TV Review: "Doctor Who" Christmas Special: Last Christmas

Written by: Lord Gremlin

The rather long opening scene of “Last Christmas” had me feeling very nervous. It felt off. The humor wasn’t hitting and the overall tone felt odd. Why was Santa on Clara’s roof with two snarky Elves?

I was fearing that “Last Christmas” would be the only Season 8 episode that I would flat out dislike after the abysmal “In the Forest of the Night”. Luckily for me, after this opening scene, this year’s annual Christmas Special took off with a pulpy sci-fi plot, fun side characters, the patented Doctor Who creep factor and the usual top notch performances from the main players. “Last Christmas” is easily the most enjoyable Christmas Special after “A Christmas Carol”.

I don’t understand why I was so quick to jump the gun on this episode based off of the opening scene. I mean this is Doctor Who were talking about. It’s also Moffat's Who, so wonkiness is to be expected. And wonky this adventure is. Moffat decided to let loose and have fun here. “Last Christmas” is an unabashed mash-up of iconic science fiction and horror films. The Specials monsters, the Dream Crabs, are pretty much Face Huggers from the Alien franchise. The dream within a dream concept is very Inception and the desolate arctic setting smacked of John Carpenters The Thing. Throw in The Doctor and Santa Claus (played by a very enjoyable Nick Frost) and you have a recipe for the most batshit Who episode in a long time.

Considering this past season has been a redemption of sorts for Moffat, all of these crazy ideas manage to tie together rather well with only a few stray strands poking out instead of falling apart like they easily could have. The numerous homages (a character flat out mentions Alien in reference to the Dream Crabs) feel appropriate to the story instead of just lazy callbacks meant to carry the plot. They are done with affection and when he’s on, Moffat knows how write a damn good yarn, and “Last Christmas” is a damn good yarn. 

It was a very pleasant surprise to see Moffat do a mindfuck story without timey-wimey for a change.
The last act also delivers on the emotion in a way I wasn’t expecting. As the episode was coming to a close I was expecting to knock a point off thinking that Moffat wouldn’t address how The Doctor and Clara left things with each other, but he did and he made their resolution feel earned and not obligatory.

“Last Christmas” was an almost perfect slice of Who. It gives us an impressive balance of tone, humor, horror and character. The cast and effects were up to par with the rest of the high quality stuff the production team has given us this season, and overall it’s a great representation of the Who’s M.O. It’s a show that can go and do anything it wants to. This year’s Special is one of the strongest examples of this the shows had in a while. My only complaint is that Moffat takes the dream within a dream concept just ONE step too far. 

8/10. Overall, “Last Christmas” is an energizing cap-off to a wonderful year of Doctor Who.

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About The Damn Beast

Pre-op trans-minotaur, sci-fi/fantasy/horror author, metal singer, videogame journalist, pop culture blogger. I also lift heavy things and put them down again repeatedly to occupy more space.
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