Mark Watches ‘Doctor Who’: Last Christmas

In the 2014 Christmas Special, the Doctor and Clara reunite and join up with Santa Claus to combat an alien force that threatens the world. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.

Trigger Warning: For body horror, consent, nightmares, claustrophobia.

My god, WHAT A FANTASTIC EPISODE. This might be my favorite Christmas special for a number of reasons, and I’m going to talk about them right now.

Influences

I don’t think Moffat’s script is hiding the fact that it’s basically Alien, The Thing, and Inception all at once. WHICH ARE THREE THINGS I ADORE WITH EVERY FIBER OF MY BEING, Y’ALL. Like, you don’t even understand my love for those three films. I re-watch The Thing and Alien every Halloween because they’re among my favorite horror films, my favorite thrillers, and my favorite movies period. Elements of each of these films appears here in “Last Christmas” (with Alien directly invoked), and it’s done in a way that’s respectful and thrilling.

The Dream Crabs are much like the facehuggers of the Alien world, and I found that it was necessary to the story that these creatures attached to humans as they did. That’s where the horror comes from; it’s such an absurdly terrifying visual that we believe the threat that they represent. It’s even scarier when you consider the element of isolation. I wonder if the group’s collective fear of such settings from horror movies is the reason they were all transported to a science base at the North Pole, you know? Regardless, it worked. The setting created an atmosphere of fear that made everything even more terrifying.

And then there’s the dreams. I’m not one to enjoy the whole, “Everything was a dream!” trope, but goddamn, it’s done so well here. The dream layers reminded me of Inception, but executed in reverse, since the group had to come back out of the dreams. Moffat had a great grip on the logic of dreams, too, and the way our subconscious can both frighten us and comfort us. In hindsight, the clues to each layer are planted well within the logic of the show, too! Like, this is Doctor Who, y’all. Santa Claus showing up? I believed him to be real. There’s that brilliant sequence where Santa reveals his purpose to the group, pointing to the Doctor and his TARDIS as evidence of the weirdness of this dream. It’s funny as well, but it’s also a slight nod to the audience. Doctor Who is a weird fucking show at times, so how do we know whether or not we’re watching a dream?

We don’t, and it’s both exhilarating and terrifying.

Lies

And this is where “Last Christmas” makes me appreciate why this non-stop horror show exists. Within these dream worlds, the Dream Crabs do everything they can to make a person feel safe and serene and happy. It’s natural, then, that Clara would drift to a world where Danny is alive and they’re celebrating Christmas together. Early in the episode, both the Doctor and Clara reveal that they lied to each other prior to parting, and thus, the dreams act as a way for both characters to accept the truth. In order for Clara to escape from the Dream Crabs’ influence and control, she must reject Danny. It’s heartbreaking to watch because Danny is a perfect angel who should be in everything ever, but it’s also hard because the Doctor has to guide her right back through all that trauma and grief.

So Danny and Clara have their last Christmas together. It’s a shame that it was also their first.

Last Christmas

Moffat accomplishes something there that we saw glimpses of in series eight. I actually like that Twelve is such an angry character, and his rage fits Capaldi’s skills beautifully. I admit that this felt like a strange Christmas special because I realized I’d been tricked into thinking it had something to do with Christmas. Unlike past specials, this had very little to do with the holiday; it was mere coincidence that the Dream Crab attack happened on the eve of the holiday. However, in the final scenes of “Last Christmas,” Moffat’s script reveals why this had to be a Christmas special. I think that Clara’s dream sequence with Danny gave us the framework for the ending, too.

And why is that important? Because of the sense of hope that we’re given. Treat each Christmas as if it’s the last you’ll spend with those you love and care about. There was something magical about the group using Santa’s sleigh in order to free themselves of the dream, but seeing the Doctor take the reigns, his face an explosion of joy and elation, was an absolute treat. I think it’s the only time in Twelve’s run that we get to see him act truly excited. It’s a gift to us, and I feel like all of series eight built to that point.

So what does the Doctor do with his Christmas? He treats it like it’s his last by asking Clara to be his companion again. y god, that whole scene is so INCREDIBLE. First of all, it’s a relief because I honestly thought the show was about to kill off Clara and NO. DON’T. DON’T. But I loved how pure that final scene felt. I loved seeing the Doctor act like a child again. I loved that Clara and the Doctor are ready to travel with one another again. It was a fitting end to a story about learning to appreciate the people you care for.

The video for “Last Christmas” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

It’s entirely possible that this will be unnecessary, but just in case! I’m writing in advance of my final leg of tour in 2015, where I’ll be traveling through the Southwest of the US. I want to make sure to get the posts done that will go up through October 16. I’m on schedule to finish a few days before I leave for Fencon, but just in case, Double Features will take a brief break – maybe a week or so off – so I can get the main posts done. Then, we’ll resume with Kings, a show I know nothing about.

I still have not chosen what I’m watching after that. I should get on that. Anyway, I’ll also watch series 9 once it’s finished airing and I have time to stick it back in the schedule.

Mark Links Stuff

I am now on Patreon!!! MANY SURPRISES ARE IN STORE FOR YOU IF YOU SUPPORT ME.
– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S. this summer and fall Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be the remainder of The Legend of Korra, series 8 of Doctor Who, and Kings. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
– Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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