Synopsis of 8×13: Inception meets Alien in this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special as the Doctor and Clara find themselves victims of parasites in a life-threatening situation. They also make an unlikely ally of Santa Claus, to whom they must turn to for help in both the darkest and most Christmasy Doctor Who special yet.
Forget the gooey Christmas sap and hold on to your sonic screwdriver because this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special is one for the books. Featuring an Inception-esque dilemma, Alien-inspired parasites, and a badass Santa (courtesy of the aptly-named Nick Frost), “Last Christmas” is far from being all fun and games, but is undoubtedly the most entertaining Christmas episode we’ve seen in several years.
Our story begins with Clara discovering that a certain present-delivering figure has crash landed onto her roof. We discover almost immediately that this is not the kind, jolly Saint Nick of legend, but a back talking Santa with sass. But it’s not long before the Doctor, much to Clara’s surprise, shows up in the TARDIS and orders her to get in, because… well, it’s a long story.
The pair stumble upon an arctic research base that’s having a problem with “dream crabs,” a voiceless, eerie species that feeds by latching onto its victim’s face and quite literally eating his or her brain. The creatures can’t see, but in classic Moffat style, they have terrifying telepathic abilities and will chase their victims relentlessly if one so much as thinks about them. You know, wholesome family Christmas stuff.
In a moment of poor judgement (and all you need is one), Clara finds herself the host to one of these face-sucking monsters and is transported to a dream world where it’s Christmas and Danny Pink is still alive (#feels). But alas, this is all a master plot courtesy of the dream crab so it may eat Clara’s brain in peace. Refusing to sit idly by, the Doctor dives into the dream via face-eating crab to pull her out of her fantasy.
To the relief of the research team and to viewers, Clara and the Doctor manage to escape from the dream, and the dream crabs are subsequently destroyed. But what seems like the start of a fluffy ending to an interesting Christmas plot swiftly turns into another nightmare as the group slowly but surely realize that they are still in a dream, and that Clara had only been trapped in a dream within that dream (cue Inception bass line).
Things all get a bit strange from here (in classic Moffat style), but the episode still remains entertaining. It’s Christmas after all; things don’t have to make perfect sense, and Santa provides enough comic relief to cover up any plot discrepancies. More a strategically implemented plot device than a cop-out (gasp!), the dreams add a dimension to the special that we don’t see every year. “Last Christmas” is filled with several unanticipated twists, and it even teased at Clara’s rumored departure from the series (which turned out to be—you guessed it—a dream).
Without having to expend effort introducing a new companion (2012) or saying goodbye to a Doctor (2013), the writers of Doctor Who seem to have been able to focus on weaving a plot together that actually makes sense. “Last Christmas” is equally heartwarming and horrifying, but strikes such a perfect balance that one is only slightly bothered by the brain-digesting aliens once all is said and done. …Okay, maybe more than slightly, but still. “Last Christmas” is a perfect ending to what has been a tremendously successful first season for Peter Capaldi and a much-needed revival for Doctor Who as a series.
Contrary to recent rumors, it seems that Clara Oswald will return as the Doctor’s companion next season which, if she follows through with the entirety of series 9, would make her the longest-running companion of the Doctor Who reboot. What does the future hold for the Doctor and his companion? More importantly, what will you do to fill the time during the show’s hiatus? Let us know in the comments below!