This episode would seem quite silly at a glance, for someone who doesn’t watch Doctor Who a quick glimpse of this episode might make them think it is all quite silly. The presence of Santa Claus would be enough to convince them of this for one. However, if they stuck with it and watched the episode throughout they would eventually learn that there is good reason for Father Christmas being in this episode. Later on in the episode we learn that there is a perfectly logical explanation for him being here, well, perfectly logical in the context of the show. When you factor in the notion that there are aliens that can put you in a dream state where you hallucinate things that otherwise look and feel completely real, then it makes sense.
This was a really clever episode that felt like a cross between a normal episode of Doctor Who, Alien and Inception. It was weaved together very well, not making sense initially but eventually all coming together well. Things that otherwise didn’t make a whole lot of sense eventually got an explanation, much like what I just said about Santa’s appearance in the episode. When the different characters discussed whether or not Nick Frost was the real Santa there were things he did and knew that actually did stump them and us, the audience. However once we got the explanation that he was a part of their collective consciousness his’ seeming omniscience made sense, the reason he knew so much about them because he was their mind. He was just a projection of their brain and of course had all of their memories as a result. That I thought really was genius.
The dialogue was once again really engaging and funny, I enjoyed the Alien references, particularly the line where the Doctor says that it is really offensive that humans made a horror movie called Alien and that it’s probably reason Earth keeps getting invaded by them. The writers obviously had the base idea that they wanted an alien that could put you into a dream, so that they could feature Santa as well as the idea that the alien would attach itself to your head. They obviously had to acknowledge then, the fact that the head crab things were a lot like the face huggers off Alien. They are actually a lot like a monster off Half Life, even the later stage where it consumes their head, however on Half Life it turns people into zombies. Given that the cocoon stages of the two very similar monsters look so similar it may be that the writers of Doctor Who got inspiration from Half Life also. Perhaps thinking it too obscure a reference to mention.
I have to say, the performances in this episode were fantastic. Nick Frost obviously delivered, he always does, Frost just has a real screen presence and charisma not to mention a good ear for comic timing. The elves were also pretty funny, they delivered some really well written lines of comedy with the correct amount of deadpan sincerity. The character of Shona was really funny and compelling, and I found myself thinking she would be a good regular cast member.
This episode had a fun concept that came together in a really genius reveal, the dream within a dream stuff was really clever. A friend said something to me that I found really interesting about this and may be a clue as to events to come on the series. It is a potential clue/hint that I didn’t pick up on. If Santa appeared after the Doctor found out that Gallifrey was still lost does that mean then that the Doctor was dreaming about Gallifrey being lost? Gallifrey was lost in the dream but is it in reality? It may even be at the very coordinates the Doctor was given. He may have smashed up the TARDIS for nothing. But wasn’t that before he met with Clara at the cafe? So that was a dream as well…I’m confused.