So here we are, on Boxing Day, after a perfectly agreeable Christmas. I wasn’t able to get to a carol service in the days beforehand, but I did watch all of my essential Christmas movies (Home Alone 1 & 2, The Muppet Christmas Carol, and the Christmas Carol film starring Patrick Stewart), and I watched the ISS go overhead twice, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. My family ate Christmas dinner out this year, which we’ve said we’d do for a few years now; it was a very nice meal, though a few of us felt it was a bit difficult to have full conversations with everyone around a restaurant table.
And there was some great TV on in the evening, including a documentary on the Frozen phenomenon and the Downton Abbey Christmas special. Since I moved out, I’d forgotten how fun it is to watch Downton Abbey with my dad, as he always laughs at the dialogue. When Lady Mary looked at a car and said “Heavens, what a snappy chariot,” he almost went into hysterics. And we both agreed that travelling with proper dining tables on a train would be much nicer than the usual fare on TransPennine Express these days.
And, of course, there was this year’s Christmas special of Doctor Who!
* I really loved the opening with Clara meeting Santa and the elves, even though I’d already seen it on Children In Need. It was a very fun scene. The Doctor facing off with Santa is just a great image on its own.
* Steven Moffat seems to have a thing about monsters that connect to sight in some way, doesn’t he? The Weeping Angels can only attack you when you’re not looking at them; you forget about the Silence when you stop looking at them; there was that thing in Listen that they couldn’t look at; and now creatures that home in on you by seeing themselves through your sight.
* Nick Frost did a very good job as Santa – again, he was just a lot of fun, and had particularly good chemistry with the Doctor. It was definitely a very different Santa from the one we usually expect, though his attitude certainly had more of what you’d expect from Nick Frost. You wouldn’t see most other Santas blowing up a wall and riding dramatically on Rudolph. The only problem was that he’s still made to look like an old man and his personality doesn’t really fit that; though I guess that can be excused by the fact that he’s only a dream construct. Personally, I was quite disappointed to find that Santa isn’t actually real in the Doctor Who universe – perhaps I wish I could believe in Santa at my age. Then again, there was that tangerine at the end, wasn’t there?
* The Doctor has some good one-liners in this one, like “You know what the problem is in telling the difference between fantasy and reality? They’re both ridiculous” and on the subject of there being a horror movie called Alien, “No wonder you keep getting invaded!”
* Regarding the Doctor and Clara lying to each other at the end of last series, I’d thought maybe at least one of them realised the other was lying but just went along with it because they thought that’s what the other wanted – but no, it appears they took each other at face value. Which doesn’t make them look that bright, to be honest.
* It felt like Steven Moffat was re-using his own ideas a bit too much in this episode; first the zombified people with their faces covered lying in bed from The Empty Child, then the dream world where you don’t want to wake up from Forest of the Dead.
* I wasn’t that impressed by Clara’s Lotus Eater dream as it’s the sort of thing we’ve seen a million times before. But at least it didn’t last too long, and the confusing aspects like Danny still apparently having his own mind in Clara’s induced dream became more plausible with the later revelations. Plus that chalk writing was very effective – it felt like a Scarecrow hallucination from Batman: Arkham Asylum.
* The idea of the Dream Crabs inducing ‘dreams within dreams’ didn’t make sense at first, given what the Doctor had already said about them causing their prey to experience happy dreams. But then you realise how many layers of dreams there are in this episode and how much of it isn’t real: who’s to say what the Doctor said then was true? Did those other people in the base even really exist at all? For something like a Dream Crab, creating multiple layers of dreams would probably be a better strategy than a single Lotus Eater dream.
* Did anyone who’s watched Batman: The Animated Series think the Doctor was going to use the same device, where it’s impossible to read at all in a dream?
* Peter Capaldi got to show off his range again in this story. The Doctor’s “I’m the Doctor, not your mam” moment felt quite reminscent of his behaviour in Kill The Moon, though still a bit lighter. But at the same time, it was great to see how happy he was at taking the reins of Santa’s sleigh.
* The scene where everyone’s being surrounded by the Dream Crab zombies was genuinely creepy.
* The conclusion with everyone flying away with Santa felt a bit too easy – so I guess it stands to reason that that wasn’t quite the end of it.
* When I was first watching the last part of this episode, I thought the Doctor re-encountering Clara as an old woman might have been an interesting conclusion to their arc following the end of last series, and that it was getting rather ridiculous when he woke up from a dream yet again. Having slept on it now, though, I don’t think it was so bad; I’m certainly okay with the fact that we’re not letting go of Clara just yet.
A pretty average Christmas special; it could have been more original in some areas, but was quite clever once you think about it properly. I think I’d enjoy it more on a second viewing. Rating: 3.5/5.