Hands up who else fully expected that ‘Last Christmas’ was at some point going to feature a certain Wham song?
Instead, the Twelfth Doctor’s first seasonal outing reunites him with Clara (in Jenna Coleman’s third consecutive appearance in a Christmas special) as the pair work to extricate themselves from dreams within dreams, and save an unlikely team of polar base personnel while they’re at it.
What seems at first like a fairly straightforward base under siege adventure is revealed to be much more complicated, with the arrival of none other than Santa and his elves amid the terror that comes with desperately attempting to wake yourself from a dream, only to wake into another dream, while you slowly die in your sleep. Festive!
One of the things I love about ‘Last Christmas’ is the fact that it’s a decidedly scary story, and in a scary story you’d almost expect to guess that the twist is that Santa and his elves are actually something malevolent hiding behind a jolly disguise. The twist here, though, is that Santa and his elves are exactly what it says on the tin.
And I still believe – and I can’t be the only person to have said so – that Nick Frost was a perfect choice to play Santa. I mean, even his name is wintry.
Also in the special’s cast is Michael Troughton, the third Troughton to grace Doctor Who with his presence: his brother David had previously appeared in ‘The Curse of Peladon’ and ‘Midnight’, and his father Patrick you might remember from that time he played the Second Doctor for four years.
I think it’s fair to say I’m awfully fond of the Twelve-and-Clara dream team, so I was chuffed to bits to see those two crazy kids just be honest with each other and decide to go on adventures again after the pair parted ways in ‘Death in Heaven’.
Granted, Clara’s exits from the show are up there with The Many Deaths of Rory Williams on the list of things we kind of stopped believing after, like, the second one, but it somehow doesn’t make this near-miss departure any less emotional.
Rewatching the episode now though, it’s hard not to wonder if perhaps this would have been a more satisfying end for Clara than the character’s bonkers exit at the end of ‘Hell Bent’. (We imagine there would have originally been a Danny Pink Jr involved somewhere to neatly wrap up the Orson Pink muddle if this had been Coleman’s final story.)
‘Last Christmas’ evokes the magic of Christmas in a very literal way, but without ever tipping into full-on cheesy nonsense. Tonally, it somehow manages a level of gravity, even with a couple of elves running about.
Plus, Shona’s dance routine to Slade’s Christmas classic is utterly, utterly splendid.
What’s your favourite moment in ‘Last Christmas’? Let us know below…