Doctor Who: “Last Christmas”

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Christmas was all a dream! Now that we’re a few days past December 25, wouldn’t it be nice to wake up and do it all over again? This Christmas, the Doctor and Clara did some dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dreaming—but it wasn’t all carols and gifts.

Strange noises wake Clara on Christmas Eve night. It’s a wizened older man landing a peculiar flying vessel on her roof—and it’s not the Doctor. It’s Santa! With his sleigh! (Well, it’s Nick Frost playing a very curmudgeonly Santa.) Shortly thereafter, the Doctor also lands the TARDIS on her roof—Clara is shocked to see him—and they take off to the North Pole, where a crew of scientists are investigating a species of mysterious crab-like creatures who have latched onto the faces of four other members of their team. With no way to rouse their crab-faced companions, the scientists are trying to figure out what the heck happened and what exactly the crabs are.

What they are, the Doctor explains, are dream crabs. These creepy crustaceans cling to their victims’ heads, inducing a pleasant dream state while sucking their life away. Basically, they make getting killed fun and pleasant. This is especially dangerous if you are someone like Clara—who has recently endured a tragic loss—because your dreams can transport you to a version of your life you wished you were still living. Cue Danny.

It makes sense that “Last Christmas” spent so much time on Clara’s grief over Danny because a) his death is still recent, and b) the audience also isn’t over the loss of Danny. If you were anything like me, you had visions of Danny eventually becoming buds with the Doctor and everyone chilling together in the TARDIS. For his life—and his role on Doctor Who—to end so quickly still seems unfair. Clara’s wishful dream state was wishful thinking for the viewer, as well. Can Danny really be gone for good when Doctor Who keeps teasing us with his return?

It’s post-Danny that “Last Christmas” starts to get loopy. The Doctor forces Clara out of her Danny dream, only to discover that they are still trapped in a deeper dream level. Then they get out of that dream, but are in another dream. It’s the classic “it was all a dream!” plot, stretched to timey-wimey proportions.

This episode was a reunion for Clara and the Doctor—a rare second chance. Throughout season eight, Clara became stronger, more willful, more complex. I remember reading a review at the beginning of last season that said Clara would never be an important companion; few reviewers could say that now. She has stood up to the Doctor and suffered grave personal loss. She herself is messy, bossy and powerfully intelligent. If we weren’t ready to say goodbye to Danny, we definitely aren’t ready to bid adieu to Ms. Oswald. Even if the Doctor’s dream-glimpse into her future was sweet.

But there are suspicions of a new potential companion: Shona, the comic-relief “scientist” (actually a shop worker) who first investigates the unconscious dreamers. At the end of the episode, she’s back in her messy flat, reading over a very sad Christmas itinerary. She checks off the last item on the list: “Forgive Dave.” Thing is, we have no clue who Dave is. Or why he needs forgiving. That mystery—as well as Shona’s scene-stealing comedic scenes—suggest this isn’t the last we’ll see of her.