I've been gone for about a month and a half. Has anyone noticed? Probably not. Well, anyway, I just got a chance to watch the 2014 Dr. Who Christmas special, "Last Christmas," and I've decided to review it. Normally, I will only review television episodes from the view of the teleplay, but today I'm going to review it with a bit more openness, just with a higher emphasis on the story as it would appear in black ink on white paper. I'm using two new labels today: Television Episode Criticism and Dr. Who. In 2015, I hope to get into a decent rhythm of random blogging (how's that for an oxymoronic phrase?), with a wider range of topics covered. I'm not an expert on anything I try to talk about on this blog, but I think just writing my thoughts on various things I'm interested is very fun and if anyone happens to stumble upon my posts, I'd be happy to hear their thoughts.
I'm a pretty big fan of Dr. Who. I've seen all but one episode that has aired since the reboot in 2005, at least so far as I can gather. There might be a few more that have slipped into the cracks. The Christmas specials are some of my favorites. "Last Christmas" definitely ranks high on lists of top Dr. Who Christmas specials, top episodes of this season (or series, if you prefer the native terminology), and top episodes featuring Peter Capaldi. It might be among the top ten episodes of Dr. Who in the modern era, and almost certainly in the top twenty.
Setting is always a high-caliber product of Dr. Who episodes. "Last Christmas" erred slightly on the side of "normal," though every scenic location was built for its purpose within the plot and character arcs of the story and was therefore splendidly done. Going with Chekhov's Gun, the main setting needed to be pretty plain, because nothing in the main setting was very important. It was what was going on and by who in that setting that mattered most. A touch too much gray, perhaps, other than that it was to satisfaction.
A few characters of lesser-import could have been developed a little more in this episode. Some were given very strong character-builds, which left the blanker ones looking rather blank. However, you can't expect every character in a space opera to be awesome. If that was the case, than it would make the characters we need to think are awesome look noticeably less awesome by comparison. Still, a smidge more flavor on a character or two wouldn't have been a waste of time, I don't think. As for the main cast, "Last Christmas" did a very good job in linking the end of the first part of this season/series with the beginning of the next part. The Doctor's companion, Clara, needed to quickly recover from a traumatic event, and this episode allowed her to do so without it feeling rushed. Some of that trauma definitely needs to be shown later on, and I think it will be a great plot point at some point, likely in one of the final episodes of the season/series, but the way that this episode conducted things will help prevent a lot of future melodrama or the dreaded T.V. "let's pretend none of that just happened." The Doctor got some needed development as well.
"Last Christmas" hit plot out of the park. It started with very subtle foreshadowing, confused us, made us think that we weren't confused, and then confused us some more. It wrapped character and setting in close for a Christmas hug and held on tight. The writers had a lot of time on their hands (about sixty minutes) and they used almost every moment wisely. They used try-fail cycles! A lot of try-fail cycles! I loved it. Maybe the aliens could've been a little less plot-tailored, but I think a show like Dr. Who can get away with that.
If you haven't watched Dr. Who and would like to, I recommend three places to start: the beginning of the modern era (2005), the first episode in the Matt Smith era, or this episode. If you don't have a lot of time on your hands, start with "Last Christmas." You probably won't be disappointed.