“Last Christmas” Review – Spoiler Free

christmas dw

I know, I know, the last month or so on this blog has been all about “Doctor Who” and especially “The Dresden Files.” But as I did last year with “Time of the Doctor”, I wanted to talk about this year’s Christmas special. However, in case anyone still has to see it, I’m keeping this one spoiler-free. With that in mind, let’s dive into the plot.

Clara wakes up on Christmas Eve to discover Santa Claus and his elves stuck on her rooftop. Just before she can grasp what’s happening, the Doctor appears and asks her to come with him on an important but dangerous trip. They arrive at a base in the North Pole to discover a group of scientists and some people whose heads are engulfed by strange, alien crabs. Can the Doctor and Clara save these people from the aliens, and why is Santa trying to help out as well?

I’ll get to my main opinion now: I liked this episode. As a Christmas special, the inclusion of Santa, his elves and reindeer, and even the North Pole pushed this one far up for me as feeling Christmas-y. Plotwise, it has a lot of twists and turns that keep it interesting, though one twist in particular starts feeling overused by the end. I enjoyed the elf characters, but my MVPs for this special were the Doctor (of course), Santa Claus (surprisingly) and another character who gave me my absolute favorite Clara scenes in the entirety of her run. You just have to see it for yourself.

Santa was played by Nick Frost, who I’ve loved ever since discovering his and Simon Pegg’s work. His version of Santa was a lot of fun, a bit sarcastic and jokey, but still clever. He doesn’t play up the usual cliche of going all “Ho ho ho” and the Doctor in particular even notes how less jolly he is than normal. It ties into the plot later on, but needless to say I really liked his performance here.

Capaldi as usual did a great job and I liked the use of humor in this with him, both with his own quips and playing off of Santa. His scenes with Clara were well done, especially one near the end that was downright heartwarming while it lasted. There’s another great moment near the end that has him embracing his childlike sense of joy, and it made me go, “There he is. That’s the joyful Doctor I’ve been missing.” It fit perfectly for a Christmas-themed episode and made me smile.

I won’t talk about the other character, as it involves major spoilers, but the acting and purpose surrounding them was very, very good. There are side characters, namely the scientists, but I found I only got attached to maybe two of them and even while watching the episode I had trouble recalling their names. They (mostly) have nice send-offs, but as supporting characters I felt they weren’t as interesting as they could’ve been. However, that was also tied into the plot, so while I still prefer characters like those from “Time Heist,” these were a step up from many other previous ones.

Now we come to my problems with the episode, and aside from my minor grievance with a reoccurring plot twist, most of my problems center with (you guessed it) Clara. I’ve already talked in length about being biased toward disliking her, but this episode did give me a few good moments with her. However, it also gave me an ending that fell short. I never kept up with the speculation about Jenna Coleman staying or leaving after this special, so I didn’t know what her final decision was. But despite finding out after the fact, I still felt the ending to this episode was a bit rushed. It sets up this shocking but great moment that could’ve been taken into many directions, only to subvert it by the end. There was potential to do something amazing with her story and I felt it was completely wasted.

With all that in mind, “Last Christmas” is still worth giving a watch. It has a weird but interesting plot, good character moments, some great humor and tons of creepiness as well. Even though I still consider “A Christmas Carol” to be my absolute favorite special, this one tops some of the others for me.

I give “Last Christmas” a solid 8.5/10.

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