“Recap: Doctor Who, “Last Christmas” (Christmas Special 2014)

Some people don’t love when Doctor Who steers into the skid of campy but I can’t help myself, I love it. The self-referential jokes were a-plenty tonight. And so were the feels.

“Last Christmas” begins with Santa crashing on Clara’s roof. Nick Frost (Spaced, Shaun of the Dead) does a fantastic job as Saint Nick. The portrayal is equal parts earnest and jesting and sets a loving but silly tone for the episode.

When Santa asks Clara when she stopped believing in him, she explains that she stopped believing in fairy tales. But as the TARDIS materializes behind her, neither Santa nor the rest of us believe her. The Doctor tells Clara to step into the TARDIS, no questions asked. It’s always so surprising when companions actually listen.

Cut to an arctic station. A woman is trying to get through a room full of “sleepers.” She can’t think about them or they’ll psychically “see” themselves being thought about and wake up and try to eat her. She’s trying to distract herself by dancing to Christmas music. Clara and the Doctor show up, distract her from the distracting, get themselves into plenty of trouble (and the truth of Danny Pink’s demise comes out), and Santa comes to save the day.

Dream Crabs have come to take over the earth. In the pantheon of Who monsters, the dream crabs are pretty high on the creepy scale both in execution and in concept. These monsters place their victims in a dream state while they slowly liquify and consume their victims’ brains. If the image of a huge, face-and-head swallowing claw isn’t creepy enough, the dream state is so complex that it layers dreams within dreams Inception-style so the victims never know they are slowly dying an excruciating death.

As the Doctor tries to get to the bottom of the mystery, he’s confronted with his own unbelievability. As he says, “The biggest difficulty about telling reality and fantasy apart? They’re both ridiculous.”

Clara gets attacked by one of the Dream Crabs and is slowly being digested. Her dream world is Danny Pink on Christmas morning. It is fucking devastating. The Doctor tries to cut into the dream world – writing on a chalkboard that she’s dying, he’s yelling. She blinks and goes back to her dream world. He volunteers to be attacked by a Dream Crab to go in and help her.

The return of Danny Pink is just about as heartbreaking as it could possibly be. Danny and Clara are so in love, so clearly perfect for each other. Jenna Coleman and Samuel Anderson infused this relationship with love and humor from the instant they were on screen together. It has been the most believable, natural love story on Doctor Who. And yes, I’m including Amy and Rory and Ten and Rose. Mourning the loss of Danny Pink, at least for me, is equal parts sadness for Clara losing him as it is for the show losing him.

But the Doctor, and Clara’s projection of Danny, force Clara out of the dream and into the real world. Clara and the Doctor wake up and the monsters vaporize. But they’re not safe! It seems this is a dream-inside-a-dream and Santa has to explain to them that, “It’s all a bit dreamy-weamy.” The crew of the arctic station, the Doctor, and Clara must all wake themselves up again. They dream up Santa Clause one more time and he flies everyone home.

One by one the crew all wake up. Doctor wakes up first, before Clara who wants to stay with Santa just a little longer. By the time the Doctor gets to Clara and wakes her up, 62 years have passed. She traveled, taught in every country in Europe, learned to fly a plane. No one ever measured up to Danny except one man – and he was impossible.

But wait, there’s more! It’s yet another dream in a dream (we’re at 4 by my count at this point). The Doctor rushes to save Clara again – she’s still young. The Doctor apologizes, grateful for a second chance. And just like that, Clara and 12 run off together again.

Odds & Ends

– The question on the mind of many fans at the start of this episode was, will this be Clara Oswald’s last episode as well as the Last Christmas? Turns out that, while we did get the answer to that question, it wasn’t the most compelling part of the story.

– “How do you get all of the presents in the sleigh?” “It’s bigger on the inside.”

– “I didn’t die saving the world. I died saving Clara and the rest of you just got lucky.” So many feels.

– “You can miss me for 5 minutes a day. All the rest of the time, every single second, get the hell on with it.” Don’t go Danny!

– “You’re a dream that’s trying to save us?” “I’m Santa Claus. I think you just defined me.”

– Clara’s weekly overt hero-worship line didn’t fail to deliver an eye roll from me, “I’ve always believed in Santa Claus, but he looks a little different to me.” Ugh. Yes. We get it. The Doctor is your hero. Shh.

  • Lissa

    Given that Danny is dead, what are we supposed to make of the episode “Listen”, the episode that introduces us to Danny and Clara’s great-grandchild?