‘Doctor Who’ Recap: “Last Christmas”

By December 26, 2014

Will this be the Doctor and Clara’s last Christmas?

It all starts on the rooftop, where Clara runs into Santa Claus and a couple of his elves. The Doctor arrives, and, with no explanation, orders Clara into the TARDIS.

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“I’m really back here. This is…real, yeah?” Clara asks, which can only mean one thing.

None of this is real.

That’s right, folks. 95% of “Last Christmas” exists in a dream state—or, more specifically, a series of dreams within dreams.

The Doctor, Clara, and four other people are stuck in a science base on the North Pole, trying to avoid face-hugging aliens, otherwise known as Dream Crabs. They come to life only when they’re thought about, and then slowly suck out your brain and anesthetize you with pleasant dreams.

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Fortunately, Santa’s there to save the day, with his wise-cracking elves and signature tangerines.

Actually, Santa’s a figment of their shared imagination, trying to clue the group into the fact that nothing’s real.

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Before they realize that, though, there are revelations to be had. The Doctor tries to stop Clara from thinking about the crabs by making wildly inappropriate comments about Danny Pink. She slaps him in the face and tells the shocked Time Lord that her beau is dead. In return, he admits that he never found Gallifrey.

It’s the first of several bittersweet moments for the pair. One of Clara’s dreams is that she’s back with Danny on Christmas Day. The Doctor tries to retrieve her, but she doesn’t want to leave…until Dream Danny tells her she needs to get on with her life. She ‘wakes’ up, but they soon realize that none of them are actually awake…and that they haven’t been since before they got to the base.

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In fact, none of the four scientists are actually scientists; they’re just unfortunate souls who happened to be attacked by Dream Crabs. The Doctor saves everyone but Michael Troughton’s Professor Albert, and Santa gives them a ride out of dodge on his sleigh.

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Slowly, each one disappears, waking up in their own homes…except for Clara.

“Every Christmas is last Christmas,” she tells Santa—a reoccurring theme. It’s a rather bittersweet way of looking at the holiday: that people visit with their loved ones in case it’s their last chance.

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The Doctor awakens in a place that looks suspiciously like the volcano from “Dark Water.” He hurries to save Clara from the Dream Crab, and he does…but he’s still too late. Clara’s now an old woman.

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“Is there a Mr. Clara?” the Doctor asks, but of course there isn’t. Clara has only ever loved two men—the late Danny Pink…and an impossible man.

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Resignedly, the Doctor admits that he regrets not coming back to see her sooner. So in walks Santa Claus, asking him how much he wishes he had. Which can only mean one thing…

The Doctor and Clara are still dreaming.

Once more, the Doctor comes to sonic the Dream Crab from Clara’s head…and this time, she’s young again. The Doctor entreats Clara to come traveling with him, and, holding hands, they make a run for the TARDIS. It’s a second chance for the Doctor, and he doesn’t know who to thank.

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But we do…there’s a tangerine on the windowsill. Santa Claus exists after all, and according to Steven Moffat, he’s the one who orchestrated the whole thing. It’s a direct nod to “Miracle on 34th Street,”—a symbol of Santa’s existence, ala the walking stick left in Susan’s house.

It’s a sentimental episode, and the cast shines in their first Christmas outing together. There are occasionally moments that cross from silly into absurd—Santa turning off Rudolph’s red nose electronically, for one—but it’s well-paced, well-acted, and, overall, well-written.

And the Doctor’s best line of the night?

“There’s a horror movie called ‘Alien’? That’s really offensive. No wonder everyone keeps invading you.”

What did you think, fellow Whovians? Did “Last Christmas” live up to expectations?