Merry Christmas y'all, hope everyone has had a Merry Christmas. So, with the pleasantries out of the way, let's get down to business.
So, last years Christmas Special was, lets be honest, the worst we've had since the series was revived. A damp squib to end the days of one of the finest incarnations of the Time Lord, full of plot holes and inconsistencies and frankly both too short (to fit all of its story in) and too long (to really keep what story it didn't time skip going) of an episode, which is no mean feat. So how does this one fare?
Well, if I had to sum it up in one word, that word would be weird. The whole episode revolves around waking up from a dream but not in fact waking up from the dream, something that happens at least 5 times in this episode. You add that together with a blatant alien rip off for a bad guy (they even say so "in episode") and then sprinkle some Santa Claus (with Reindeer, elves and an army of toys to boot) into the mix and you have an episode that is decidedly weird, there is no other word for it.
So how does it all stack up. Well, the plot premise, the whole how can you tell what's a dream and what's real when you could be dreaming, is a subject they have covered before (Amy's Choice, one of Matt Smiths finest episodes). That episode was brilliant, thanks to the menace of the Dream Lord, combined with the dual threats of freezing to death from a cold star or being vaporised by aliens living in the mouths of old people. This episode, whilst it didn't have as interesting threats (due to there only being one threat), did manage to be very effective in its psychological horror set up. The location being dark, decrepit and set its self in a dangerous place (the north pole) made the whole set-up feel claustrophobic. The way the aliens killed their victims (draining their brains whilst inducing an anaesthetic like dream state to keep its victims from struggling) was suitably gross and horrific as an image inside the viewers head, without having to appear on the screen. And then you had the main play of the repeat "wake ups". Yes, it did get predictable after the third time, but as with Amy's Choice, it's still a great ploy to keep the story going and interesting. So set up is good for me. Plus the ending leaves us wondering if they did in fact escape the dream world after all. Oh, and the creepy chalkboard writing during Clara's first dream sequence was a brilliant piece of representation of psychological suggestion. Clara can hear the Doctor's voice, but as she can't place the voice, her brain substitutes an object she associates with the Doctor, in this case the chalkboard he used throughout the last series (most notably in Listen)
Next up we have the main stumbling point for me before this episode was even aired. Santa. yes, Santa appears in an episode of Doctor Who. This should have been cringe-worthy, but it wasn't, thankfully. Due mostly to excellent writing and a suitably subdued yet captivating performance by Nick Frost, Santa managed to be a good fit into this episode, with its dark feel and surreal overtones. His true intentions are masked until his big reveal around two thirds of the way into the episode, is he actually trying to help them, if so how, or is he actually responsible or in league with/ working for the Dream Crabs. And even when he is actually revealed to be a) a good guy and b) a dream, he doesn't immediately become the jolly old fellow we all loved as children, he stays subdued and kind of dark, which I liked. More bonus points come from his frankly spectacular entrance into the polar base, complete with slinky and toy robot army. Though the less said about the elves the better.
Finally our two main characters. The Doctor was good in this episode, not one of his best, but his bickering with Santa did elevate his performance above average. As for Clara. Still. Don't. Care. 'Nuff said.
Oh, and as a foot note, Danny Pink still manages to retain his title as best character, even despite the small set back of being dead.