The Skaro Review: Last Christmas, by Eddie McGuigan

Last Christmas

reviewed by Eddie McGuigan


The Doctor Who Christmas Special is now as big a part of the festivities as any BBC series has ever been. There is a generation of children who have never known it not to the case.


I know for us gnarled old veterans of the Dark Times it’s difficult to believe that the Special is still not a new fangled phenomena, but it’s not, it’s now as Christmas as The Top of the Pops Special or The Queen’s Speech.


But as it becomes so, so the expectations on it become greater. They can’t just churn out any old nonsense; they have to balance something that is Christmassy enough to be, well, Christmassy, Doctor Who enough to be, well, Doctor Who, and generic enough to keep the attention of Granny Muchy and Great Aunt Matilda as they sit farting discretely and digesting their turkey. Now, it’s fair to say, they probably get it as much as the breathless explanation little Johny gave earlier of Grand Theft Auto, but nonetheless it has to at least aim at that particular snowman.


It’s fair to say that in the past it’s been a little hit and miss. The Runaway Bride with its filmed-in-a-heatwave-but-here-are-some-baubles paid nothing more than lip service to the concept and The End of Time may have had a Christmas tree or two in the background, but the story itself was more important. That’s not to say these were bad episodes, not at all, but since Steven Moffat became showrunner he’s drenched the Christmas Special with Christmassiness by the bucket load, aping, with absolutely no shame such Christmassy tropes as The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Victorian chocolate box Christmases and even that standard, A Christmas Carol. Last year’s offering went so far as to set the whole thing in a town called Christmas. The Moff definitely lets you know it’s Christmas.


Last Christmas is no different. It is, without a doubt, the most Christmassy Christmas Special of them all. It’s set at Christmas, in the snow, is all about wishes and dreams, has our old friend Merry Christmas Everyone not only take pride of place but danced too, with Noddy Holder crying out in dolby stereo, and has as its guest star none other than Santa Claus.


And make no mistake, this is Santa Claus. The hero of Christmas. With a sleigh and flying reindeers and elf helpers. Far from worried parents having to field questions about how Santa is an alien from Fla’Chant’Ra 5, Nick Frost cheekily fields questions about the absurdity of his character with verve and class, answering some of the curve balls parents have no doubt had to field this year. On flying reindeers: “Of course reindeers can’t fly, it’s a physical impossibility!” And, after a beat of superb comic timing: “That’s why I feed them magic carrots!” Frost is superb. He’s cocky, cheeky, clever, absurd and funny as well as heroic, kind and relevant. He’s more than a cipher and more than a caricature. We get a fully rounded Christmas spirit filled real man. The real Santa.


The rest of the crew on the polar base Clara and the Doctor find themselves on – that’s a long story, by the way – are likeable and believable. None are too precious but neither are they particularly stand out, but they don’t need to be, as the big characters are what this episode is about. Most underwritten is, surprisingly Michael Troughton’s Professor Albert, who, when we first meet him, is absolutely doing a vocal impression of his dad.

The story of this episode is difficult to explain without giving too much away. And it’s a long story… Santa crashes on Clara’s roof, the Doctor appears, takes her to a Polar Base under attack by something called Dream Crabs, which latch onto people’s faces and slowly digest them whilst psychically inducing a dream state to subdue their victims. But is everything as it seems? When all seems lost, Santa pops in to save the day, but, again… that’s a long story.


The main thing about this episode is the relationship between Clara and the Doctor. It’s been… well, “some time” since they last met, but both have missed the other, and they fall back into their old team with little effort. Clara still takes no nonsense from the Doctor, who himself is a lot more open and less abrasive. In fact, this is Peter Capaldi’s most accessible and likeable turn as the Time Lord. Both regulars have tempered their performances and there is a love and warmth between the two characters that, whilst hinted at a lot over s8 was never properly explored. But oh how it is here.


One thing Steven Moffat is often criticised for is being more a concepts man than an emotion man – it’s a common perception that RTD did the emotion and the Moff does the plots – but here Steven out RTDs RTD with a superb study in friendship, love and second chances. There are some achingly beautiful scenes in this episode, and again, like the rest of s8, it doesn’t skirt the awfulness and horror of some of the situations they find themselves in or they remember from times gone by.


Also in keeping with the rest of the season (and make no mistake, Last Christmas, more than any other Christmas Special is very much episode 13 of s8 and shirks none of the tropes and themes from that here) is the development of the Doctor, despite his best efforts, he’s a lot more cheerful here, but also willing to walk away and forget the humans when he thinks the job is done.


Capaldi and Coleman are superb in this episode. I’d go so far as to say this is Capaldi’s best performance as the Doctor and (possibly) Jenna’s as Clara. Both are likeable, heroic, rounded and eminently watchable.


For continuity hounds, big questions left hanging in Death In Heaven are answered, including Clara’s fate – and then some! There is also a continuity thread from the main season in the derivative moments which ape old episodes or movies – Time of the Doctor is heartbreakingly mirrored here in a beautifully touching scene, and films from The Thing, Alien and A Nightmare on Elm Street are referenced, some even in the dialogue.


Director Paul Wilmshurst continues his fine work from Mummy on the Orient Express by balancing comedy, drama and horror whilst dousing the lot with liberal sprinkles of Christmas spirit and Murray Gold does a wonderful job helping all the winks and references be underlined with a subtle and heartwarming score.

I honestly can’t fault this episode. It’s as good as the best Capaldi episodes to date (Flatline and Mummy FYI) and the best Christmas episode ever. It manages to be a Special whilst also being a clever episode of Who that compliments its audience with intelligence and attention.

Sherlock Holmes 4.0 The Judgement of Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes is dead – at least, he is to the world at large and his closest friend: Dr John Watson. However, it turns out that the Reichenbach Falls were not the end for Sherlock but merely the start of a long and enigmatic period of his life, a period shrouded in obscurity and mystery.

The Judgement of Sherlock Holmes
At least, that is, until now. Appearing from nowhere after many years Holmes has a long and complex tale to tell Watson. A story that involves not just themselves but a secret society: one that has a grim and fanatical devotion to changing the world forever. From London to Tibet, our heroes must battle the dangerous cult, and no one is safe from its poisonous touch. The flood is coming and it may be already too late to stop it.


The Doctor Who Skins Vol II for Minecraft on Xbox

Just in time for Christmas comes an exciting set of skins for the Minecraft fanatic in your life! The “Doctor Who Skins Vol II” provides more than 50 new character skins, including the classic Seventh Doctor, Donna Noble, Captain Jack Harkness, monsters and Cybermen. With this skin pack, you can now finally pair K9 with The Tenth Doctor while building a home that is bigger on the inside.   Click here for the complete list of skins.

Doctor Who Minecraft Skins Vol 2

“Doctor Who Skins Volume II” for Minecraft Xbox One and Xbox 360 editions will be available on the Xbox Store worldwide on Dec. 18 for $2.99/€2.99/£2.39, so fire up your TARDIS and get ready.

Doctor Who Minecraft Skins Vol 2

American Horror Story: Freak Show Ep 9 – Tupperware Party Massacre

Warning – contains spoilers for previous episodes!

Yep, so this week it’s the little-known sequel to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, terrorising kitchen suppy sales… well, maybe not, but even more than last week it’s a title that brings more dread than a tolling cloister bell!


American Horror Story - Freak ShowIt’s not a good week for Jupiter’s equivalent of Desperate Housewives, as what should be an entertaining gathering with storage products on sale and other, er, benefits, becomes memorable in more than one wrong way. And as the concept of separation becomes more real for Bette and Dot, do they both want to go through with it?


The Flash 1×09 – The Man in the Yellow Suit

The-Man-In-The-Yellow-SuitWhen he was a child, Barry witnessed his mother being killed by a super-fast meta-human dressed in a yellow outfit. Due to his age, his testimony was ignored and his father was jailed for murder. He was taken in by Joe, the detective who handled the case, and since then, he’s tried to find evidence to get his father proven innocent and released. (more…)

Arrow 3×09 – The Climb

arrow-the-climb-0261b-114473The modern-day tv trend of shows splitting around fixed events such as Christmas, etc, has given many the opportunity for a mid-season finale, gathering together the various threads and building to a big climax and cliffhanger bridging the gap to the second half of the season.

Following Sara’s departure at the end of series 2, her return at the beginning of this season was surprising by virtue of its suddenness, and perhaps a little rushed to enable her subsequent death to seed the plot arc for the first few episodes. (more…)

Atlantis 02×05 Day of the Dead

As the dust settles on last weeks shock ending the gang find themselves separated inside an ancient necropolis. And they quickly find that they are not alone as the dead start to rise.  The race is on to locate Jason but a literal army of undead warriors stand in the way. Meanwhile a dazed Jason must join forces with an unlikely ally if he is to survive. But can he trust the mysterious Medea or is he destined to join the ranks of the undead?



Archive TV Event in Edinburgh – STV does Hogmanay!

Following 2013′s Missing Believed Wiped event at Filmhouse another archive TV event for Hogmanay has been organised, which is hopefully the first of many more events come in 2015.
A Guid New Year from STV
A Guid New Year from STV is comprised of two episodes from the channel’s vaults, one from 1957 and one from 1978. The first is from STV’s first year of broadcasting and features live (well it was in 1957) footage from the center of Glasgow and appearances from the likes of Mike and Bernie Winters, while the latter is hosted by TV’s The Saint, Ian Ogilvy, and features “lovely Scottish girls” such as Beryl Reid and Una McLean alongside Rikki Fulton and others.
Tickets for the event are now on sale on the Filmhouse site from just £6.50 -
There is also a Facebook page where you can receive updates and suggest archive screenings for 2015

Doctor Who – The Early Adventures 01×03 The Bounty of Ceres

Ceres, the tiny and unforgiving lump of ice and rock that hangs between Mars and Jupiter. Years of travel from Earth, it’s no place to live, and it takes a special type of person to cope with Ceres’s harsh environment. The crew of the Cobalt Corporation mining base thought that the only problem they would face inside their complex was boredom, despite the deadly environment outside. But danger isn’t just outside, and systems vital to their safety are failing as the planet starts to force its way in. Their only hope of survival may be the three stranded strangers who have mysteriously appeared – but Steven, Vicki and the Doctor are in just as much danger. Together they must fight a foe they can barely comprehend to survive.


The Bounty of Ceres



Bumper 100 Page Doctor Who Monthly Issue 481!

In Issue 481: Head writer Steven Moffat unwraps this year’s Christmas Special, Last Christmas, and gives Doctor Who Magazine the lowdown on the Doctor’s face-off with Santa…

Doctor Who Magazine 481


“I think I’m being pretty open that it’s Santa meets Alien meets The Thing from Another World meets Miracle on 34th Street,” Steven laughs. “It’s a weird mash up! There’s a base under siege, there are scary monsters. It’s one of the scariest Christmas Specials we’ve made, actually…”


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