Thursday 5 February 2015

Doctor Who – Last Christmas

Out now on Blu-ray and DVD Doctor Who – Last Christmas is Doctor Who’s homage to AlienThe Thing and Inception all wrapped up in a Miracle on 34th Street shaped box. But the Doctor Who Christmas specials are a famously mixed bag, so is Last Christmas any good? 

Last Christmas sees the doctor take on dream crabs; creatures that put you into a dream state as they slurp up your brain. The stakes are high, and the episode doesn’t let up, jumping in and out of dreams until we’re not sure what level of reality Clara and The Doctor are on. The parallels to popular films are pretty clear from the outset. The setting is The Thing, the concept is Inception and the dream crabs really do look an awful lot like facehuggers from the Alien franchise. It’s up to you to decide if the show if ripping-off these beloved movies, or simply referencing them. At one point it feels as if the show is very knowingly riffing on these classics, with The Doctor saying “There's a horror movie called Alien? That's really offensive. No wonder everyone keeps invading you." 

The episode is directed magically, really evoking the feeling of something not being quite right during scenes in the dream world. Nick Frost is great as a snappy Santa. Is he real? Is he not? Again that’s up to you to decide. Peter Capaldi is just excellent, one thing fans of the show seem to be able to agree on (mostly!). Last Christmas gives him a chance to be his now usual grumbling self, but there’s one scene that lets us see a nice almost child-like side to him and it’s very sweet.

The trailers for this episode gave mixed signals, on one hand looking cool and original, on the other Father Christmas ‘locked’ Rudolph’s nose like a car (see above clip). But the episode’s positives far outweigh the few niggling problems. The elves for example are a little annoying, and less of them would not have been a bad thing. Also this is not going to convince any of the Clara detractors to like her. It also suffers from the usual Doctor Who problems of convoluted plot and can feel a little rushed.

The special effects are awesome, mixing prosthetics on the aliens with CGI for more difficult scenes, like a sleigh ride through London. It’s crazy sometimes to think that this is just a TV show, especially when you look at some of the older episodes, Doctor Who has come a long way. Doctor Who has been divisive over the recent series 8. It’s the first series since it came back in 2005 that has been absolute Marmite to the fans, they either adore it or despise it. Last Christmas picks off where the series ended. So if you didn’t like the previous series an extra-long episode infused with Christmas cheer is unlikely to change your mind.

Last Christmas reminds us what Christmas is all about whilst also being a funny, often creepy and an entertaining episode to boot. It’s the most Christmas-y Christmas episode yet, I mean Father Christmas is actually in it (OR IS HE?) But parts are simultaneously the least Christmas-y parts of any Christmas episode, relying more on a frightening concept than a seasonal gimmick. As Doctor Who episodes go, it’s great. As Christmas specials go, it’s by far the best one yet. 

If you hated the last series of the show however, the rating it likely to be a whole lot lower. But for me, Last Christmas gets a 4/5.


Jack Bumby

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