Doctor dreams with crabs on Christmas

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“Doctor Who” Christmas specials have showcased many different strange things, from a “sinking” spacefaring replica of the Titanic to a futuristic Scrooge who’s fascinated with flying fish (and by flying, I mean swimming in the air, not just gliding like real flying fish) to a crazy undead alien turning everyone on the earth into a clone of himself. However, until the most recent special, there was one thing I had never seen in a Who special:

Dream crabs.

These parasitic creeps do two things in the Whoniverse. For one, they latch on to a victim’s face and induce a dream state that keeps the unfortunate soul happy while the victim’s brain is eaten away by the crabs. The other thing they do is provide the plot for a very well-made 2014 Christmas special, entitled “Last Christmas.”

The episode begins with Clara discovering a visitor on her roof on Christmas night: none other than Santa Claus himself. However, after the Doctor shows up and takes her to a scientific research station at the North Pole, the two discover that the crabs have latched onto the faces of several of the station’s personnel. The survivors of the station, along with the Doctor, Clara and Mr. Claus and two of his elves, soon discover dreams upon dreams and a very real threat to their lives.

Not only are the dream crabs very creepy and the plot suitably complex, but all of the acting and humor in the special is exemplary as well. Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is fantastic as always, Nick Frost plays a dang good Santa Claus and Jenna Coleman’s Clara is the same well-portrayed Clara we’ve come to know and pity throughout Season 8.

The special also retained the serious tone that has permeated “Doctor Who” since Capaldi’s first episode as the Doctor. While Tennant’s and Smith’s Christmas specials had the more lighthearted tone of their respective eras, Capaldi’s first special keeps the dark and creepy atmosphere of his episodes (of course, it would be difficult not to have a dark and creepy episode when the entire premise of the story is alien parasites eating people’s brains). While I am not a big fan of the new, more serious “Doctor Who” feeling, I think it works well for the special, and I actually kind of like it.

Overall, “Last Christmas” is a great “Doctor Who” Christmas special that blends action, humor and suspense with good acting and some star power (in the form of Santa Claus) to create a suitably memorable holiday episode.