Doctor Who First Impressions Review & Spoilers: 2014 Christmas Special – “Last Christmas”! Clara Oswald’s Fate Revealed!

Doctor Who 2014 Christmas Special

Last Christmas

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Paul Wilmshurst

Cast
Peter Capaldi – The Doctor
Jenna Coleman – Clara Oswald
Nick Frost – Santa Claus
Michael Troughton – Professor Albert Smithe
Faye Marsay – Shona McCullough
Natalie Gumede – Ashley Carter
Nathan McMullen – Wolf
Maureen Beattie – Fiona Bellows
Dan Starkey – Ian
Samuel Anderson – Danny Pink


Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers!


First Impressions:

  • Two important things to come from this episode.
  1. Danny Pink is still dead (and still awesome even in death)
  2. Clara will be traveling with the Doctor again when the new season starts next year.
  • While I had expected this episode to have a lot of “Alien” and “The Thing” in it, there were quite a few other movies mixed in.  Inception was definitely a HUGE influence on this one, and I definitely saw some Nightmare on Elm Street too.  Also, when we see Ashley’s “To Do List” towards the end of the episode, she had also listed Miracle on 34th Street (along with Alien and The Thing), which makes a lot of sense.
  • It was also cool that they acknowledged the Alien homage by having Michael Troughton’s character (Professor Albert) mention it.  Michael Troughton is the brother of David Troughton who has appeared in Doctor Who a few times (including the radio plays where he has filled in for The Doctor a few times) and the son of Patrick Troughton, who played the Second Doctor.  Doctor Who…a family affair.

  • I actually felt bad for Professor Albert…not only was he the only character who died, but he was the only one we learned nothing about in the end of the episode.
  • The main threat in this movie were creatures called Dream Crabs.  When we first see them, it is suggested that they could only attack you if you were thinking of them.  Thanks Steven Moffat for managing to make THINKING terrifying.  Add that to angel statues, silence, and the creatures under your bed.  Moffat is just a cruel, cruel man.   I thought there were a lot of genuinely scary moments in this episode.
  • During the episode on BBC America, there was a cool “Inside Doctor Who” segment that went in to all the Dream Crab models and costume design they had done.  It definitely gave me a nice appreciation for all the care that goes into the creatures and effects for Doctor Who.   I love when they show those kinds of behind the scenes info.  It’s almost as interesting to me as the episodes themselves.
  • It is hard to do an episode that relies heavily on the idea that “this story you just watched was all a dream,” but I thought they pulled it off really well here.  It would have been real easy to leave the viewer confused or dissatisfied, but that never happened here.  The different layers of the dreams and how it changed your perception of each character was cleverly done.   It may have mostly been a dream, but you still got a clear sense of character development for Clara and The Doctor.
  • I especially loved how the shared dream of Santa Claus was done especially well, and it gave the story a nice Christmas feel to it.  I also loved how much Santa kicked ass, though the shot of him riding Rudolph like a wild west cowboy may have been a little much.
  • I did think that most of the supporting cast could have been better used.  Normally, the one-shot “companions” get a little more to do, but I never got a feel for any of the characters.  Though in the end, we found out that none of them were who they appeared to be in the shared dream, so I guess that made sense, even if it was a little unsatisfying.  It’s never even clear how they got involved in the story beyond “there was innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire.”  Which doesn’t really hold up if you give it any real thought.

  • The scene with Danny and Clara in the dream was terrific.  I was real disappointed that Danny was still dead in the end, but I thought Dream Danny was great.  I especially liked when he said that he didn’t die to save the Earth, he died to save Clara and the rest of the world just got lucky as a result.   I also liked when he told Clara she was allowed to mourn him for five minutes a day.  It was just a real sweet moment.
  • The “last” dream where the Doctor meets a much older Clara Oswald was kind of unnecessary.  MAYBE that could have been a great last scene for the character, but since BBC News had announced hours ago that actress Jenna Coleman was coming back for next season, it was clear it was just another dream.  In a season full of powerful scenes with Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi, this was definitely one of the weaker ones.
  • Though they did make up for it in the end with Clara deciding she wasn’t done with travelling with the Doctor after all.  Yey!  I definitely can go for at least another half season of Clara.  Though I do hope that he spends some of next season actually looking for Gallifrey.  It was weird that plot point basically vanished after the 50th Anniversary made such a big deal out of the new direction for the show.
  • All in all, I thought this was the best Christmas special that Moffat has done so far (Voyage of the Damned  is still my favorite overall, though that was the first episode of Doctor Who I got to watch as it aired, so I might have some bias).  Last Christmas was a great blend of several different genres and ideas.  To me, those are some of the best Doctor Who episodes…something you really can’t get anyplace else.

  • One thing that really amused me about this episode was that Dan Starkey played one of the elves (Ian, the one on the right in the picture). Dan Starkley is a Doctor Who veteran having played Strax in quite a few episodes, including the season opener for this year. Not sure if this was intentional, but I thought that having him in that role helped add to the dreamlike qualities the episode possessed. A familiar face in a not-so-familiar setting. Maybe I am reading just a little to much in to this…
  • Next time: Magician’s Apprentice – We don’t know when Doctor Who will be back, but BBC did give us this teaser title.   BUT, I am real happy that we are getting season 2 of The Musketeers on BBC America in a few weeks, plus Broadchurch season 2 will be airing in America in March.  BBC is definitely acknowledging that there are plenty of American fans of British TV, and I, for one, am appreciative!

 


Final Score: 8/10: Definitely the best Christmas special under Steven Moffat’s tenure as Doctor Who’s showrunner.  There were a few things about this episode that annoyed me, but they are mostly trivial, and it wasn’t enough to spoil the fun.

Tags: , , , ,