Doctor Who is slowly becoming a Christmas tradition. For the tenth time, a Christmas special has been made for the middle of the TV schedule. After using stories which involves giant Spiders, a scrooge-like character, killer trees and a town called Christmas, where do you go next? Well, you bring in Santa Claus. So the adventure begins.
Santa (Nick Frost, who wonderfully portrays the character) is found outside of Clara’s where his sleigh has crashed and his reindeer are flying all over the place. When he begins to talk to Clara about her belief in him, suddenly The Doctor then appears and tells her to enter the TARDIS as they go to the North Pole. The Doctor and Clara end up at a research station where we don’t seem to know what they are doing, but we know something bad is happening. A number of crewmates at the station are in a sectioned off area with a creature over their faces. Shona, one of the crewmates, does a rather fun dance to ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ by Slade. These creatures come to life when they are seen or thought about, referred to as “Dream Crabs”, and are rather terrifying in terms of what they can do. They can get onto the neural links of people to see and hear. They put the person in a dream, making them believe the dream is real. So, what is real? All through the episode we are teased with what is real and what is not. The Doctor and Clara finally reveal to each other that they lied about what happened following the defeat of The Mistress. Clara reveals in a moment of danger that Danny is dead while The Doctor tells Clara that he never actually found Gallifrey. Clara is caught by a Dream Crab and it sends her to a reality in which Danny Pink is still alive and they are sharing Christmas together. The Doctor does his best to wake Clara, who clearly still longs for Danny and doesn’t want to leave him again, even though it means the Crab will end up killing her.
Throughout the episode, we begin to wonder what is actually real and what is a dream. Is the whole episode a dream? A creature that creates a telepathic field and blurs fantasy and reality is dangerous on many levels. The idea of shared dreams and perceptions grow with the line “It’s a long story” being repeated. So, what is really happening at the North Pole? It seems like the only person who can really help is Santa Claus, luckily he is around to help the crew and our heroes get out of the situation. Also The Doctor realises everyone has a shared pain, something that affects them, even though they all can apparently tell they are awake. Ashley (Natalie Gumede) and the crew all work out the secret to the crewmates who already have the crabs on their faces and eventually fight their way to safety. We eventually get to the stage where the happy ending comes in, one by one everybody is saved and this is all helped by Santa Claus. Clara is ultimately the last one still in danger as she seems unwilling to leave the dream world. Is Santa just a dream? Fairy-tales are popular in Doctor Who when they come to life. The ultimate fairy-tale, the man who comes every Christmas, is finally given the Who treatment and the moments in which we get references to many movie elements is almost like four films condensed into one hour (Alien, Inception, Miracle on 34th Street and maybe a dash of Invasion of the Body Snatchers).
An hour of Christmas magic, fright and joy comes this year. Doctor Who has had a tradition of keeping a festive feel on the annual specials; this year keeps it fresh and exciting. Nick Frost is brilliant as Santa Claus, it really is a gift to all those who enjoy him and provides humour and grace as St Nick (he was born for this part). Michael Troughton and Faye Marsay bring some comic relief throughout the episode as Albert and Shona, though I really hope Shona would come back as a companion as she is fun. Natalie Gumede and Maureen Beattie are great cast members, though we don’t learn too much about any of the North Pole crew until the last moments of the episode (apart from their Christmas list’s to Santa) and the underused Nathan McMullen and Dan Starkey as the elves who like selfies with the North Pole and helping their master are given too little screen time and could have been great. Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman get some great scenes together; they pick up where ‘Death In Heaven’ left them and are shown to still have a very strong relationship. The scene with the chalkboard is rather chilling and sets up potential heartbreak in the episode. Finally, high marks to Samuel Anderson as he gets to become Danny Pink one last time. He doesn’t take anything away from his dramatic departure in the series eight finale, but he indeed gives a moving performance which will warm the hearts of millions. A truly splendid Christmas special we had, and now only 8 months till ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ kicks off Series Nine. Yes, we have got a long wait again! Don’t forget, this is ‘Last Christmas’, as every Christmas could be our last. Well played Steven Moffat, you certainly outdone yourself this year!
Final Rating: 9/10
Written by Jonjo Cosgrove.