Doctor Who 'Last Christmas' [TV-EPISODE REVIEW]

As we prepare to leave Series 8 and venture into the upcoming Series 9, we have one last stop to make which is the annual 'Doctor Who' christmas special. This time we have 'Last Christmas' with the man himself Nick Frost guest starring as Santa Claus... yes, for real. So how does this episode compare to the other christmas specials we have gotten since the show came back?

Not a lot of TV-Shows do christmas specials and it is quite fun to see that 'Doctor Who' is one of the few that does it every single year. Sure not all of them have been hits (In fact I believe there have been more misses up to this point) but I am very happy to say that 'Last Christmas' is one of the better ones we have had - I am thinking at least Top 3 for this story. It is definitely not perfect, it has quite an annoying ending and it borrows heavily from several movies - but it has great dialogue, stunning direction by Paul Wilmshurst and an amazing score by Murray Gold. In terms of the debut christmas special then this is a worthy successor to Matt Smith's 'A Christmas Carol' back in 2010 and I feel it also tops David Tennant's 'The Christmas Invasion' from 2005 (and of course they all apparently have "christmas" in the bloody title too). My only real gripe with these christmas specials is that it always limits the episode to having to shove in all these christmas elements and this has been especially noticeable in the ones written by Steven Moffat (the town in 'The Time of the Doctor' being literally called "Christmas" etc...). I do not think it is necessary for a christmas special to actually take place during christmas as I feel it limits the amount of stories you can tell.

The setting of the episode is almost right out of 'The Thing' and the monster of the episode is like the facehuggers in 'Alien' (this is even mentioned in the dialogue) and what they do to you is putting you in a dream state and this of course brings in 'Inception' to the mix of movies that clearly inspired the episode. I am okay with this seeing as the structure of the movie 'Alien' is VERY reminiscent of the Tom Baker story 'The Ark In Space' and 'Doctor Who' did an episode based on the book 'The Thing' was based on BEFORE the John Carpenter film came out so really I should not be pointing fingers.

Really though, this is one of the darker christmas specials we have gotten which is honestly a very welcome thing for me as that is what I am most excited to see on the show. Of course we still get a fair share of comedic moments from all the characters involved (even including a great dance sequences from one of the episode's guest characters played by Faye Marsay (Waif in 'Game of Thrones'). 'Last Christmas' does manage to balance out the darker stuff with the lighter very well as none of the jokes ever feels out of place thanks to the pacing. Once again, just like 'Death in Heaven' the real star is the emotional side of things. Clara being with Danny in a dream is great stuff and it makes his death even more gut-punching when we see just how happy Clara is with him. This scene also leads into my favorite moment which is when the Doctor arrives in the dream and tries to make Clara wake up. Danny and Clara's final conversation is really well handled and Moffat did an excellent job writing it.

Paul Wilmshurst shines in this episode with his crystal sharp direction. Not once does this episode become dull, not once does this episode feel like it is spending too much time on something. Everything is paced really well and in terms of the cinematography... well just like any other modern 'Doctor Who' episode by this point - it looks absolutely stunning. It shows just how good of a director Wilmshurst is because this is not a huge and epic scale spectacle looking episode so there is not a lot of doors open for breathtaking imagery - and yet the smaller locations never becomes stale to watch and he always finds a way to make the framing highly inventive (just like he did with 'Mummy on the Orient Express').

The main problem of the episode comes at the very end and if you have seen it you know exactly what I am talking about. The episode sets up the end for Clara perfectly and very bittersweet but of course at the last second we find out they were still in a dream and everything is fine. As we later found out, she was actually supposed to go in this episode but Jenna Coleman made Steven Moffat rewrite it in the last second so she could stay on the show for one more season. While I was not against Clara staying on the TARDIS for one more season - the episode was CLEARLY setting up her departure and when that does not end up happening you feel kinda cheated. What I will say though, I went into this episode really expecting this to be the end for her - so the real surprise was that she has another season left. Not really sure if that is a valid point but if the episode wanted to surprise you - it certainly did, but not exactly for the reason it originally intended.

I was very excited when we found out Nick Frost had signed on the be in it and as expected he was great in the role of Santa Claus. He worked extremely well with Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman and while he is probably not going to return - I would not complain if this was not the end for Nick Frost on the show.

Overall, 'Last Christmas' is a great episode. While it borrows heavily from other material, it does not rely on them too much because the main focus is still on the characters. Paul Wilmshurst does a fantastic job yet again. The episode never becomes dull (I think Steven Moffat cannot write a boring 'Doctor Who' episode because with the exception of 'The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe' he has yet to do so even when they are not very good) and the actors are great with the standout being Peter Capaldi and Nick Frost.


- Lucas


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