have to commend the boldness of Who, in going for a sheer psychological terror number, which wore it’s influences firmly on it’s sleeve. But also scold it in the same token, for attempting to mix this with sheer Xmas fluff.
The scenes at the end, flying about London on Santa’s sleigh. With the Doctor in control (and acting like a giddy teenager, that had found his dad’s razzle mag collection – for the first time); doesn’t sit well with my understanding of this latest Doctor. By all means soften his edges but please don’t have him swing completely the other way and act like a yuletide moron.
The Doctor overshot his bolt – somewhat and dropped in on Clara, 62-years in the future; who was an old lady. It had finally dawned on her that travelling with the Doc was a good thing and normal life could never match up. Better late than never – I suppose!
I couldn’t fault the actual episode itself though, which was twisty and entertaining enough. It has easily been the best Xmas Who in years since 2009’s End Of Time (not a hard feat!). I would take this over the terrible 2010 one, with a wasted Michael Gambon and flying sky sharks.
Any issues which Last Christmas had; came from the usual problem Capaldi Who has had; right through season 8. Namely; the attempted square-peg-round-hole melding together of the psychological adult horror moments – with the childish fluff.
The ending was a disappointment for me, with the news that Clara wouldn’t actually be leaving. As a character, she has cut the fanbase down the middle. But no one can really deny, after 2 seasons she has had her time as companion-elect and the show could do with a fresh angle.
Talking of fresher angles, I really hope that Moffat goes before season 9 – as the show in general needs some fresh ideas. Too much of season 8, has relied on past episodes for reference and inspiration. Bring back RTD. Just sayin’.