Doctor Who: The Last Christmas Special Ever?
Warning: This review contains spoilers.
You sometimes wonder as a fan of a long-running popular television program why it wishes to imitate every other show on the telly. Just because many TV series produce a Christmas special for broadcast every December doesn’t mean your series has to have a Christmas special or even should have a holiday special, does it? Doctor Who from 1963 to 1989 never had a distinctly Christmas special, but since its 2005 reincarnation it somehow sees the necessity of producing one every December 25, featuring killer Christmas trees, homicidal angels or evil Christmas stars. “‘Tis the season to hate Christmas!” it seems to sing.
So, after viewing this season’s special, I have one word of advice to those planning next year’s Christmas special: Don’t.
Okay, maybe it’s two words: Please don’t. Take guidance from the original series—if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Use the extra money in the budget to produce another regular episode or two, give the cast and crew a pay raise, or go on location big-time. In other words, put the money and resources to good use and produce quality programming instead of a Christmas special that’s not needed or possibly even wanted by some of the fans.
Having said that, the basic premise of this season’s special, Last Christmas, is a good horror tale of dreams nestled within dreams and of face-hugging dream crabs whose shape is directly ripped off from the Alien/Aliens franchise. If the story had been broadcast on or near Halloween, minus the addition of Santa Claus and possibly re-designing the aliens to look less like the popular movie monster, it might have worked. As it is, it’s yet another Christmas special that advertises how its creators don’t quite get the true meaning of the holy day. After all, if you don’t believe in Christ, then you don’t have to celebrate Christmas or add it into your show in any form, do you? Maybe you should just write sci-fi/fantasy episodes with a more generic tone and leave the Christmas specials to others to pen?
One could ask why is Santa Claus in this Doctor Who script at all. We’re told that he’s a universal symbol that all the characters can relate to during their horrific dilemma, but truly, who is Santa Claus? He’s a part of your dreams—nightmares you might not ever wake up from—according to Last Christmas. Not quite a great thing for young children to be told and indicative of how far the show has traveled from its family-friendly origins. If youngsters aren’t terrified of killer Christmas trees, homicidal angels, and evil Christmas stars, they can now be frightened of Nightmare Santa and the face-hugger aliens who can make your happiest dreams deadly. Should parents go ahead and send their children’s psychiatric bills to the BBC?
Perhaps there is some hope in the fact that Santa Claus himself is played quite warmly (despite some of his throw-away lines) by Nick Frost. And perhaps—without even realizing it—Steven Moffat has written a most Christian motif into the ending of Last Christmas. The Doctor says to his companion he doesn’t know who brought them together in their nightmarish adventures of dream states, but the camera pulls back to reveal a tangerine (looks more like an orange really) placed on the windowsill.
Placing tangerines (oranges) into Christmas stockings is a long-standing tradition from St. Nicholas’ Day, December 6, when children are given gifts in the saint’s honor. The orange globe represents one of the bags of gold that Nicholas tossed into the window of the home of three young women whose father wasn’t able to provide dowries for them, so they weren’t able to marry. Mirroring God’s unconditional love, Nicholas tossed the money into their home—no strings attached—so that the young women could go from a state of hopelessness to hopefulness about their futures. Their lives were changed for the better all because of this beautiful gift that they never asked for or expected, freely given.
As St. Nicholas stands as a symbol of God’s love and his gift of the gold (tangerine/orange) a symbol of the gift of the Savior promised to all people, perhaps we the audience are being given a hint just Who is actually directing the Doctor’s travels and what special purpose the Doctor serves in helping humanity unconditionally.
With the promise of the true gift of Christmas, Clara and Danny wouldn’t have to suffer through a maudlin scene of this is our “last Christmas,” since we’re never promised another one with those we love, for with Christ at the center of the Christmas celebration we are all promised an eternity of Christmases with those we love. Eternity—it’s a heckuva lot longer than a short life span here on earth. Eternity—we get to spend forever in God’s unconditional love. What a great way to time travel with those we love!
If only the Doctor, Danny and Clara could accept God’s unconditional love, given as the gift of the Christ-child born on Christmas day, then we’d see more emotionally and spiritually mature characters who wouldn’t have to act maudlin, whiney, childish, or confused. They could act confident in the fact that they have a loving Higher Power watching over them in all the challenges they face, now and in the future. What an uplifting and happy Christmas special that would be!
You can read my review of Death in Heaven here:
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I got the Doctor Who Let Down Blues: http://momsday.blogspot.com/2014/08/i-got-doctor-who-let-down-blues.html