Doctor Who

Doctor Who: "Last Christmas" Hits Every Mark Perfectly

My apologies for the lateness of this review as I spent most of Christmas evening in the emergency room with my daughter, who is fully recovered now.

The Doctor and Santa Claus...You have to be a little worried, right? Much like the Christmas Harry Potter crossover Russell T. Davies tried to put together during Tennant's time it might just be a bridge too far. Even for Steven Moffat, a writer who works his absolute best in the context of a fairy tale, it's a daunting task.

Surprisingly, the subject is handled just as perfectly as it can be.

"Last Christmas" excels well in horror. Capaldi's run has been somewhat strangely dominated by zombie-like enemies. We had the titular mummy in "Mummy on the Orient Express" and the Boneless from "Flatline" already, and you could conceivable add the corpse Cybermen and the Clockwise Men to the list if you were so inclined. The Sleepers certainly fit that mold, being reminiscent of either the infected from The Last of Us or probably more accurately the Headcrab Zombies from Half-Life.

For all that they've been largely done before they do still bring out an element of real horror. Add in the nightmarish nature of the multilayered dreamscapes that the monsters use to sedate and trap their victims and you've got a pretty creepy little winter's tale.

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Honestly though the adventure feels more like a sideshow for a larger message delivered through the lips of Father Christmas himself. He drops into the scene rescuing The Doctor, Clara, and four scientists from the Sleepers with a toy army that I swear by all that is joyful and innocent was a reference to the movie Toys. Kris Kringle then aids and guides the others in their battles against dream monsters, dodging questions here and there about the reality or his own personal existence.

A few spin-off comics in the early days of the show hinted that the First Doctor was personally responsible for augmenting Santa's set-up with Time Lord technology, and the Ninth Doctor famously made a joke implying that he might be intimately connected with Saint Nicholas.

Here the two of them bicker like an old married couple, acting as if they do indeed know each other outside the apparently fictional world most of the episode is set in. It's left extremely ambiguous on what is real and what is imaginary in the end and that's the way it should be. The point was never to define who or what Santa Claus is but what he means to us all. In that regard Moffat made something wonderful.

Even above and beyond all that this is the first Capaldi episode to actually bring tears to my eyes. There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth by many fans regarding Jenna Coleman's announcement that she would remain with the show for another season (more on that in a subsequent article), but I find it hard to believe that anyone would not be excited to see her and Capaldi back for another go after "Last Christmas".

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner