TO ME, THE MOST recent series of Doctor Who was… mixed, to say the least. I have been so unsure of this series that I actually still haven’t watched the final episode yet. Instead, I got my little brother to recite what happened to me. So you’ll forgive me for being a tad sceptical of this year’s Christmas special, especially when I heard that Santa was going to feature (groan). Spoilers ahead.
There were many aspects of this episode that pleasantly surprised me. It goes without saying that Peter Capaldi was totally on point (as per), but Nick Frost as Father Christmas was a delightful take on the classic character. Frost’s natural humour and charm really shone through making him a definite highlight. Otherwise, the new characters didn’t really do much; they seemed to be more like monster-fodder in a typical episode. The only one that really made an impression was Shona, who I even thought might be a potential new companion.
As for the story, well, it felt quite all over the place. Santa appearing on Clara’s roof, ending up in the North Pole, all followed swiftly by the face-huggers from Alien (or head crabs from Half-Life, take your pick). I was apprehensive as to what the actual point of the storyline was. It then all went a bit Inception-y; a dream within a dream within a dream within… You get the idea. Did the writers not think that there was a point where they went one dream too many?
In the end, they somehow made it work, although the climax of the episode was disappointing. At the point where they discovered what they thought was reality was in fact a dream, I was far gone from surprised. For myself, the real best bit came when Clara was ‘re-united’ with Danny. Some great acting from both Jenna Coleman and Samuel Anderson produced an emotional scene.
Now, onto the monsters themselves. The dream crabs had a lot of potential, but I don’t feel the episode milked them as much as it could. Sure, the scenes with them in were excellently done, and the creatures were creepy as hell; up there with the Silence, if you ask me. But, of course, Doctor Who remains a show for children as well, so the total effect of these monsters could not be unleashed. Moments like the dancing to Slade and the Doctor’s cheesy quotes (“Do you believe in Santa Claus?” Please, Peter…) often limit the show’s ability to build atmosphere or tension, and I feel this episode was a prime example.
But. at the end of the day, this is just a Christmas special, and the pros of this episode outweighed the cons. It was an enjoyable episode even with the merely adequate plotline. The acting of Capaldi and Coleman was as enjoyable as ever, but the proverbial brightest-star-in-the-sky was Nick Frost. He really turned my expectations of Father Christmas around and made this episode. Now we hold out for 2015 and series 9.