Here is where it gets all Inception’esque (I know that’s not a word but you get what I mean I’m sure so lets just go with it) as the dreams are what this episode is all about. Not just one dream, but dreams within dreams.
Interestingly Clara wasn’t expecting to ever see the Doctor again which made their unplanned reunion even more exciting. The fact they parted ways on the back of two humongous lies (Clara’s being that Danny Pink was still alive and the Doctor’s being that he’d found Gallifrey) was explored in a way that was satisfying without taking anything away from the overriding story.
When the Doctor and Clara enter the base, they and the surviving crew members are almost immediately attacked by a host of the dream crabs that fall from the ceiling – however before they are consumed (captured?), Santa Claus appears on a Reindeer outside the base itself and helps them to escape from what seems to be certain death (btw the scene with all the toys is literally priceless and almost by itself makes the episode). Santa (played by Nick Frost) is really good and helps make the role truly shine when he doesn’t just roll over for the Doctor and his huge brain, but rather banters back and forth with him.
Doctor: “Ah, go make a naughty list!”
Santa: “I have mate, and you’re on it!”
Brilliant portrayed by Nick Frost, the episode’s inclusion of Santa made the story feel all the more special and it highlighted one of the show’s unique abilities to add a new timey-wimey, or in this case dream-weamy, twist to an old familiar figure. Introducing him into the show’s mythology was always going to be a risk but it was brilliantly realised and it’s safe to say that it wouldn’t have been the same without him. The characters are no doubt pleased he showed up, too, since they would’ve been killed without him.
When the Doctor has Clara retrieve the remains of the first crab that they found, he quickly realizes that he has in fact sent her into a trap. Clara awakening finds herself somewhere else, somewhere where Danny has not in fact died but they are together and she is in fact celebrating Christmas with him. The Doctor tries to communicate with her (and while he is successful) he is unable to get Clara to leave Danny and realizes that the only way he can get her back is to go into the dream himself. With Santa’s help, the Doctor enters Clara’s dream and makes her realize that she needs to wake up. Here you come to realize that even a dead Danny is still pretty awesome!
The most predominate loose end from Series 8 to have been tied up in the seasonal story was the demise of Danny Pink in Death in Heaven. In the latest episode, his death was explored in a heartwarming, and not to mention heartbreaking, scene in which Clara Oswald was seen to finally come to terms with the untimely loss of her beloved.
Awakening from the dream (by realizing that it is in fact a dream) the Doctor and Clara jump up to see the Dream Crabs crumbling to dust beside them. However before they can escape, the Doctor quickly realizes that although they thought they’d escaped … they were actually still inside a dream as while there might have been 8 people on the base (4 comatose in the medical bay with face huggers on them) and the four that the Doctor and Clara were conversing with, there really were only 4 people there as the ones on the bed were the same people. He is quickly able to prove this by having them read through the operations manual and when they acknowledge the truth, the creatures on the bed start to attack.
Managing to escape the base, they attempt to enter the TARDIS only to find the Doctor and Clara emerging with facehuggers also. Once again however Santa comes to the rescue and helps the survivors escape on his sleigh. Realizing that if they are to truly escape they need to will themselves awake the others gradually awaken from the nightmare leaving Clara and Santa alone.
The Doctor eventually arrives to help Clara escape as he realized she wouldn’t want to leave the dream by herself, but by the time he comes, its been decades and Clara is an old, old lady. The Doctor in an extremely nice twist doesn’t really see this himself and is so happy to have Clara back, but when he subsequently realizes again that he is still dreaming he is finally (one hopes) able to awaken himself and returns to Clara again. This time he is in time, and Clara is returned to us.
This was definitely one of the better Doctor Who episodes of recent years and while it might have cribbed somewhat shamelessly from popular culture, it did it in a way that paid credit to the content, but for letting us say goodbye to Danny Pink the right way … Last Christmas stands as one of — potentially the — best holiday specials Doctor Who has managed.
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