Recap: 'Doctor Who' - 'Last Christmas' has a lot of layers, like an onion or parfait
Welcome back, Whovians! I hope everyone had a nice break, but it’s time to get back to it, at least for one episode. The last time we saw Twelve and Clara, they were recreating the darkest timeline version of “The Gift of the Magi.” The Doctor lied to Clara about finding Gallifrey so she’d want to stay with Danny and be happy, while Clara lied about Danny being alive so the Doctor would return home to his people on Gallifrey.
Everyone’s a liar and everything hurts. Break out the tissues because you’re going to need them during “Last Christmas.”
Like countless holiday specials before it, and countless ones yet to come, the episode opens with a decorated Christmas tree framed by windows. Outside it is snowing and dark. Obviously Christmas Eve.
Clara is nestled all snug in her bed, when from outside she hears the sound of Santa and his elves bickering on the roof. Clad only in her nightgown and robe, she goes to investigate. Santa has crashed his sleigh and the reindeer are free at last and refuse to come down. Spotted by a human, Santa tries to defuse the situation by saying no, obviously he is not Father Christmas! For a magical elf whose livelihood is based in subterfuge, Santa sure is a terrible liar.
Sidenote: Are the tangerine gifts a British thing? We don’t have that tradition in the US.
There’s a great bit of subversion for the kids on the cusp on disbelief while they watch this. The elves scoff at the fairy tale story that one night a year, all the parents in the world got together and decided to give their kids presents because they love them so much. Time to grow up and live in the real world. Obviously St. Nick is delivering the presents. Also, so adorable that Santa grew out the beard as a disguise and it backfired, making him more recognizable than ever.
In disappointed dad fashion, Santa pulls out a checklist and notes Clara stopped believing when she was nine. He seems so hurt. Clara states she just “outgrew fairy tales” and on cue, the TARDIS sound kicks on. Well played, Moffat.
Out bursts Twelve in a hoodie, which is odd and quite frankly dashing, and demands Clara stop talking to Santa Claus and get in the TARDIS. Just another Tuesday night at the Oswald home. Clara obeys, a sure sign that she is in shock. Twelve sizes up Santa, tells him “Happy Easter,” and climbs back into his police box.
Something major is up but Clara Oswald doesn’t care. After an indeterminate amount of time alone, without Twelve or Danny, she is back on the TARDIS. She’s been mourning the loss of the love of her life and her best friend, but now there’s an adventure to distract her again. The entirety of humanity may hinge on whether or not Clara Oswald believes in Santa Claus. You know, normal stuff.
For reasons unknown, we skip to a barren icy plane. I will assume this is the North Pole until told otherwise. In the midst of a blizzard sits a research facility. And something decidedly un-Christmas like is going down. A blonde lady — Shona — stands outside the infirmary with trepidation. Elsewhere in the facility, her associates provide moral support from the control room. Shona is about to go confront the four sleepers to try and get to…something? Someone? Either way, Shona will be fine as long as she doesn't look at the sleepers or think about them.
Oh great, it’s a purple giraffe situation.
Also, for the billionth time this season the gender tables are turned. Professor Albert is the lone dude scientist. Ashley and Bellows are even displeased with his casual sexism. Either Moffat has actually turned a new leaf, or someone in a position of power at the BBC forced the issue of fixing Doctor Who’s misogyny problem.
To distract herself from not thinking about purple giraffes, or creepy sleepers, Shona is rocking out to Christmas music with her eyes closed. My biggest fear that she’ll accidentally flail into one of the creatures isn’t realized. Phew. Instead the Doctor and Clara appear at the door. Since they don’t know the rules, they immediately start looking at and thinking about the sleepers. Which means we also get a look at them. Basically some hapless humans have telepathic facehuggers attached to their skulls.
Thinking about the facehuggers stirs them into action. Their human hosts are pressed into service, shambling towards the heroes. Shona distracts herself with Christmas music. Twelve tries to get Clara to think about math, but it’s not very effective. So he skips straight to insulting Danny Pink (whom he still thinks is alive). In shock, Clara slaps the hell out of Twelve and blurts out that Danny is dead. Now no one is thinking about the facehuggers at least?
WRONG. The rescue team bursts in, thinking about facehuggers like it’s their damn job. Just when it looks like everyone is gonna die, EXPLOSIONS. Santa Claus studied at the school of Michael Bay. Apparently no aliens invade the North Pole on Father Christmas’s watch.
Of course, this is a scientific research base full of adult humans, so they’re not exactly thrilled to see a figment of childhood imagination. Most of them settle for disbelief, but Shona is gonna cut a bitch over some My Little Pony trauma…I like her.
With introductions out of the way, Ashley takes the lead in explaining what is going on, using a dead facehugger as a visual aid. Shona gives Father Christmas the third degree while the Doctor learns everything the humans know about the Dream Crabs. They’re telepathic aliens that eat human brains. Ashley is having a hard time believing this. The Doctor says the problem is that it’s hard to tell fantasy and reality apart because they’re both ridiculous. I’m starting to get the sneaking suspicion we’re already in a dream and the Crabs have taken over the Earth.
Meanwhile, Nick Frost is doing a fantastic job answering the questions all kids eventually have about Santa. Of course the North Pole is striped. How else would you see it in the snow? No, reindeer can’t fly. That’s why you have to feed them magic carrots, duh. No you can’t get around the world in one sleigh. You need two. Santa even gets in a dig at Twelve when the Time Lord asks how all the presents fit in the bag. “It’s bigger on the inside.”
Moffat firing on all cylinders tonight, folks.