Doctor Who: Last Christmas (2014)
By: J.R. McNamara on August 6, 2015 | Comments
BBC | Region 4, PAL | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | English | 60 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Paul Wilmshurst
Stars: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Nick Frost, Samuel Anderson, Dan Starkey
Writer: Steven Moffat
Country: UK
I'll have to start this review with 50 years in 2 paragraphs.

Doctor Who is an English TV show that started in 1963 and tells of the various adventures of a time travelling, space-faring, bad-guy botherer known as the Doctor. He travels through time and space righting wrongs and defending the innocent (well, whomever he decides is innocent). He travels in a time machine called the TARDIS which is bigger on the inside and disguised as a British telephone box. He also, generally travels with companions. Usually hot girls!

Now the TV show is divided into two eras: 'Classic' and 'Modern'. Classic refers to the shows that were on TV between 1963 and 1993, after which it did not get a look in on the tube until about 2001, when it was given a fresh breath of life. Every year with these new Who’s a Christmas special has been released, and this is the first for the latest Doctor as played by Peter Capaldi.

Our story starts with the Doctor's current companion, Clara (played by Jenna-Louise Coleman), disturbed by a noise on the roof of her house. She goes to investigate and finds that Santa Claus (Shaun of the Dead's Nick Frost) has crash landed on her roof. A normal person may find this perplexing, but considering the things she has seen with the Doctor, she seems to take it in her stride. The Doctor quickly appears and has a brief altercation with Santa, before whisking his companion off on a new adventure.

The Doctor takes her to a scientific base near the North Pole where four occupants are being terrorised by four people who have had a parasitic alien crab attach itself to their faces and slowly devour their brains... But these aliens have an interesting side effect to their consumption of grey matter insomuch as they provide the 'food' with a sedative that puts them in a dream state that is difficult to differentiate from reality!

So why has the Doctor taken her there? Why have these crabs attacked these people who seem out of place on a scientific research station? Who are the dreamers, and what exactly is a dream...?

This episode is written by a guy of whom I am not a fan, Steven Moffat. He created a fantastic creature in the Doctor Who universe in the Weeping Angels (who now, unfortunately have become overused) and became show runner, lead writer and executive producer for the show during the Matt Smith years. Smith was a potentially a fantastic Doctor but in general was given some absolutely terrible stories and over complicated story arcs. Here, Moffat really taps into what makes a fun, sci fi adventure, thrilling without having it turn into a tragic sob fest like some of the terrible Christmas specials of the past few years.

This episode mixes elements of almost William S. Burroughsian creatures and dream states with films like The Thing, and it makes for a not overly complicated but exciting “dream within a dream... Or is it... Or is it” story that really builds nicely. The stories 'secret' twist is telegraphed quite early, but you tend to get caught up in the excitement of it all quite quickly!

Outstanding performances by the cast with Capaldi being clearly the best thing about it. Jenna Coleman, who I initially thought was out of her depth with an actor like Capaldi, holds her own quite well and they are starting to find their feet and Doctor and companion, though it seems more like Doctor and annoyance. Honestly it's almost a Sheldon and Leonard/Big Bang Theory styled relationship. Nick Frost as Santa is inspired casting and his job is just fantastic: an amazing mix of friendly fable and angry old fart that endears and entails like he usually does.

A side note: it was nice to see Michael Troughton, the son of Second Doctor Patrick Troughton, here in a supporting role.
The Disc
The feature itself is presented with a fine Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, and an immaculate 16:9 image.

This disc is hardly bigger on the inside as far as its extras are concerned. It's contains a fairly self congratulatory 'Behind the Scenes' bit, which most of these sorts of things are, and a commentary from Director Paul Wilmshurst and Producer Paul Frift which is a pretty thorough look at the making of a Doctor Who Christmas Special. Actually my score for the extras is based mostly on how damn thorough this commentary is!
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
For me this is probably the best Christmas special of any post millennial Who yet, which is surprising as it's written by Moffat. This is probably due to Capaldi's completely off the wall and alien portrayal of the Doctor. Or it could be the appearance by Nick Frost, or it could be the fact it isn't a big cry fest like some of these things tend to be. Highly recommended.
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