Doctor Who, S 8 ep 13 — Last Christmas

doctor who Christmas special

There are three kinds of Doctor Who Christmas specials: The Transitional (think ‘The Christmas Invasion’ introducing us to the 10th Doctor), whimsical freestanding episodes that take place outside of the regular storyline (‘The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe,’ ‘A Christmas Carol’), and, rarest of all, Christmas-themed episodes that are part of a larger, ongoing story arc. As Christmas specials, making the episodes self-contained makes sense – surely there are many people who sit down and watch Doctor Who just once a year. You can rewatch ‘Wardrobe’ every year and not have to remember where it fell in the overall story. At the same time, a Christmas special that’s just a Christmas special is disposable, Arc-wise,  moreso than regular self-contained episodes.

I expected this year’s Christmas episode to be transitional. As in, I expected that ‘Last Christmas’ would be Clara’s last episode. I expected that she would die and join Danny in some kind of afterlife. That wasn’t what I wanted, necessarily – whether from a broken heart or choosing to die to join a love in death, it’s not exactly the kind of message Doctor Who should be sending, even if that’s what Amy pretty much did.

dws8e3tangerineInstead, Clara and The Doctor’s bond has been strengthened; I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘Whouffle’ is canon in a romantic way, but after all she’s been through, Clara needs the Doctor, and he needs her.  Her heart is still with Danny, but she’s going to keep going, and that’s a good thing. It’s doubtful we’ve seen the last of him. Remember Clara and Danny’s descendent, Orson? Either he’s faded away, Marty McFly-style, or there’s more story to tell, at least in order to tie up questions about their apparent offspring.

The big star of ‘Last Christmas’ is Nick Frost,  who plays a part-badass, part-smartest Santa Claus,  with two scene-stealing elves who condescendingly tell Clara, who’s discovered the downed sleigh on her roof,  that she’s naïve for believing her parents left gifts under the tree for her when she was little. The Doctor intervenes and takes Clara to the North Pole, where a team of scientists are conducting a secret mission.  Or are they?  The lines between dream and reality, life and death, start to blur. What at first seems like it will be a cute Santa-is-real story spirals into a complex horror show with Santa representing the unreal. The story is worthy of a regular episode, fitting seamlessly into the tail end of the 8th series, while offering enough laughs and freak outs to hold the attention of once-a-year-viewers.