Well that was entertaining.
A vast improvement on ‘The Time of the Doctor,’ ‘Last Christmas’ is fun, scary, nonsensical, thoughtful, and sweet. It’s full of wonderful little moments – was that comment on fairy tales a direct reference to Neil Gaiman? And how DO we know, ever, that we aren’t just dreaming? And of course, is Santa real? Is the Doctor? Is anything?
It doesn’t resolve any threads from last season, or answer any questions, and I think it’s time (past time) to accept that that’s how Moffat rolls. Tons of setup will never play out. And that’s fine. We can make up our own answers, or ignore the questions. They aren’t important. Somehow we just got into this game of expecting things. It’s fine to let them go, and just be entertained.
I do think it’s funny, though, that what happened was exactly what I thought would happen, just because it was unexpected. We had no real reason to think Clara wasn’t coming back, and yet we all did. For once the lies by omission worked perfectly. Until the very end I wasn’t sure whether she was staying or going. I imagine that if we had all gone into the episode expecting her to stay, it would have played very differently – even if the final result was the same. Moffat is the game’s biggest troll, after all.
Plenty of things remain unresolved for me, but I am content to let them go and look forward to Season 9.
Moving on… Nick Frost as Santa is brilliant and hilarious. The use of Santa in the story is wonderfully clever – the question of whether you believe in him is important, because it will answer whether or not you are awake. Frost and Capaldi work beautifully together. The elves were annoying in a Disney sidekick kind of way, but still funny. The reindeer were ridiculous, and pointing out their ridiculousness was a brilliant moment. Still, the sleigh ride at the end was a perfect way to wake up.
I like that Clara and Danny are finally more or less resolved, and we can be done with him. I liked him in bits, but I didn’t like THEM. It was too much emotional drama with too little investment. I didn’t see their love for each other and I didn’t care about it, and it detracted from the stories around it. I did like that the Danny she dreamed up was exactly the Danny she needed – the Danny who would sacrifice himself and their life together to save her.
(What was up with that house? Was it a dream the whole time? What happened to her cute little apartment? These are the questions we do not dwell on.)
I really liked the side characters, both in their dream and real lives. Shona was hilarious and sweet, and I love that all the horror movie references turned up on her watch list. I like that she decided to do the forgiving, and I hope she gets to make something of her life. I like that Fiona was a gran in a wheelchair, and I hope she isn’t too sad. I wonder if she was once a formidable scientist, and her mind provided the setting. I enjoyed the appearance of Patrick Troughton’s younger son. I did wonder about the abundance of women. Moffat seems to be struggling with his image; he knows what people think of him and wants to shake it, but he’s really bad at it. Casting mostly women as the scientists, and killing the lone man, seems to be a clumsy effort to show his feminist credentials. I wish he’d stop; as long as hiring women is in the front of his mind, he’s going to be terrible at it. Better to let someone else handle it, someone unaffected by his boys’ club upbringing and self-consciousness.
(Yes, I still think it’s time for a new showrunner, even if some of his later stories and recent choices are awesome.)
And Clara. I have mixed feelings about the return of Clara. On the one hand I like her and still don’t feel she’s had a fair shake in her time. On the other hand I was looking forward to someone new. Still, I’m glad that she and the Doctor have a chance to maybe have some fun together for once. Her time with Eleven was all about him figuring her out, and S8 has been a lot of them figuring each other out. Now that’s out of the way maybe we can have a proper romp – and maybe a few more Time Lords. 🙂
Overall, a fun way to spend Christmas night, and a great launch point for Series 9.