Last Christmas begins with perennial annoyance Nick Frost as Santa Claus/Father Christmas (his character is referred to as both, even though the credits only call him the former), when he’s spotted by Clara (Jenna Coleman). After a rather tedious exchange, The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) turns up and whisks her into the TARDIS, the Doctor then warns him off as he knows what’s coming…
Post-opening credits, we’re on the North Pole and with a team of scientists where, for no apparent reason, Shona (Faye Marsay) is walking through an their infirmary, while Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody plays, as if it’s some sort of test she has to complete, but to what end? There are some Alien-like baddies wake up in the beds who exhibit “mind piracy”, meaning that the visual optic nerve is being streamed into the brains of those enemies in the room, and this is also happening now to Clara and The Doctor since they turned up in the meantime.
These baddies are the Dream Crabs who can alter the perception of those around them and, according to The Doctor, everyone who thinks they’re alive is actually dying. He infers that all those infirmary patients were once their colleagues and are now afflicted. The Dream Crabs had been laying dormant for years but once this crew had seen them, and then started thinking about them, it gave them the energy to come back to life.
Alas, to avoid thinking about a coherent script, early on Steven Moffat even gets one of the tertiary characters to reference Ridley Scott’s Alien to save him having to do any real work in the creation of this episode.
And when you’ve had a Facehugger, sorry, Dream Crab, attach itself to you, you get mentally transported into another world altogether, so this is like the Nexus from Star Trek Generations, and in Clara’s Nexus, she’s enjoying a happy Christmas morning with Danny Pink. Yes, Danny Pink! For pity’s sake, you can’t even escape the utter dullard of a character when he’s dead!!!
Then, just like Jean-Luc Picard walking into William Shatner’s Nexus fantasy, The Doctor walks into Clara’s… something which is only possible if he’s forced into the same situation of having one of them attached to *his* head, and he tells her how she’s not got long left to live because the creature has opened up her skull half an inch, and is currently probing the soft tissue of her brain, slowly dissolving it, as if it’s being sucked out through a straw. Hence the slight pain in the right-hand side of her head.
But, simply waking up solves the problem of imminent death, it seems… or does it? Because everyone in the North Pole station also has the pain in their head at the same point. To test a theory, the Doctor puts them through the Helman-Ziegler dream test (clearly made up since not even Google has heard of it), where he gives them all a manual, and while books are identical in the real world, they don’t exist in the dream world so they can’t be identical… and once they all read the first word from the same numbered page in a book, they find they’re all different. Hence, aside from the fact that they’re probably dying, they’re also all still dreaming – so the latter part is basically Inception.
So, if they all wake up again will everything be fine? The Doctor wants to make a move after that while Clara thinks he should stay and help a bit longer. He retorts: “I’m the Doctor, not your mam!”
However, he’s drawn back into it when he works out what everyone watching had already spotted. While there are four crew on the base who are fine, there’s also four in the infirmary with Dream Crabs on their faces. Yes, they’re all still dreaming. This is further proof that Moffat has just mixed Alien with Inception, squeeed with orgasm and threw in Santa Claus/Father Christmas as a red herring.
Then any form of plot is thrown out the window (or the sleigh) by ‘dreaming themselves home’, in that, to avoid certain death, Santa turns up again and gets them back to their own homes and places and timezones, since they could all meet from any time or place. However, when they do wake up, how the hell did a Dream Crab get to where they are in real life? That was never explained.
Click on the Blu-ray packshot for the full-sized image and go to page 2 for more thoughts on this episode.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.