back to article Doctor Who's tangerine dream and Clara's death wish in Last Christmas

Readers please note: THIS IS A POST-UK-BROADCAST REVIEW – THERE WILL BE SPOILERS! Brid-Aine says: I don’t usually have much time for schmaltz and sentimentality, but I make an exception for Christmas. I can take a certain amount of it at this time of year, the season of goodwill and all that. But the sight of the new and …

  1. Suricou Raven Silver badge

    You missed something.

    "It wasn’t explained why people from different walks of life should dream themselves into a setting of scientists stuck at a spooky, snow-bound lab."

    Ah, but it was! Just sneakily. Upon one of the dreamers waking, they glanced at a list of films to watch. What was on that list? The Thing... a movie about scientists stuck at a spooky, snow-bound lab. Along with Mo34S, a movie about Santa. The dream simply drew from the movies she'd fallen asleep after watching.

  2. BryceP

    The show won't improve until Moffat shoves off. He was a good to great idea man working under and subsequently with Davies, but as a showrunner he is absolutely witless. Doctor Who won't pull out of its thoroughly modern take on 70s/80s excess until a helmer returns that understands the show is about the joy of wonderment, not forced spectacle. I'll take chavs, council housing, and low budget production value over this moodily lit Dickensian melodrama any day, every day. I don't want clever, I want smart; genuine, not cloying insincerity. To wit, would the returned show even still be on the air if Davies had written for Eccleston like Moffat is writing for Capaldi?

    Removing the human element and turning the show into meta commentary on the surrounding pop culture is what killed the show the first time and it's what will kill it again. Momentum won't carry it alone. Fire the prat and hire people who enjoy entertaining others instead of themselves.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: Won't improve until Moffat shoves off

      Agree and upvoted. I said the same thing a while ago and commentards didn't like it.

      I just watched about 4 minutes of Doctor Who, the first time in years. I want that 4 minutes of my life refunded! What a waste. Between the rigid acting, lack of "wonderment" and uninspired set (what in the world happened to Doctor Who's amazing lighting style?!!) I thought I was watching an episode of CSI: Boredom. Davies had an amazing sense of personal style, Moffat has proven to only have an ability to copy, and copying modern American productions (saying this as an American) is the worst thing possible - American TV is garbage.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: RE: Won't improve until Moffat shoves off

        Davies deserves credit for the relaunch, but the episodes he wrote were umitigated rubbish. Mills & Boon in space. At least Moffat has some talent, when writing to his strengths.

    2. Suricou Raven Silver badge

      Moffat writes great horror. He has a way of making the everyday terrifying. He just isn't so good at anything that isn't horror, and should stay far away from whimsy.

      1. Alpha Tony


        What about asking Charlie Brooker to try writing an episode or two?

        I've been loving Black Mirror's dystopian visions of near future technology, and if I remember right from an interview I saw with him, he's a bit of a whovian.

  3. Andrew Newstead

    No analysis, just good old family fun and it was too.

  4. Ol'Peculier
    Thumb Up

    Before Inception

    All that we see or seem

    Is but a dream within a dream.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Paul Kinsler

        Re: BBC propaganda

        You may have got 6 downvotes, Dave, but have an upvote from me ... no doubt it would be your secret (xmas) wish...

        1. Am

          Re: BBC propaganda

          Have some upvotes from me, too. I am not sorry for laughing at the downvotes ;)

  5. Gerard Krupa

    Dr Jr

    "one of the explorers blatantly pointed out that the aliens were pretty much face-huggers from Alien"

    Probably the most notable thing about that episode - said explorer was played by Michael Troughton, son of 2nd Doctor, Patrick Troughton.

    1. Dave Bell

      Re: Dr Jr

      I am now wondering if the reality is something a bit different, and there never was a face-hugger. The Doctor cracked a joke, it doesn't mean he doesn't know about the film.

      See Heinlein's The Puppet Masters for an alternative, though explicitly a parasite that doesn't kill its hosts. The Dream Crabs have some problems there.

      1. Jesrad

        Re: Dr Jr

        Ah, but Dream Crabs are not parasites. They're predators that chew slowly.

  6. The_Idiot

    I could believe in Ecclestone as The Doctor. And believe as soon as he appeared on screen, heading for the roof to blow himself up. Maybe.

    In a different way, I could believe in Tennant. From the very first 'Barcelona'.

    In a different way again, I could believe in Smith. From the fall into the swimming pool to the fish fingers and custard - and all the way afterwards.

    At a pinch, I could believe in Santa - but I regret, I can't believe in Mr Capaldi. Not from the beginning, and not since. And I've tried. I really have.

    Since everyone is, of course, entitled to their own opinion, let's assume it's me who's at fault. After all, I'm an Idiot.

    But I still can't believe in Mr Capaldi....

  7. Chad H.

    >>>>No one likes tangerines and no real Who fans like the Christmas special.

    I am a real who fan.

    I like the Christmas special.

    I think there's a Scotsman here who'd like to talk to you Jenifer. He says his name is McFalacy.

    1. Purple-Stater

      I very much enjoyed the special, and I like tangerines (more than oranges).

  8. AlexS

    The episode was Dr Dreadful. Next series better pull some finger..

  9. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge


    And since when does the Doctor get pop culture references?

    One word: Geronimo!

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Graham Marsden

      Re: Yippee-ki-yay

      And who else's mind added the words "Mother fucker" at the end of that sentence?

  10. Johnny Canuck

    sticks fingers in ears

    blah blah blah...haven't seen it yet. But just look how pretty Jenna Coleman is.

  11. Jeff Lewis

    I have to be honest, but the thirteenth Doctor has been disappointing. The theme seems to be 'The Cranky Doctor Meets Fictional Characters *winkwink*' It's worn more than a little thin already.

    And I'm a little ticked at how they managed to 'replace' Clara with herself by going through all the machinations of having Clara essentially quit (fingers behind back) then get rid of Danny (And what is UP with that? Dead or alive or ghost or what? Pick one and stick to it.... as some people have noted - Danny has to have children for Clara to meet his great-great grandson - which afaik kind of requires him to be alive...) then invite her back.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "The theme seems to be 'The Cranky Doctor Meets Fictional Characters"

      Maybe Moffet is a Heinlein fan and has given the Tardis the abilities of Gay Deceiver and this series they are travelling down the axis where fictional worlds are real. Maybe we'll end up in Oz eventually.

    2. Jesrad

      "The theme seems to be 'The Cranky Doctor Meets Fictional Characters *winkwink*' It's worn more than a little thin already."

      If the next season does not introduce a mega-villain who has, for some yet-obscure but nefarious reason, been seeding past History with actual incarnations of famous but entirely fictional characters - up to and including the Doctor himself ? - I'll be disappointed.

      1. Boork!

        Such a villain would have to be in keeping with the show's newfound predilection for the Victorian era . Evil Charles Dickens, anyone? "It was the worst of times. Then it got even worse. Mbwah ha ha!!"

  12. Carneades

    I suspect this episode was a hint. Making everything a dream is, after all, the only way to explain some of the plot absurdities we've suffered this season, so at least some will continue watching to see if there's any sort of resolution.

    1. Chozo

      Looking forward to discovering how six seemingly random individuals across time and space all developed a nasty facial tick at the same time, somehow I don't think we've seen the last of these characters.

      1. Jordan Davenport

        "...across time and the same time..."

        They clearly didn't have the head dream crab attached at the same time - it was across different times. They just all met in the same dream, time-traveling through their own dreams to meet each other, a concept touched in The Name of the Doctor.

        My question is: If the dream crabs found Clara by her connection to the Doctor, what does that imply about the other four?

        Actually, I lied; my real question is: Why was Shona the one who almost exclusively created the scenario, especially if the Doctor was seemingly first to be attacked?

  13. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    More Christmas pud that Christmas stuffing

    To be honest I was prepared to hate this because so far the series so far has been disappointing with a poor backstory, lousy science and more plot holes that a bucket full of Swiss cheese.

    When we had the pre-view showing Santa Claus, I thought here we go again, a sentimental slushy Christmas special.

    But I found myself enjoying it. Foe once the monsters were scary, the relationship between doctor and assistant had some bite and there is always something disturbing about the dream within a dream motif because it tugs on the nature of your own reality and whether you can trust what you can actually see around you.

    So this was probably the best Christmas special for a while. What we need now is Moffat to get back to his A-game(weeping angels) and stop trying to stuff more stories and characters than a under sized Christmas turkey. Dr who works best when it is pared back to it's simplest. It doesn't need flashy effects to make it scary our brain does that well enough thank you. Also get some new blood into the writing team. The Neil Gamain episode worked well, lets have some more of Authors like that (Terry Prachett anyone??)

  14. Christian Berger

    It's nice to see some TV made by people who put effort in it

    I mean surely, Doctor Who may have had it's downs lately, but you can still see the effort. You can still see people trying to bring the story to life as good as they can.

    Compare that to German TV where you have "science shows" where they make fun of people not knowing that compasses work... because the North Pole has lots of iron in it...

    1. Boork!

      Re: It's nice to see some TV made by people who put effort in it

      Germans seem to have trouble interpreting iron.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Oddly, there is a parasite of crabs that takes them over from inside and controls their nervous systems for its benefit. As part of its life cycle, the first stage reduces to a single cell which is injected into the crab. Fans of Stephen Jay Gould may recollect his essay about this as an example of how "fitness" in the natural selection sense is nothing to do with bigger bodies or brains.

  16. heyrick Silver badge


    Okay, own up - how many of you followed that with the word that the BBC couldn't broadcast?

    Now, own up - how many of you thought this episode would be utter crap but actually rather enjoyed it?

    Sure, it isn't Who Gold, and I really really wish Danny would bugger off once and for all, but a lot of things worked well in this episode. The continual "It's a long story", the brilliant tracking shot in the "You're dying!" corridor. Santa being played exactly right. I was expecting a lot less, so this was pleasing.

    I also suspect we might see Shona again. Why her? I mean she'd just watched a bunch of movies that pretty much set up the entire scene. Why her? Didn't the other three have things to add to the plot?

    Yippee-ki-yay motherf.......

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: Yippee-ki-yay

      To my ear - and the subtitles - it's 'yippee-ai-ay'. So I followed it with "Ghostriders in the skyyyy..."

      1. Steven Raith

        Re: Yippee-ki-yay

        Same here WRT to Ghostriders In The Sky, although it took your comment to jog my memory of it; upvote good sir! And I could live with Shona getting a guest appearance next season, she's the sort of character you can write smarmy/sarcy lines for, which would play well against Capaldis Dr Who.

        I rather enjoyed that. I was told (yesterday) that this was just a blatant inception rip off - I found it more to a be an affectionate riff on Inception, Aliens, Inception, Mo34thS and The Thing with a decent little story rattling along at a reasonable pace with enough Chrimble Schmaltz for the Kiddiez, and enough action for the grown ups.

        As Chrimble Dr Who's go, it's up there with the better of them IMHO.

        Steven R

  17. ukgnome

    Oh sweet fuck

    a rehash of Amy's choice with a smattering of sci-fi rips offs. The only believable things was Nick Frost's Santa. It was the worst of series eight. And the included deep breath. A 1/10 non starter.

  18. Zog_but_not_the_first

    It's Christmaaaaaasssss!

    So, let's cut Who some slack. After a couple of beers and some wine it was decent enough.

    Plus it's always good to see Nick Frost. A future place in the Tardis awaits?

  19. Bruce Ordway

    Coleman and Capaldi, they haven’t found a chemistry that makes sense yet

    >>Coleman and Capaldi chemistry

    This year I have felt real pain for those actors, when I imagined myself speaking their lines.

    Oh how uncomfortable and embarrassing.

    And I really want to like their characters but... the relationships they have to portray are just too awkward for me enjoy.

    1. Purple-Stater

      Re: Coleman and Capaldi, they haven’t found a chemistry that makes sense yet

      Given the strength of their lack of compatibility, coupled with Matt Smith's instructions to Clara in the first episode, I'm not completely convinced that this series wasn't intentionally written specifically to lead up to the point where Last Christmas ended. It would seem that the sub-story has specifically been about Clara and The Doctor both coming to grips with each other all along.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Worst. Episode. Ever.

    Moffett continues his quest to render the Doctor into some kind of Peter Pan character, complete with magic, twinkly smiles and cloying sentimentality. As if Santa wasn't bad enough, (and okay, he was a dream, that's something), just acknowledging the classics isn't enough justification for ripping them off (as they did in a previous episode with Fantastic Voyage). Plus, Clara's a boring drip, Danny Pink's dead, and we don't care, so just get on with it. A pity Peter Capaldi, who could be great, has been saddled with this drivel, which, to his credit, he's beginning to look embarrassed to be in.

    1. DJV Silver badge

      No. It. Wasn't.

      You've never had the "pleasure" of "Love and Monsters" or "Fear Her"?

      And you could at least learn how to spell "Moffat" - sigh...

      1. Chris King Silver badge

        Re: No. It. Wasn't.

        "Love and Monsters" - an episode so bad, the shooting location for the final scene with Peter Kay was smashed flat and turned into an open-air car park. 'nuff said.

        Think I'm kidding ? Here's the scene...

        ...and this is what it looks like now:,+Cardiff+CF24+2FN/@51.478469,-3.1703432,3a,52.5y,111.35h,80.94t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s1CPhZKtGXvDUqpBxswFMGQ!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x486e1cb611f5c3cd:0x18daefaa94113a20!6m1!1e1

        (Beer icon, because this was also where The Vulcan pub used to stand)

    2. Steven Raith

      Re: Worst. Episode. Ever.

      "ripping them off"

      Remaking scenes without naming them or being specific about it is ripping them off.

      Remaking scenes when explicitly calling them out (either directly or by inference) is referencing.

      One is acceptable, one is not.

      And as noted, if you're gonna take the piss out of Moffat you could at least spell his name right, makes it look like you actually give a toss in the first instance, and know what you're talking about in the second.


      Stephen Wraith

  21. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Jemma in her nightie

    Was there a story? Was there a plot? Who cares?

    Ok, so it was a another nod to Victoriana, but it was JEMMA IN A NIGHTIE!!1!1!!!one!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Jemma in her nightie

      Okay, enough one-handed typing there - you misspelled her name not once but twice.

  22. ShadowDragon8685

    Okay, so, dirty confession here...

    I liked Last Christmas.

    That said, I think it would have been stronger if the braincrab had only been on the Doctor; that his immense psychic potential and deep connection to Clara had been enough to drag her into his braincrab dream, and when he rushed to her home, he found her, waking up and all right.

    Either way, I kind of liked it. I was unsure about the Capaldi Doctor at first, but he grew on me significantly. And the line at the end, promising that Clara will be back, was quite enheartening.

  23. a_mu

    its fiction

    it is fiction

    its meant to be fun, with a little scare .

    especially at Christmas

    not meant to be science,

    my kids were scared at the dream crabs and crying at the Danny scenes and the decisions having to be made, which is about right

    1. Chris King Silver badge

      Re: its fiction

      Where they crying because they were sad for Danny, or just confused ?

      I mean, they turned him into "OEM Iron Man" (no badges or paint job). blew him up and made him give up his last chance for survival. But oh no, this is Dr Who and we'll pull random acts of necromancy out of the hat for dead characters, just not for the ones everybody wants to bring back,

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Old Clara

    So, right at the end we have the doctor regretting leaving Clara, and regretting not seeing her for 60-odd years, and he gets a second chance by Santa who resets the clock somehow.

    WTF? The guy has a fscking time machine, he can go back and see anyone any time he wants, at any age.

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: Old Clara

      yes, having discovered that he'd not seen Clara for 60 years, he could go back and see her. But then she wouldn't have seen him for 60 years. Paradox.

      Or as the Doctor once said "You can't change history. Not one line!"

      (though writers have a clever way of working round this)

      1. Alien8n Silver badge

        Re: Old Clara

        It's not that you can't change history, you can't change the Doctor's history. It's for this reason that River Song couldn't tell him what was in her book, in case he tried to change his own timeline.

        Did anyone else think "old Clara" was supposed to be the original ending and "young Clara" was written back in after a new contract was signed sometime in Autumn?

  25. crazydave

    A female doctor possible?

    Would it be possible that there will ever be a female doctor?

    River Song was the closest we got.

    1. cosymart

      Re: A female doctor possible?

      I think we need River Song back.... The Doctor needs to meet his wife again, that would give Clara something to choke on :-)

    2. Alien8n Silver badge

      Re: A female doctor possible?

      Never mind that. Whatever happened to the Doctor's "daughter"?

  26. Nissemus

    "And was a handy knack for having your Santa and eating him".

    I don't think "knack" means what you think it means.

  27. juice Silver badge

    Why are people quoting Inception...

    When it was a fairly blatant rip-off of Existenz with a bit of Half Life 2's head-crabs thrown in. Or am I in the wrong reality again?

    As story-mashups go, it wasn't too bad, though it's perhaps telling that no-one in the family (save myself) could be bothered watching it on Xmas day; instead, we watched it on iPlayer on Boxing day...

  28. Egregious Egregious


    The Christmas episode is always a bit of fluff, so the lightness never bothered me. It was well-balanced by the scariness of the "monsters", the nested dreams, the "return" of Danny Pink, and the elderly companion scene. As for your concern about “Yippee-ki-yay”, it is no different from "Geronimo" and "Allons-y".

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OK, I'm lost. Was there no Tangerine Dream?

  30. ShadowDragon8685

    Thinking about it... What I find incredulous is that a braincrab on Unnamed Lava Generica World nails the doctor, and then five more just materialize on Earth, nailing four random blokes and the most important person in the Doctor's life, the Impossible Girl. That's why I kind of think it would've been better if it had just been the one brain-crab, and the psychic power of the Doctor was enough to reach across all of time and space.

    That said, I did think there was a certain... Poignancy to the bit where it starts to come out that the braincrabs generate fantasies within fantasies, and since it's Christmas Eve, everyone's mind would go straight to Santa Claus.

    Everyone's mind, that is, except for a select few people who hear a certain grinding whirr and a gong. That's when I began to believe, erroneously, but plausibly, that the Doctor wasn't even in the brain-simulation at all, but was a mental construct entirely of Clara's; her mind would reject Father Christmas as someone come to help her, after all, she'd start to question it, question him, think analytically about him... But who would she never, *ever* question, no matter how ridiculous or implausible it would be that he'd turned up? Who would she listen to, even obey, if showed up and started talking gravely, giving her an urgent, direct imperative to not question a thing and do what he said?

    The Doctor. Kind of like Pond's unbreakable faith in the Raggedy Man - faith which, ironically and paradoxically, turned out to be completely justified, even when he had to shatter that faith entirely in order to save her.

    So, what're the possibilities that they're still sucking down a faceful of alien wing-wong and the entire next season will be a dream? I hope not, 'cause that would be bollocks, especially with how much I enjoyed seeing "The Doctor and Clara will return" at the end.

    Also, I kind of wish her title would come up more, along with The Oncoming Storm for the Doctor. I mean, let's face it, they're basically the ultimate guile heroes. So much so that the Dalek Empire had an epithet just for him, and that's not the kind of epithet that a fellow gets lightly.

  31. Number6

    Danny Pink

    So is he really dead? I would quote Rory as a precedent here, he did die on several occasions but kept bouncing back. Pink ended up in a place where he was able to make a choice to send back the boy instead of him, which implies that wherever it is may well appear in a later episode for him to be rescued. The clue is in the meeting with his offspring. Chances are he'll reappear in Clara's last appearance with the Doctor, so she can settle down with him.

  32. Bernard M. Orwell

    Dr Who...

    ...Has become shit.

    Review ends.

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