Friday, December 26, 2014

Doctor Who - Last Christmas

Review by Ken Parker

Despite what you might think after reading my reviews, I really want to like Doctor Who. Any other series I would have stopped watching the show because of inconsistency in quality and embarrassing silliness. Unless I was watching some strange David Lynch nightmare or an all out spoofy comedy, I would never in a million years think I would see an episode with an army of Slinkys marching into a polar base and certainly never in Doctor Who. But alas, here we are.

Doctor Who has become a show of defiance and shocking imagery. A dinosaur in London, lesbian lizard and woman in Victorian England, forests over running a city, the dead becoming Cybermen and Santa Claus teaming up with the Doctor are all attempts by Steven Moffat in creating a world of clickable promotional imagery that attracts people to the show. “I have to see what this thing about killing Hitler or Santa riding a reindeer is all about!!” Once these 'shocking' images attract your attention, Moffat tries to write an explanation on why there are dinosaurs on a spaceship and is the Doctor really meeting Robin Hood.

I would rather see Moffat give us a better story that makes some kind of sense without this click bait like attitude. Stories like “Kill the Moon” and “Flatline” had appealing imagery and hooks to get people interested without having the odd imagery and spoofing feel that some stories have to rely on.

Now, Doctor Who's Christmas specials are a yearly event for fans and they are meant to be connected to Christmas no matter what and how ridiculous. The specials border on spoofs and are closer to "Dimensions in Time"and "Curse of the Fatal Death" than standard Doctor Who. They often have a Christmasy feel to them with messages of happiness and well being. They are celebrations and can be oozing with the Christmas theme. There are exceptions and some of these exceptions have been excellent.

Overall though the Christmas specials have been dire. They are usually not meant to be taken serious and usually they are watered down so very young fans can enjoy the Christmas references and wonder if their tree is going to come to life or if Santa is going to leave them a tangerine. I would expect older fans to be mostly drunk or tired to the point that they don't want to see a story with any reasonable plot and so having a series of Christmas imagery and England's only Christmas song – that Rudolph song that is in every special, is enough.

Except “Last Christmas” knows this and the story has gone out of its way to almost poke fun at itself by implanting the Christmas imagery in a clever way. This time we have a group of people who are caught in a dream where they must call upon Santa Claus to remind them that they are indeed dreaming. The story doesn't hide the fact that it is ripping off various other movies including Alien, The Thing and, of course, Inception. In a way, the Inception idea is pretty much the story and for the most part is handled well. All bets are off when you are in a dream state and the double and triple reveals at the end were neat, at least until they kept happening and then they became boring.

My main reasons for watching this episode beyond the fact that I have watched every one for the past X amount of years, was not because of the clips of toy robots and Santa riding a bucking Rudolph. Those were enough to make me hesitate in wanting to subject an excellent December 25 to unwanted disappointment and head shaking hatred for the show. Still, I wanted to get it out of the way and wanted to see how bad it was going to be. Surely not as bad as “Time of the Doctor”?? I also wanted to see how Clara would fit into this story. Moffat left the Doctor and Clara in an awkward place last season and for the most part he did a good job rebooting their relationship, giving Clara some closure with Danny and repairing some damage with the Doctor. Hopefully this relationship will improve next year and the lack of a new boyfriend for Clara will most definitely help this cause.

Capaldi and Coleman were up to their usual standards in this one as were the rest of the cast. I don't like Doctor Who when it is silly and light hearted and so the Santa and elves were not a highlight for me. Still, Santa sort of supports the Robin Hood idea of fiction is good for people and is not completely original nor horrible in this episode.

So without too many original ideas, the heart of this story is there with Clara taking on most of this with her dreams and difficulty letting go of the past. Her love of fairy tales and believing in Santa Claus gives us a better idea of who she is.

So, I watched Last Christmas and did not vomit. I didn't shake my head or experienced any faceplams. I enjoyed the Inception dream plotline as I am a big fan of dreams and the science behind them. I get the idea for this story and accept the purpose of the script. So I guess this is one of the better Christmas specials and it has rinsed out some of that horrible taste of the season finale a couple of months ago so that is good.

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