Capaldi, Coleman Reunite for Doctor Who Christmas Special; Frost Inspired Casting as Santa

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Doctor Who Last Christmas Peter Capaldi Jenna Coleman BBC Critical Blast

I did not see the Doctor Who Christmas Special last Christmas. That is to say, I did not see the Doctor Who Christmas Special, "Last Christmas" last Christmas. Of course I've seen the Doctor Who Christmas Special, "Last Christmas," but I saw it last night on DVD.

The annual Doctor Who tradition traditionally provides some of the best stand-alone episodes of the show. And this one certainly plays with the viewers' heads -- and their hearts. The episode opens with Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) being awoken by such a clatter that has arose on her roof; so she springs from her bed to see what is the matter. When what to her wondering eyes should appear but two elves, a man in a Santa suit, and flying reindeer!

Now, in the world of Doctor Who, I would love for there to be some sort of rationale that allows for Santa Claus to exist. He'd have to be a Timelord, after all, and maybe an old doddering beneficent one in retirement, along the lines of Salyavin from the "Shada" episode. But there's a much more logical answer here than that -- or is there? The ending leaves a little magic behind for the viewers, after what was otherwise a heart-crushing denouement for fans.

The bad guys in this episode are "dream crabs" -- face suckers that cover your head and start to digest your brains while putting their victims into a peaceful dream state. That's what four researchers in the arctic are facing when the Doctor and Clara arrive in the TARDIS. (Why did they choose to go there? It's a long story.) The victims of the crabs in the infirmary are zombie-like; they remain asleep, but can be awakened if someone is nearby and looking at them, or thinking about them -- almost the reverse of the Weeping Angels in that respect. But when the Doctor can't provide help -- and you're stuck at the North Pole on Christmas Eve -- then who are you going to call?

"Last Christmas" represents a turning point in the Peter Capaldi run as the immortal Timelord. Since his appearance, he's been irascible, shunning of contact, and insulting. After this episode, one can see that he has regrets, and there's a subtle shift in the way he treats Clara. Of course we know he cares for her deeply, but the cracks in his shell that allow us to see that have been rare.

I'd also like to tip my hat to whoever cast Nick Frost as Santa Claus -- a casting so inspired it almost seems divinely predestined.

Doctor Who, "Last Christmas" is a romp that is both heartwarming and fun, with just the right amount of deadly danger, superb special effects, and a plot that's somewhat like INCEPTION only much easier to follow.

4.5 / 5.0