Doctor Who – Last Christmas Review (or “Nobody Likes The Tangerines? Sounds Like a Classic Case of West Coast Bias To Me”)

I’ve written the original introduction to this to review in my Stuart Reviews Doctor Who: Book Two document (available early 2015). It makes sense in that, but not here.

So in lieu of writing a completely different intro to this article specifically for the blog, let me just take the opportunity to wish all my readers a happy and prosperous New Year, to thank you all for reading (and for tweeting me, emailing me and putting comments on Facebook to tell me to hurry up and write the bloody review ;-)) and to look out for my Stuart Reviews Stuff Year End Awards which I’ll be writing soon.

Anyway, back to Last Christmas

Doctor Who – Last Christmas Review: What’s This One About?

Inception style dreams within dreams, with a mild dash of Alien, a dollop of Christmas and a surprise rewrite at the end.

Thoughts – The Stuff You Miss On First Viewing

So it’s December 30th and I’ve only just got round to reviewing the Christmas episode. Apart from the fact I was in a mild food coma whilst watching it the first time on Christmas Day, it also seemed to me to be the type of episode you’d want to watch again before committing your thoughts to eternity.

That’s not to say Last Christmas was complicated, but rather that I wanted a second look to spot the hints for plot twists to come. For example, it was interesting seeing the scene in the infirmary where the Dream

According to one review, the only good thing about this story was the casting of Michael Troughton. O....kay.

According to one review, the only good thing about this story was the casting of Michael Troughton. O….kay.

Crabs first attack them. How did I not notice the first time that there was a long cut between them dropping from the roof to Santa turning up to save them? And when he does save them, why didn’t I spot that they are standing in a different place with the Dream Crabs nowhere in sight? The second time around it seems obvious.

Also, the other bits like the hints about Shona clearly not being a scientist and Clara wanting to stay in the dream at the end (for reasons I’ll get to) stood out.

And that’s to Last Christmas’s credit. It’s well and written and has more than one layer to it.

On a more general level, it was also just an enjoyable episode of Dr Who that could have worked on its own merits without any Christmas influence. But the influence it did have worked well and used Santa appropriately.

Certainly based on the end of season cliffhanger I thought it was going to be about some kind of evil alien Santa, but this turned out far better, even though his initial sinisterness didn’t necessarily make that much sense.

From what I’ve read, some people are proclaiming this to be the best Christmas special the show has ever done, but I’d disagree. As you’ll see reflected in my episode rankings in the book, I do rate it highly, but not as highly as the brilliant ‘A Christmas Carol’. That will take some beating.

The Curious Case of Clara and The Suspected Rewrites

So everyone assumed that Jenna Coleman was leaving in this episode. The tabloids had reported it, she’d been coy about it, and both the title of this episode and the first one of the next season was suggestive of it too.

But as it turns out, she stayed.

And I’m glad about that because not only has the she improved immeasurably since Matt Smith’s final season, but it seems as though there’s further for her character to go. Plus she’s got great chemistry with the

Speaking of his character, won't his family find him dead and with that attached to his face? Bit grim isn't it?

Speaking of his character, won’t his family find him dead and with that attached to his face? Bit grim isn’t it?

fantastic Peter Capaldi.

The word on the pavey though – as they’d say in Dundee – is that she had a late change of heart and the final scene was hastily rewritten to allow for that.

Though it’s just a rumour, it’s one that I believe.

It seemed to me that this episode was built around the revelation that the Clara who was dreaming was now an old woman. Apart from the continual references to it being a Last Christmas, the way she didn’t want to leave the dream – especially in scene in the sleigh – suggested she was remembering that she was old and that this was her back in her prime.

If it turned out that was the case, it would have been a solid and acceptable end to her character. The scene with the Doctor not acknowledging how she’d aged and helping her pull the cracker was a mirror image to the one from Time of the Doctor one year previous. It was sad, very well acted and would have given her realistic conclusion.

Still, I’m glad that it didn’t end like that and that she’s staying aboard the TARDIS.

The Even More Curious Case of Clara and Her New Home

Clara is a school teacher at Coal Hill in London. She’s not the head of a department, she’s young and has only been in continuous employment for a short while (before which she was a nanny).

'mon then

‘mon then

As far as I can tell, her small family aren’t particularly well off either.

So how the hell did she manage to afford to move into that new house?

Maybe she’s been using time travel to her advantage by investing in stocks that she knows will turn out good? Or maybe she’s got a copy of Sports Almanac hidden away somewhere?

That seems to be the only logical conclusion to arrive at.

Random Observations

  • Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi are both from the Glasgow/Paisley area of Scotland. Therefore, I’m calling out West Coast Bias and anti-Dundee Utd sentiment with the “Nobody likes the Tangerines” line that was used twice. Could they be Zombies? Does anyone who doesn’t follow Scottish football know what I’m talking about? Stephen Thompson, ya bass!!!
  • When The Doctor asked Clara to pick a page number and she said “57”, my brother declared – totally seriously – “Did you know in that situation, everyone picks 57?”. Erm…no they don’t. Of course, he’ll read this and tell me that he was deliberately playing me in the hope that I’d write this in the review, just like he supposedly did with the Keeley Hawes thing (see: Time Heist Review). Aye…right.
  • The bit where the Doctor took the reins on the sleigh was very ‘Punchtheairtastic’. I thought we’d seen the last of that.
  • I loved the line about how it’s no wonder Earth gets invaded so much if we have a film called ‘Alien’.
  • I also liked the line about how Danny Pink might be “…texting women of low moral character”. It was a very 12th Doctor thing to say.
  • Why was Shona walking through the infirmary at the start anyway?
  • Given the attitude that Clara has towards the Doctor on being asked to collect the specimen Dream Crab, do you think the Doctor longed for the days of having companions from the 1960s who offered up cups of tea without giving him grief?
  • On proof reading, I noticed I’d originally written that as ‘Dram Crabs’ in the paragraph above. That could either be whisky based crabs or an affectionate nickname for the Macra.
  • As you might expect, the Doctor Who forums are full of mixed reactions with some people declaring it the worst thing in the history of the world. If I knew I didn’t like a TV show, I certainly wouldn’t waste my Christmas Day watching it.
  • The best piece of criticism I read though was that the only good thing about it was the casting of Michael Troughton. Why is that good? From what I could see, he just seemed like a nondescript fat bloke who had the fewest lines and had the indignity of being the only person killed off. Oh wait…I know why it’s good; because he’s the son of Patrick Troughton and therefore he’s amazing. #WarpedLogic.
  • But speaking of Troughton’s character, I assume somewhere in the world at some point in time, he’s going to be found dead with a Dream Crab attached to his face. Does The Doctor not plan on cleaning up that particular mess? No? Oh well.
  • Ok, so in the Doctor Who universe, is Santa real or not? And is it not a leap for the 8 year old believers who were watching to pick up on the subtext of the Tangerine at the end rather than the other 59 minutes of ‘Santa is a fictional character’.
  • I’m surprised that nobody tried to sue the BBC for ruining their offspring’s childhood with that one.

Doctor Who – Last Christmas Review: Final Thoughts

It was a solid episode and it was an enjoyable episode; I’m happy with its quality.

But for me, the most significant thing to take from it was that Clara is staying, and that’s better news than I would have thought possible a year ago.

Bring on Season 9.

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5 Responses to Doctor Who – Last Christmas Review (or “Nobody Likes The Tangerines? Sounds Like a Classic Case of West Coast Bias To Me”)

  1. georgerostov says:

    Any chance you could review some other Who stuff to fill the wait til the new season? Books, Big Finish, comics, merchandise….I ain’t fussy (or some more retro games…..Nintendo! Do the Zelda franchise! Please!)

    Loving the site, seems you’re the only blogger who doesn’t approach each story with a heap of preconceptions or particular agenda.

    Happy 2015 to you sir.

  2. Slavin Ivanov says:

    “Why was Shona walking through the infirmary at the start anyway?”

    It’s a long story. Sorry, couldn’t resist. 🙂
    Happy holidays!

  3. Flynn Sullivan says:

    Merry Christmas!!

    I thought the story was surprisingly decent by the Moff’s standards though Santa was really annoying(he acts like the viewer is stupid for not believing in him and then the opposite).

    The characters were mostly fun, except the somewhat boring Troughton.

    And there’s no good reason Clara shouldn’t have gotten that specimen. For heaven’s sake, there’s a time and a place to sass.

  4. rlythgoe says:

    I definitely wanted Shona to be a new companion. Still very happy with Clara staying, though, despite the cop out ending . Overall, a great episode.

  5. I liked this one a lot, it had some good characterisation and thrilling twists, but I was surprised when Clara stayed on the TARDIS, I was sure Jenna had decided to cal it a day.

    Merry Christmas!

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