Doctor Who: Last Christmas
December 25, 2014 11:42 AM - Season 8, Episode 13 - Subscribe

The Doctor and Clara team up at the North Pole with Santa Claus against face-hugging aliens who eat brains.

Completely bonkers. I love bonkers.
posted by Grangousier (41 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh, and I made it s08e13, because it is, more or less.
posted by Grangousier at 11:51 AM on December 25, 2014


If [Title of the Next Episode] doesn't refer to Clara I am going to punch a thing.
posted by bettafish at 12:38 PM on December 25, 2014


What a great episode, and a great, probably the best yet, Christmas special. It felt coherent and yet, Moffat wrote it. It truly is a Christmas miracle!
posted by Catblack at 1:57 PM on December 25, 2014 [10 favorites]


It was silly and funny and I'm tired of somebody's weird desire to being old fairy tales into the Who canon. Still, I was pretty happy with the episode up to the penultimate ending. Old Clara with her full life and The Doctor going on his way. Classic Doctor. The companions age and The Doctor never looks back/goes back. It was sad and great and decisions have consequences and The Doctor could start anew.

But they had to go just that bit too far. I didn't like the happy ending/second chance. It rang false and also continues this weird thing where The Doctor and his companion must be romantically involved or have romantic undercurrents. It's very off-putting. It's not who The Doctor is supposed to be.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 2:03 PM on December 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


Be nice if Moffat could go beyond the don't breathe/don't move/don't think pattern.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 2:05 PM on December 25, 2014 [15 favorites]


I really liked the dream stories, and I looooved Nick Frost's Father Christmas. Also, the comedy elves. (That's racist! And from someone of my height, too!) Good, super creepy villain aliens. But...

I did not like how the episode gave us a perfect opportunity for Clara's exit and then she ... did ... not ... freaking ... exit. Go away, Manic Pixie Dream Clara, go awaaaaaaay!

Seriously, the only excuse for Clara to remain is to explain the dangling plotline of Orson Pink. Would a little breakfasttime vomiting or something scare off the censors? Danny is and was awesome, but please, god, just make her gooooooooooo. Donna Noble is going to regain her memories and somehow maintain her brain's molecular integrity just to smack her upside the head on my behalf, at this point.
posted by sldownard at 2:16 PM on December 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Rumor has it that Jenna Coleman was all set to leave the series and then, at the last minute, had a change of heart which led to a rewrite of the ending of this episode. I'm guessing the original ending ended with Old Clara.
posted by Servo5678 at 2:36 PM on December 25, 2014


Nick Frost was great as Santa.
posted by jadepearl at 4:03 PM on December 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


I can't get over the fact that Santa Claus was being played by "Nick Frost", which seems like an obvious pseudonym for Santa Claus to use.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 5:21 PM on December 25, 2014 [16 favorites]


Hey, wait a minute...

Since Santa Claus was never "real", doesn't that mean that the scene at the end of "Death In Heaven" where Santa came to see the Doctor in the TARDIS means that the Doctor was already taken by the dreamcrabs by that time?
posted by Servo5678 at 5:29 PM on December 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Be nice if Moffat could go beyond the don't breathe/don't move/don't think pattern.

Clara, whatever you do, don't fart.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:19 PM on December 25, 2014 [17 favorites]


Dream crabs. Moon egg. I seriously think there was a plan to pick purposefully stupid things and see if they could make them work, like bet to use a ridiculous word in a business meeting, but I really like it when people throw themselves into a hopeless task, meaning the actors. When I watched a lot of off hour cable I got to see some great acting in horrible movies. I love Nick Frost and his totally fake name. I love Space Dad Capaldi. Dream crabs are what you get when you're having dream sex with someone who turns out to be someone you really don't want to have sex with. Don't even get me started on dream cooties.
posted by provoliminal at 8:27 PM on December 25, 2014


There were some great lines:
"There's a horror movie called Alien? That's really offensive!"
"You know the big problem in telling fantasy and reality apart? They're both ridiculous."

I also liked seeing Dan Starkey (Strax) out of his Sontaran makeup. He was at Gallifrey One and was funny and approachable.

And I liked Faye Marsay's character, who felt like somebody I'd know.

Also, the Dream North Pole Base Staff costumes are going to be super easy to cosplay, just sayin'.
posted by wintersweet at 8:43 PM on December 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


"You know the big problem in telling fantasy and reality apart? They're both ridiculous."

So true.
posted by homunculus at 9:50 PM on December 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


There were some great lines:
"There's a horror movie called Alien? That's really offensive!"


There were other shout-outs to Ridely Scott films in the show. Obviously, the face-huggers (which were called that in the show) The more subtle one, though, was in the opening scene, when the younger character was about to enter the room with the four sleepers on the tables. As the doors were unlocked, we got a quick shot of a screen that flashed a message very similar to this.

Overall, I really liked this special. Pretty bonkers. One question that needs to be answered for me, though...As the others were awaking from their dreams, we saw them all waking in the comfort of their own homes. The Doctor, though, awakes on the floor of what appears to be some sort of cavern. Will we ever discover why he was in such a place on Earth?
posted by Thorzdad at 5:30 AM on December 26, 2014


It was deeply silly but scary and fun. I don't mind Clara staying, because alas I thought her time with 11 was wasted. Her dynamic is so different with Capaldi and still has more room to explore.

But Clara now lives in that house in London? What do they pay schoolteachers in the UK?
posted by typewriter at 6:54 AM on December 26, 2014


Oh, and how could I forget to mention the appearance of Michael Troughton, son of Patrick "The Second Doctor" Troughton?

As the doors were unlocked, we got a quick shot of a screen that flashed a message very similar to this.
Nice catch, Thorzad! I knew that screen reminded me of something, but I couldn't think what. As for where the Doctor was, it reminded me a little of the lava-keys scene from earlier in the season, but they are pretty fond of just showing bits of mostly off-screen adventures. It could just be that, or, of course, it could Mean Something. Hard to say.
posted by wintersweet at 7:53 AM on December 26, 2014


I think the fancy house was 80+ year old Clara's house. If the rumors are true that she planned to leave, they were probably constrained by available sets.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:18 AM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


I forgot the whole quote: "There's a horror movie called Alien? That's really offensive! No wonder everyone keeps invading you." <3
posted by wintersweet at 10:05 AM on December 26, 2014


This is from a conversation I had with someone right after I watched, and sums up my feelings about it pretty well:

[12:32] mordax: Oh - shit I never thought I'd say
[12:32] mordax Ready?
[12:32] mordax: *drumroll*
[12:33] mordax: I actually really liked the Doctor Who / Santa Claus team up.
[12:33] mordax: It was creepy. It was layered. It was even touching in spots.

Other random thoughts:

* While I have really disliked the Horrible Negging Doctor humor this season, I will admit that the payoff here was good: I liked that he needed to get Clara a mirror so she could check if she was still young on her own. (I also enjoyed that he had to double check that the four dreamers were, in fact, the same people after he'd left the room for like 30 seconds.)

* Santa Claus pointing out the sled was 'bigger on the inside' was pretty good.

* Shona cracked me up repeatedly. They should've gotten her number and gone for that curry.

The quotes you guys mentioned also really stood out to me: Alien being offensive, the thing about fantasy vs. reality.
posted by mordax at 12:43 PM on December 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


Not only do I like the tangerines, but I was eating mine as I watched this episode.

The Alien stuff was clearly because Shona had either just watched or was about to watch Alien (it was on her checklist) so that was her contribution to the dreamscape.
posted by Karmakaze at 9:45 PM on December 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


* Shona cracked me up repeatedly. They should've gotten her number and gone for that curry.

I expect that they're going to bring her character back in a future episode.
posted by homunculus at 9:53 PM on December 26, 2014


I swear that the mug that Santa Claus drinks from is the same one that the Doctor stole from the watchman in "Listen." Because dreams are like that, borrowing objects from your past.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:39 PM on December 26, 2014


I was kind of surprised the Doctor had never heard of Alien. He drops Earth pop culture references with some regularity... he's heard of Ghostbusters, but not Alien?

The stuff about him not being able to tell people apart or recognize Clara's age seem like a throwback to old school Who. (I'm thinking of Tom Baker telling a lady, "You're a very beautiful woman, probably.") I get the feeling the last three Doctors were quite aware their companions were attractive young women, but the current Doctor is back to being clueless about that stuff.

Was I reading too much into the scene where he asked Clara to think of a really good number (or words to that effect) and she chose 12? I took that as her saying the previous Doctor's number, as a jokey little dig at his current self.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:44 PM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


Not only do I like the tangerines, but I was eating mine as I watched this episode.

I took that as proof of his alien nature. Who doesn't love a good tangerine?

I expect that they're going to bring her character back in a future episode.

Man, I hope so. The dancing about killed me.

I was kind of surprised the Doctor had never heard of Alien. He drops Earth pop culture references with some regularity... he's heard of Ghostbusters, but not Alien?

Might chalk that up to everybody being scrambled by dreaming. They were all just a bit off.

Was I reading too much into the scene where he asked Clara to think of a really good number (or words to that effect) and she chose 12?

I am personally going to label that a good catch. :)
posted by mordax at 10:52 PM on December 26, 2014


I am still hoping Sally Sparrow appears again, so not too hopeful with Clara appearing again. Pity.
posted by jadepearl at 11:04 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nick Frost surprised me in this. He didn't play his usual bumbling character. Stepping away from Simon Pegg has been good for his growth as an actor. Old St Nick, indeed.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 9:04 AM on December 27, 2014


I'd love to see Donna again. It's a whole different universe that they rebooted, so there's got to be a way to un-do her "YOU CAN'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT OR DOOOOOOOOOOOOM" in-story reason for being away.

Capaldi and Tate would bring all the snark.

If they rewrote it after Coleman changed her mind, that would explain why it felt so very much like we were going to end with dead Clara. When old Clara was talking about how wonderful her life had been, I figured it was the tail end of her time being eaten by the dreamcrab. When she said she actually had regrets, that's when I figured that she was going to live, because dreamcrab life probably wouldn't have lots of regrets.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:16 PM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


"I expect that they're going to bring her character back in a future episode."

There's been a number of companions for the Christmas special that I thought for sure were going to be regulars. Some of them weren't guest stars I failed to recognize, even. So it happened with Donna, but at this point I first think, oh, that's going to be a new companion, they're great, and then, oh yeah, I keep being wrong about that.

"I am still hoping Sally Sparrow appears again, so not too hopeful with Clara appearing again. Pity."

Sally Sparrow is surely one of the most beloved characters in Who fandom, but Carey Mulligan has quite successfully transitioned to major roles in Hollywood films so for that reason alone it seems very unlikely.

I never hated Clara and I find the actress particularly attractive so I've been pretty okay with her even though I recognize the validity of the complaints about her. She did get a bit more interesting this season. Even so, I'm totally ready for a new companion because I don't really agree with the prevailing opinion that this was a pretty good season. I mean, it was better than the last two, or so, but that's not a big achievement. I like Capaldi but I feel like this Doctor's potential is being squandered. I'm hopeful that a new companion will improve things. I understand that Jenna Coleman is going to be back only for a partial season, so unless this isn't the case, we'll get a new companion fairly soon.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:39 AM on December 28, 2014


BBC America has been playing a promo commercial for their upcoming new seasons of shows, featuring quick clips of their various popular shows like Orphan Black, Ripper Street, The Musketeers, etc. There's a very quick Dr. Who clip which shows a (fairly obviously) female character riding a motorcycle through the open doors of the Tardis. We never actually see the character's face, though. One would assume this is Clara, but the lack of a face does make one wonder.

I have no issue with Clara, myself. I think her character has become better once they got through that whole "impossible girl" arc. Still, I don't think she's been written as strongly as she could be, or as involved. Her last few appearances almost seem to have been as a reluctant companion. Someone who alternately really wishes the Doctor would just go the hell away, yet really pines for the adventure. It's pretty bi-polar.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:22 AM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's a very quick Dr. Who clip which shows a (fairly obviously) female character riding a motorcycle through the open doors of the Tardis.

I think that's a clip from "Day of the Doctor".
posted by rmd1023 at 7:28 AM on December 28, 2014


Ah. That probably explains why it seemed so familiar. Guess I just didn't recall it. Oh, well.
Damn these aging brain cells

Re:Carey Mulligan...I just watched Blink again this week (BBCA is doing a Who marathon), and I was reminded once more why it's probably one of the single best NuWho episodes ever. With there being so little of the Doctor in it, Moffat had to write a really focused episode where it all had to work and make some sort of sense, with no timey-wimey manic hand-wavey explanations or deus-ex-sonic saving of the day. And, of course, Mulligan plays such an engaging character. Heck, she'd make a great Doctor herself.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:54 AM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm a total downer. I didn't think the episode was all that great, but I was also continually distracted by the terrible score that popped up when completely unnecessary and when it did, just didn't seem to quite match up with the events going on in the scene.

Even though Moffat completely lampshaded the face huggers, it was still too derivative for me. "ha, ha, yes, Moffat, I see what you're doing there...and just to reassure me that you knew you were ripping them off you have a list of movies to inform us that you knew you were rippin' on them the entire time...ha ha.....eh."

Dream Crabs. There was never an explanation other than horror aesthetic for the creatures to separate to reveal faces of the people they were clinging to. Worse name ever. Also, we never saw any obvious wounds on Clara or the Doctor or anyone else when they woke up for real, despite being informed they're putting a hole in the side of people's head, hence Clara checking her temple in the second dream level for that wound and by not finding it, hence helping to realize she was still in a dream. Also, what would be gained by including everyone in a group dream? As was obvious with Clara, putting each person in their perfect happy spot is a much more effective way to keep people from searching for a way to wake up. Grumble, grinch, grumble!

I found the part with one of the women waking up in a wheelchair a rather trite, "OH...that's SAD." kind of thing to include.

Santa. I didn't mind Nick Frost.

Danny Pink teasing. Argh. I'm still ticked they killed him off in the finale earlier this year and this only brought up those feelings. It was a logical inclusion, granted.

The Doctor, though, awakes on the floor of what appears to be some sort of cavern. Will we ever discover why he was in such a place on Earth?

It reminded me of the location Clara went to throw the TARDIS keys into the lava.

Clara's return. I don't mind Clara. I thought her crushing on the Doctor as her personal Santa Claus was kind of weird. Did I misread that? Old Clara, props for stating that a person can have a happy life without getting hitched.

Just wasn't a fan of this episode, shucks.
posted by Atreides at 8:15 AM on December 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm a total downer..

Eh. Nah. This was a gimmicky episode, and that wasn't going to work for everybody. I can't speak for everybody who was pleased with it, but I was actually happy because they did something ridiculous and still allowed it to have any kind of internal consistency - this feels like it could've easily been the fiasco that was 'Dinosaurs on a Space Ship' or something, and instead I could actually tell you what happened throughout. ("Inception meets Alien meets Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, with special guest star Danny Pink as the Ghost of Christmas that Never Was.")

However, it was still ridiculous, and calling it out for being ridiculous and derivative isn't unreasonable. I don't think we have to confiscate your nerd card. :)

I will defend a few choices you took issue with though:

I thought her crushing on the Doctor as her personal Santa Claus was kind of weird. Did I misread that?

I think she was just trying to be sweet to him. It's not an unreasonable comparison, either: Doctor Who is essentially a fairy tale with sci-fi trappings. (I will admit that I'm unhappy this has been getting less and less subtle though - the sonic screwdriver as Harry Potter wand thing is stupid, and it feels like the science is getting even less hard than it was, which I didn't think was possible.)

Dream Crabs. There was never an explanation other than horror aesthetic for the creatures to separate to reveal faces of the people they were clinging to.

An awful lot of Who monsters have worked that way, making very little sense past aesthetics. Or, in the case of Daleks, also not making much aesthetic sense either.

Worse name ever.

It was bad, but I think the distinction of worst needs to go to 'the Boneless.' I loved the monsters, I loved the episode, I loved Clara in the episode... and then the Doctor's declaration that he named them that was so jarring that it just about ruined the whole thing for me. It'd was like if, at the end of Alien, Ripley dictated into the log 'and then Jonesy and I escaped the terrible fartbeasts of LV-426.' Like... who even asked him to name them?

'Dream Crabs' is a silly thing to say, but at least they didn't also make it the Doctor's impromptu idea.
posted by mordax at 9:40 AM on December 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


Not only do I like the tangerines, but I was eating mine as I watched this episode.

I took that as proof of his alien nature. Who doesn't love a good tangerine?
It's a kids show; how many 9-year-olds do you think like the tangerines in their Christmas stocking?
posted by fullerine at 5:50 AM on December 29, 2014


It's a kids show; how many 9-year-olds do you think like the tangerines in their Christmas stocking?

I sure did at that age. Sugar's sugar. Or are the tangerines in England of particularly low quality? Like, I might've looked at it that way if we were talking about navel oranges.
posted by mordax at 10:12 AM on December 29, 2014


My son and I kept talking about the "what if dream crabs and weeping angels were brought together" and what a mess that would be.
posted by vanderwal at 3:02 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Dream Crabs aren't terribly good at their jobs, are they? Also, where is the Doctor hanging out when he gets crabbed? I'm quite glad that "old Clara" was a mislead, because the whole "I could never get over this one guy for my entire life" is quite irritating. I think this episode was the best way to include Santa Claus in an episode which would be watched by children who presumably might still believe in Santa Claus.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:55 AM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I almost always hate Santa Claus stories. They're too twee and they try to be clever while also maintaining "the magic" of the season... It never works right.

But this? This works. I was so sad when I realized that Santa was just a dream... Yeah, that's what allowed the story to really work, but still! He was so fun! Such a great addition to the Doctor Who universe!

I hope he can come back sometime. Somehow.
posted by meese at 4:59 PM on December 31, 2014


Rewatching Sherlock, it struck me that Moffat wrotes both Sherlock and The Doctor as almost identical characters*. Both (apparently) smarter than everyone else in the room, arrogant, with massive blind spots, and with a companion who lusts after then (consciously or subconsciously). Then in S01E03, The Great Game, Sherlock says he deleted information in his head on the earth going around the sun.


*Not exactly a revelation, I know. However, that the characters shared identical lines was surprising. It is most definitely time for a new Who showrunner. The current situation shortchanges both shows. Sadly, the show may end its run before that happens.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 2:19 PM on January 3, 2015


I was so annoyed with the end of the Season 8 finale that I only just watched this. Eh. Maybe on a second watch I'll like it more.

I'd agree that where the Doctor wakes up looks like the keys/lava scene. I'm not sure what they're doing with that. I can't imagine they'd retcon two entire episodes as a dream; that just seems like a remarkably bad idea.
posted by johnofjack at 1:30 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


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