So what happened?
After being awoken by Santa crashing into her roof, along with his wayward reindeer and snarky elves, and engaging in a conversation with them as to whether or not they’re real, along comes The Doctor to sweep Clara into the TARDIS and take her to a mysterious base in the North Pole. There a group of four scientists are cautiously guarding over four of their former colleagues whose bodies have been co-opted by a colony of ‘Dream Crabs’, who are only able to attack if their future host is thinking about them. Or so we’re initially lead to believe. After narrowly avoiding an attack with Santa’s help, Clara is sent on an errand and soon falls prey to one of the creatures. As her brain starts to be pulverised, her alien attacker provides some ‘anaesthetic’ in the form of spending the perfect Christmas Day with her deceased boyfriend, Danny Pink. Aware that his companion will die if she doesn’t wake up, Twelve’s attempts to get her to reject what she’s experiencing begin to bleed into her false reality, and when she rejects them, he’s forced to jump into the dream himself by allowing one of the crabs to tap into his brain, and eventually gets her to tear herself away from her fantasy reality with Fake Danny’s help.
With Clara’s rejection of her perfect dreamscape and the resulting deaths of the aliens who were feasting on her’s and The Doctor’s grey matter, the real danger seems to be out of the way. Except it’s not. After confirming that they never really escaped the attack when they first entered the base, Twelve tells the scientists that the situation they’re currently experiencing is actually a dream within a dream and that the crab/human hybrids in the Infirmary are actually them. Before long the dream turns into a nightmare, and after one of the scientists is sucked through the monitor by his hybrid, the others escape outside into the bleak, snowy landscape only to be stalked by numerous Crab/Humans; their numbers amplified by their dreamers’ subconscious minds. The only way for them to escape is for them to imagine a hero to save them, and who better than Father Christmas? Telling them to hop into his sleigh, he drives them to safety and as they all realise their true identities, they wake up back in their real lives. All except for Clara whose determination to cling onto the dream a little longer leads Twelve to find her in her bedroom, determined to remove the ‘Dream Crab’ with his sonic screwdriver utilising a method he’s learnt in the time since he last saw her.
He does manage to wake her up, but unwittingly he’s left her in the dream for so long that she’s managed to creep into old age. Swearing that he doesn’t notice the difference between the young woman he used to travel with and how she is now, he spends Christmas Day with the frail, old lady, who tells him of her adventurous but solitary life and he can’t help but lament what could have been had he gotten to her soon. Cue Santa to the rescue once again, offering The Doctor a chance to hit the reset button and the opportunity to wake his companion up whilst she still has most of her life ahead of her. And so he does, once again opening the door to the TARDIS for her and offering her yet more future adventures. Hurrah!
‘Monster’ of the Week
Marieke: Dream crabs. They look proper scary and are a lovely nod to the mentioned film, Alien, (how rude a title!) But maybe the real monster is your own subconscious leading you astray and fooling you? That dreams can slowly turn into nightmares to a dream within a nightmare. What an inception! Either way, I found the monsters pretty creepy and gross for a Christmas episode. I hope no one was eating when the slime was gushing from them…
Danielle: Well, if I wasn’t keen to avoid crabs before… (Oh behave! I have a shellfish allergy.)
Marieke: Very high. Although the dancing to Slade took it away for a moment (can’t believe no one ever thought of that before to scare the bad guys away!) and Santa was around. It was a dark, Alienesque and creepy episode that kept the viewer on their toes about what was a dream and what wasn’t, balancing the dark and Christmas. What a treat!
Danielle: There is something particularly disturbing about a creature that a. basically muzzles you and distorts all your senses and b. slowly liquidises your brain matter while you calmly enjoy a nice dream, almost like slowly boiling a frog in a pot of water; you don’t know you’re done for until it’s too late! In terms of Moffat’s other masterfully, creepy creations, these are definitely up there with The Silence.
Danielle: I guess the real mystery that lingers with this seasonal episode is whether or not Santa really exists, and for a family show it can only be a good thing that we got an indeterminate answer. It’s alright scaring the younger viewers at Christmas, but categorically telling them that the man who leaves them presents under the tree and eats their mince pies doesn’t exist would have been a step too far. I also wondered which planet The Doctor had woken up on just before he’d gone to wake Clara up. With all the mentions of ‘ going home’ it couldn’t possibly have been Gallifrey, could it?
Marieke: The mystery before was, ‘Would Clara stay or not?’ and now we know she won’t be going anywhere for now. I think her departure would’ve been too soon, although I am curious where they will go after the ‘Impossible girl’, Doctor transition and Danny phases she went through. What is left for Clara?
It was great to see Nick Frost, most famous for his roles in ‘The Cornetto Trilogy’, fill the boots of one of the most iconic figures in Western culture. More Indiana Jones than a benevolent Grandpa in a red suit, Frost’s interpretation of the character was a sleigh-load of fun! Corrie baddie and ‘our’ Strictly 2013 winner, Natalie Gumede, also gave a great turn as one of the not-so scientific scientists, Ashley.
On the whole, we really loved this Christmas Special. Sure the aliens borrowed some from the Dream Lord, but at this point in the show’s long run it’s impossible for there not to be thematic overlaps. Capaldi continues to intrigue and we’re pretty relieved that the Danny Pink arc finally seems to be over and Clara has decided to move on with some good ol’ fashioned ‘companioning’ once again. It was the only way not to retread well-worn ground. If ever there is another opening on the TARDIS, however, we’d be quite happy to see sassy Shona the Shop Girl (Faye Marsay) in contention. So Moffat, if you’re reading…