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Doctor Who Recap: “Last Christmas”


DoctorWhoLastChristmasIn which Doctor Who is several other things nerds like.

“No one knows they’re not dreaming. Not one of us. Not ever. Not for one single moment of our lives.” Well this is just fantastic! Another thing to be constantly fearing. Thanks, Moffat!

Anyway, when we last left the Who-crew, everything was awful. People were dead, people were lying, people were never seeing each other again. I wasn’t sure how this episode was going to play out considering how things were left in the finale; but as it turns out, certain issues were handled (rather than ignored), but not as a detriment to the “Christmas Special” aspect of the tale. Rather, it complimented it.

Clara wakes up upon hearing a “click, click, click,” and finds guest star Nick Frost as a crashed Santa Claus on her roof with a couple of elves.  There’s some fun dancing around by Santa trying to pretend like he’s not actually Santa but Clara is all, “Yeah, it’s cool, I’m used to unbelievable things,” and then the Doctor shows up looking very, very serious. He convinces Clara to ask no questions and get in the TARDIS while he stays and gives Santa a bit of a talking to.

Doctor and Clara then head to the North Pole where a research team is in a bit of a bind. It seems their team has been attacked by an… alien entity. We meet them as they’re trying to do… something and are introduced to my favorite new Doctor Who character we may never see again – Shona – doing the most amazing dance to keep herself distracted from said aliens. They apparently wake up if you look at or even think of them. Our main characters arrive and realize this fairly quickly. The Doctor tries to distract Clara by saying something about Danny flirting with a neighbor and she immediately slaps him and finally informs him Danny is dead. They quickly realize their attempt to help is failing and it looks like they may meet the same fate as the scientists who were… face-hugged. It’s all a bit fuzzy at this point, but that’s not unusual for the show. However, we soon learn why. Santa breaks into the facility while riding Rudolph, and that’s not an image I’m going to forget any time soon.


We’ve introduced to the scientists, but aren’t given too much background on any of them – again, par for the course these days – but the Doctor gets right to work being the Doctor and trying to solve their mystery. They’ve got one of the creatures, casually known as “dream crabs,” contained and seemingly deceased. However, Clara starts thinking about it and it automatically revives, breaks out, and… hugs Clara’s face when she goes to investigate.

Ok, yes, these creatures are very similar to the face-huggers from Ridley Scott’s Alien from 1979 and thankfully, that exact reference is made in the episode, but we’d soon figure out that wasn’t the only sci-fi homage to be had.

Clara “wakes up” in her perfect world. It’s Christmas, she’s with Danny, and everything is wonderful. Except that’s exactly the type of experience the dream crabs, who are busy nom-noming on your brain, are said to have. The Doctor attempts to reach her but isn’t having any luck and decides the only way to really break through is to voluntarily wear a dream crab. He’s then inside her dream and informs her of the truth. Clara still won’t wake, and so Danny (who theoretically shouldn’t have any type of control that’s not Clara’s wishes) becomes sort of sentient, and convinces her she has to leave him for good. She does, and it’s heartbreaking all over again.

Ok, Clara and the Doctor are up, only… crap, how do know we’re not still dreaming? Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap.

Yes, the episode’s main plot revolves around “false awakening.” Yes, I thought of Inception immediately. No, that’s not the first time this type of plot has been utilized in fiction. The Doctor attempts to prove they’re all in a dream by having them try and read a manual none of them should have memorized, oh and also Santa is here you dopes, so you should have known. Ok, they prove they’re dreaming, get themselves to wake up by forming a friendship circle and… voilà!


Waaaaaaait. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Let’s try this again. Only, they’re all in tons more danger this time because they’ve been getting eaten for a while now and hey, they may not even actually BE at the North Pole. (Did I miss one of the wake ups? I might have lost count after a while.) A bit more nightmare fuel and some running later, the group, minus one, make an escape on Santa’s sled. The remaining individuals realize they have one more (they hope) time to wake up and that, besides not actually being scientists, they might not live in the same area or even know each other. It’s sad because again, Shona is the best, and their attempts to remember each other prove fruitless – they all wake up in their homes and quickly go on with their lives.

Clara is the last to leave Santa and is trying to savor what’s left of her sleigh flight, when we cut to the Doctor waking up and racing to find her. He does except… something is off. I immediately noticed her hair looked blond in the dark and then my eyes went to her hands. OH MY GOD HE’S VERY, VERY LATE. The Doctor and Clara have been apart for 62 years. Their reunion is bittersweet and feels… final. Suddenly I feel an attachment to Clara I never knew I had when it seems like this is the last chapter of her story.

Then Santa shows up again. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap.

That was a big fake out, and one I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting after the rumors of Jenna Coleman leaving the show. The Doctor wakes up once more, repeats the previous scenario only to find Clara her usual age this time. They both realize they’ve got a chance to start over and head off on their next adventure. And oh yeah, Santa is real. Or they’re still in a dream. Oh forget it, I’m tired.

I enjoyed this episode more than expected, but it still frustrated me. Both for the dream-inside-a-dream scenario, which went on much longer than I thought it would, and because what could have been an end wasn’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if they filmed two scenarios, one ending with older Clara and one with current Clara, to cover their contract negotiation bases. As far as Doctor Who Christmas specials go, it falls somewhere in the middle for me. I felt it struck a good balance between the handling of the overarching Season 8 plot and moving on so we could have something that wasn’t so incredibly bogged down by it. I would have liked more explanation when it came to the villains of the episode and how far their influence reached (we never saw if they actually affected anyone worldwide) but again, I’m getting used to flying past those sorts of things. Nick Frost was a fantastic Santa, I just wish we got to know more about him as well.

What did you think of the episode? Was it Christmasy enough for you? Are you happy Clara is sticking around?

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Jill Pantozzi is a pop-culture journalist and host who writes about all things nerdy and beyond! She’s Editor in Chief of the geek girl culture site The Mary Sue (Abrams Media Network), and hosts her own blog “Has Boobs, Reads Comics” ( She co-hosts the Crazy Sexy Geeks podcast along with superhero historian Alan Kistler, contributed to a book of essays titled “Chicks Read Comics,” (Mad Norwegian Press) and had her first comic book story in the IDW anthology, “Womanthology.” In 2012, she was featured on National Geographic’s "Comic Store Heroes," a documentary on the lives of comic book fans and the following year she was one of many Batman fans profiled in the documentary, "Legends of the Knight."