The BBC flagship programme ‘Doctor Who’ often rakes in the majority of viewers during Christmas Day. Whether there being devoted Doctor Who fans, or just family members being dragged along to tune into the Christmas episode, many families are cuddled together watching the Christmas special. As a consequence, the show runner must dedicate the entire hour with a constant upbeat adventure, suitable to all. But Steven Moffat deviates from this Doctor Who tradition and instead provides a darker and emotionally  enthralling adventure – for the most part.

In comparison to the main series, the Christmas Specials are often (more) cheesy, ‘humorous’ and forgettable. ‘Last Christmas’ still is partially cheesy and ‘humorous’, but perhaps not as forgettable. The darker atmosphere and the constant theme of death allows a more striking plot-line which (minus a few factors) could be pictured in the actual season 8 narrative opposed to just a Christmas special.

Santa Clause is now a Doctor Who character. Clara views him as a fairytale, other characters who witness him also deny his existence… except for the Doctor.

The overt comparison of the Doctor and Santa Clause is used as a pivoting point so that the audience can reference where Clara stands with the Doctor. At first she carries the same conflict with the Doctor which arisen in season 8, whilst also stating she “grew out of fairytales”; however Clara later reinstates that she does believe in fairytales, which is portrayed in the Doctor.

Scenes with Santa Clause provide the comic humour needed to lighten the episode – without it I cannot imagine concerned parents approving of a death themed episode. Santa Clause wasn’t too concerning throughout the episode, until the final sequences shoehorning a ‘happy’ resolution which felt slightly rushed and undeveloped. I wouldn’t have too much of a problem with the rushed happy ending, had it not been so vital to the final scene.

A dream within a dream within a dream. Yes it’s complicated, yet it works. Mimicking the success from ‘Inception’, Moffat attempts his own interpretation with a Christmasy twist. These dream states allow emotionally dynamic scenes such as Clara seeing Danny Pink again to happen, yet it’s also the cause of the Doctor cringingly cheering “I’m riding a sleigh!”.

The Inception concept still works, though it may drift from a ‘Alien’ tone to a typical Christmas tone, there’s still a genuine genius in the script. The consequence of remaining in the dream was that it was slowly killing the characters, yet that didn’t affect Clara. We see how emotionally detached she feels from reality through her acceptance of death. In the past, Danny was the reason that Clara easily settled an ordinary life after witnessing the Doctor; since Danny is out of the equation, Clara has no need for ordinary life other than the Doctor.

Consequently, Moffat teases with the uncertain future of Clara. Is her belief in fairytales such as the Doctor strong enough for her to continue on her romp? Or is it time for her to die or remain in Earth, lonely?

One possible future for Clara is at first seen, feeling weird yet heart-wrenching at the same time. Seeing an older Clara in this possible future at first threw me off, yet seeing how the Doctor still interacted alike to how he would with a younger Clara shows how age truly never is an issue between the two characters! In the past, Clara took longer to adapt to an older Doctor, yet here the Doctor quickly reverts to a similar scene to how Clara did when she saw Matt Smith in aged prosthetics, it would’ve been an obscure yet perfect ending… until it wasn’t.

It was all a dream. A boring and overused concept, which even a Sci-Fi twist couldn’t redeem. Despite which, alternating from the possible future, to the Doctor practically ordering Clara to enter the TARDIS was of course a pleasant end to a Christmas episode. By the end there wasn’t any conflict, or a notable absence of Danny; by the end, the Doctor took upon a soldier role which was once Danny’s by having this dominative tone to push Clara to travel with him again. The beauty of this scene was that it wasn’t forced, but instead restores the Doctor and Clara’s friendship once more.

I’ve often applauded Capaldi’s and Coleman’s ecstatic chemistry, their love/hate relationship always made entertaining television. But now we’ll be entering Season 9 with a restored relationship between the Doctor and Clara, and that leaves us uncertain as to how Peter Capaldi and Jenna Louise Coleman will portray their reformed alliance.

Merry Christmas!

Overall Score:


Read our reviews policy here.

+ Dream Crabs made a fantastic idea, very ‘Alien’-esque.

+Speaking of ‘Alien’, how fantastic was the Doctor’s response to him discovering that there’s a film literally named ‘Alien’?

+ Probably one of the better Christmas specials, yet still not personally on the scale as ‘A Christmas Carol’ was.

– Forgettable and cringe-worthy side characters, rushed resolution and horrible prosthetics to portray an older Jenna Louise Coleman.

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