It may seem a bit late for a review on 2014’s Doctor Who Christmas Special, but with the release of the DVD it’s a present a bit early for next Christmas. Starring Nick Frost as Santa Claus, “Last Christmas” takes a departure from the doom and gloom of Peter Capaldi’s first season as the Doctor and throws in a little Horror-film and whimsy. After finding Santa Claus (Nick Frost) on her roof, Clara (Jenna Coleman) is whisked into the TARDIS by the Doctor. He claims that her believing in Santa Claus may be the difference between life and death. On a strange outpost in the North Pole, The Doctor and Clara discover a crew of four on a mission that is less top secret and more “a long story.” All are attacked by “dream crabs” which attach to the faces of their victims and then induce pleasant dreams while consuming the brains of their host. Clara finds herself in a world where she can spend Christmas with Danny Pink, even though back in the real world he is dead and she is dying. The Doctor must find a way to disengage the crabs and save those around him, as well as prevent their spread across Earth. In a realm of dreams, Santa Claus may very well be the one thing that can save them.
The episode blends the horror of films like The Thing and Alien with Old Saint Nick. It examines the realms of what are dreams and what are reality. It is difficult not to be caught up in the adventure of this tale, while still feeling like it has mostly been done before. Several seasons previously, dreams were also dealt with in the episode “Amy’s Choice.” Still, Nick Frost and Michael Troughton bring some changes to this episode. Nick Frost is best known for his work alongside Simon Pegg in films such as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, though he is proving to do just fine on his own. Michael Troughton, is of course, the son of the actor who played the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton. He brings comic relief when he discusses that the dream crabs remind him of “facehuggers” only to instigate a conversation with The Doctor about the famed horror-movie Alien and its failings as a title.
In addition to the hour-long episode, the DVD also offers a commentary track and Behind the Scenes look at production. Michael Troughton discusses his time on the Doctor Who set as a child, and Steven Moffat reacts with glee when talking about how Capaldi was asking Michael questions about his childhood. Also delightful is Dan Starkey out of costume talking about playing his first character out of full-body costume for a Doctor Who Christmas Special. It is his third, although this time he is not dressed as a Sontaran or Strax.
Overall, Doctor Who: Last Christmas is a delightful addition to 51 years of Doctor Who. Campy and occasionally scary, Last Christmas continues a trend of Doctor Who Christmas Specials that both crush our hearts and then breathe a little bit of joy back into them.
Doctor Who: Last Christmas is now available from BBC.