Last Christmas: Doctor Who Christmas Special 2014

Day 8. 21 pages, 9,114 words.

On the weekend, I finally got to watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special, which was a lot of fun. Some good laughs and a nice bit of thought-provoking creepiness in the “you could be asleep and getting your brain dissolved right now, and every time you see the word dying for the next couple of days you might just wonder whether it is aimed at you as a warning” vein.

Frost made an excellent Father Christmas (yes, I said Father Christmas, it pissed me off a little bit to hear all the British people in the show calling him Santa, I’ve got to say). Just the right blend of jollity, sarcasm, weariness and attitude. Good to see him joining Pegg on the Who train.

Can I get any of you cunts a brandy?

Although I was expecting him to be rougher.

Could they have gone in more interesting, spookier directions with Father Christmas? Sure. Could they have handled the whole dream-within-dream and the issue of why Father Christmas’s sleigh was crashed on the roof in the first place a bit differently, to make for a better story? I think so. But whatever. It was fun.

OH THE IRONY, something something, hair combs.

It was also worth the whole episode just to get the whole “I lied for you,” “I lied for you!”-thing out of the way. Can we move on now, please?

Yeah, they still seem to be dragging out the maybe-somehow-weirdly-attracted-to-the-Doctor thing in the companion, which I guess is a relic of Clara and the previous regeneration, but she seems to be getting over it. And Capaldi is definitely settling in and finding his feet as the Doctor now. His attitude towards humanity is definitely taking shape and his take on the Doctor’s character altogether is definitely interesting, and definitely in keeping with the classics. I’m going to need to re-watch, though, to get a good back-to-back feel for where this is heading.

The overall theme of the episode – the fantasies we all get together and tell to each other – is a very clever and interesting one. Just barely avoided breaking the fourth wall, and may in fact have kicked it a couple of times as Father Christmas compared himself to the Doctor in terms of preposterousness, and the Doctor himself saying that time travel is possible in dreams. But the idea that the Christmas spirit, peace on Earth and goodwill to all people is a shared delusion from which we (sadly) wake up once Christmas is over … that’s powerful stuff.

And another classic Moffat alien was invented here, in the Dream Crabs. The dark twin of the Christmas delusion, really. And a very interesting mixture of the Silence and the Weeping Angels, with comparable spooky appearance.

Image of an angel becomes a GAH

And apparently comparable ability to do weird-arse shit with television monitors.

I don’t know if they have the same potential as the Silence or the Weeping Angels, but I guess there can always be more facets to the species that we haven’t seen here. Their apparent control of the victims and the opening mouth-hood thing – although it all sort of turned out to be a dream[1] – was pretty creepy and could have other uses. I’m not entirely sure whether the Scrooge-fantasy ending with Old Clara was cool or just weirdly pointless[2], or what they were trying to say with the Doctor taking the crab off her face and putting it in that sample jar that the crab from earlier on in the dream had been in … was it all just a display of how jumbled-nonsensical a dream could be, or a sign that the dream was more all-inclusive or longer-standing than we thought? I don’t know, I’d have to have a clearer and less-noise-obstructed re-watch of the episode (you know who you are, noise obstructers).

[1] And herein lies perhaps the biggest problem with an alien that induces a dream-state of indefinite-numbered layers (it’s okay, you can say “Inception” – everyone else has): they can wake up and realise they’re still dreaming maybe twice before the whole thing loses all meaning. I get that the whole premise is that nobody in the real world ever knows whether they are awake or dreaming, and that we all might be dreaming this whole reality right now, but the “realising you’re dreaming and thus forcing yourself to wake up only to find that you’re still dreaming” trope is a dangerous one to play around with. Because after it’s established that realising you’re dreaming and thus forcing yourself awake doesn’t work, what will work? Plus, take it too far and you end up with the “the entire last season was a dream” thing from a cheesy soap opera. None of the characters still seemed to have head-wounds from the crabs at the end, so are they all still dreaming? Seems like a problem. Maybe it will be revisited in a brilliant way sometime. Maybe not.

[2] I’ve since read that this might have been a write-and-rewrite to allow for and then undo Jenna Coleman’s departure from the show, but she has now signed on for another season. So that might explain some of the abrupt randomness of it.

Moffat definitely has a Thing about aliens that rely on forms of perception for their power. Indeed, his metaphorisation of Internet critics as alien species seems to be becoming more and more blatant. Now we have a species that loses its power if you flat-out ignore it.

Alien!

And I did like the way the crabs were lampshaded – at least twice – as being rip-offs of the facehuggers from the Alien franchise.

All in all, a fun episode, worthy of a place on the Who Christmas Specials shelf. I’m looking forward to seeing what the next season has to offer.

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4 Responses to Last Christmas: Doctor Who Christmas Special 2014

  1. Laurence says:

    Your [2] is close to my actual thoughts as I was watching it… I’d heard the rumours that JLC was going to be leaving the show, so when I saw “old Clara” it did feel like the sort of way a companion would leave the show, and was actually quite convincing. Then, of course, it all got undone, but it was one of the most convincing “near deaths” that I’ve seen on a TV programme, because it could so easily have been real!

    (yes, a companion leaving is effectively a death)

    (yes, it is stupid when the Doctor loses a companion due to jumping to when they’re old (nearly Clara) or to them being dumped in the past (Amy and Rory) because he has a sodding time machine. Yes, they have handwaved it, but it still makes me go 😐 )

    • stchucky says:

      Yeah, from what I can recall the whole “don’t cross your own timeline” thing is an invention of the new series. It used to just be “go away Vaguely Punk Companion, now I have a Caveman Companion.” And “if this is a time machine, why can’t you just do this over and over again until you get it right?” was answered with “because if you must know, dear girl, the steering’s a bit broken and we could end up anywhere, now shut up when the grown-ups are talking.”

      Actually, I’d rather like to see a time-travel show where the hero saves the day because he or she did do it over and over again until he or she got it right, and the episode was the one where he or she got it right, and later we get to see snippets of him or her getting it catastrophically wrong over and over again.

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        You mean just like the movie with Tom Cruise from last year that was so awesome?

        Great review by the way, and I enjoyed this Xmas special more than most. I agree with your points, though. Can be quite problematic.

        I didn’t even think twice about the Santa thing. WTH? Why WOULD a BBC show get it wrong? Or do it wrong?

      • stchucky says:

        You mean just like the movie with Tom Cruise from last year that was so awesome?

        Well, yes – or indeed Groundhog Day, but perhaps some sort of variation. I still haven’t seen The Edge of Tomorrow, actually. Must get on DVD.

        I didn’t even think twice about the Santa thing. WTH? Why WOULD a BBC show get it wrong? Or do it wrong?

        I don’t want to say “because USA”, but am having a hard time coming up with any other explanation. Perhaps Laurence, or any other watching Brit, would care to explain?

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