Last Christmas

14-episode full season set 1-episode volume

See below for purchasing options
(Doctor Who Story No. 258, starring Peter Capaldi)
  • written by Steven Moffat
  • directed by Paul Wilmshurst
  • produced by Paul Frift
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 1 episode @ 63 minutes
Story: Clara awakes to find that Santa Claus and his elves have crashed their sleigh onto her roof. The Doctor arrives to whisk her off to a north pole research base battling an outbreak of mind-parasite creatures, where facing the truth about Danny and each other may be the only way out...

DVD Extras for this story on the 14-episode box sets include:

  • Audio commentary by director Paul Wilmshurst and producer Paul Frift.
  • Doctor Who Extra featurette (14 min.) with Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald), Nick Frost (Santa Claus),
    Faye Marsay (Shona), Natalie Gumede (Ashley Carter), Maureen Beattie (Bellows), Dan Starkey (Ian), Nathan McMullen (Wolf),
    Patrick's son Michael Troughton (Professor Albert), writer Steven Moffat, and special effects supervisor Danny Hargreaves.
  • Trailer (30 sec.)

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have already seen the program.
To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide to the season instead.


This wasn't too bad at all, actually. The season 35 box set opens with this 2014 Christmas Special, which turns out to be better than most episodes of the previous Peter Capaldi season.


The central premise of coming out of a group of nested dreams is an interesting and worthy one, which has the added philosophical bonus of encouraging characters and audience alike to question everything they see and really start thinking instead of accepting everything and just flowing through with the intended emotions.

Of course, an audience doing this with most Steven Moffat scripts will typically find numerous plot holes.... (Insert all-knowing winking smiley emoticon here.) In many ways, "Last Christmas" actually manages to hold itself together much better than Moffat's other stories because, when the usual plot holes are discovered today, we can now say that it's just more evidence of the main premise at work. Clever.

Nevertheless, it isn't until about half-way through that this central premise takes root, and even later until the full scope of the problem is revealed. This can make the story a very different experience on first viewing than it is when one already knows what is going on.


Throwing in Santa Claus, complete with sleigh and reindeer and helping elves, is actually quite a clever move to integrate this Doctor Who story premise into the often questionable format of Christmas specials. For the most part, I think this was actually a good move which works for the story. It also most definitely works better in retrospect than on first viewing. However, the Santa aspect remains the most troublesome to get right, and on reflection is probably the biggest flaw weighing this story down in season 35's rankings.

There's a clever angle in Santa's dialogue in that his words often reflect the speech-pattern, and state of mind and emotion, of whoever it is he's talking to. He becomes an adversary or an ally depending upon other people's expectations moment-to-moment. That's all great, and absolutely as it should be. But he and his elves aren't quite working as characters in themselves, which they need to do... particularly at the beginning before we learn the premise.

My feeling was that Santa to a degree, and his elves to an even greater degree, had a bit too much "canned banter and attitude" in their dialogue, almost as if they sounded too much like every other character that Steven Moffat and many other modern Who writers come up with. And in my mind Santa and his associates need to have a much more classical feel to their thoughts and speech-patterns to be believably themselves. Moffat and co. seem to be really proud of the "attitude". Me, I thought the "attitude" just took the believability right out of those characters. And I do like tangerines, whether Christmas has anything to do with their arrival or not.


Structurally, the beginning is on good footing in starting with Clara, introducing Santa and the elves, and then the Doctor and his TARDIS, such that it's all quite clear to everyone. Artistically speaking, however, it's not all that exciting a sequence, and doesn't really grab as a hook.

The introduction of the research base worked extremely well for me though. For quite some time, my imagination was kept busy wondering exactly what sort of alien planet it was. The eventual reveal that it was the north pole was a bit disappointing, but Doctor Who was about to relearn to use the great mileage it had always gotten from base-under-siege stories, which had sadly become an underused format in the New Millennium years.

I also thought it was good that by the time Shona's bizarre antics begin in that opening sequence, we have got just the right amount of set-up for it from the dialogue just previous, and it becomes a really new and intriguing premise for a set-piece scene, showcasing Steven Moffat's imagination. Good stuff.

On reflection, the story as a whole seems to flip through a few reversals on whether or not it's better to ignore the creatures and focus on distraction, or vice-versa. Though the premise can absorb this move this time around, it seems to be another example of Moffat changing the rules of his game of fairy-tale hopscotch to keep the game lively, and to hell with whether or not it makes sense.

The cast of major characters at the base work quite well though. They're all fleshed out in satisfying fashion, continuing to surprise us as the story goes on, and they have quite good interaction with our two regulars. Peter Capaldi's Doctor is also in good form here, staying nicely focused on problem-solving when he needs to be, and throwing in some lovely eccentricities at appropriate moments. He is getting to be quite a good Doctor....

Some of the best moments come from the delightful character of Shona though, particularly when her Scottishness comes out and makes her off-the-wall comments bounce around the room a bit longer. A really good combination of writing and performance there. Nice.

This story also offers a bit of a lukewarm wrap-up coda to the previous season's ill-conceived domestic arcs. Thankfully, the bits we get in this story are all quite tasteful in themselves. We see honesty trumping lies - and though this turned out to be far less dramatic than I expected, I think less drama on this subject is actually better in this case. We also get Samuel Anderson's enjoyable presence once more, and the whole things works well in the end, kind of sweeping last year's distractions into the bin with a bit of ceremony and reverence, and a healthy amount of finality.


The story's final fix is paced out to be quite gradual, but is still quite solid and satisfying and appropriately uplifting and in tune with Christmas spirits. The lousy prompting within last season's finale to promote this story really did not do the higher quality of this tale justice at all. Overall, this is a fairly good modern Doctor Who story, and it managed to set the tone for the season to come....



"Last Christmas" is available on DVD and Blu-ray:


Season 35 Box Set
11 stories in 14 episodes
U.S.


NEW for
April 5, 2016.
Canada


NEW for
April 5, 2016.
U.K.


NEW for
March 7, 2016.
Blu-ray U.S.


NEW for
April 5, 2016.
Blu-ray Canada


NEW for
April 5, 2016.
Blu-ray U.K.


NEW for
March 7, 2016.



This story is also available in a 1-episode volume.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:


single story volume
1 episode
DVD NTSC
Region 1 U.S.


NEW for
Feb. 17, 2015.

DVD NTSC
Region 1 Canada


NEW for
Feb. 17, 2015.
DVD PAL
Region 2 U.K.


NEW for
Jan. 26, 2015.
Blu-ray U.S.
Region A/1


NEW for
Feb. 17, 2015.
Blu-ray Canada
Region A/1


NEW for
Feb. 17, 2015.
Blu-ray U.K.
Region B/2


NEW for
Jan. 26, 2015.

Bonus features include:



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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Magician's Dilemma"



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