You know what the big problem is in telling fantasy and reality apart? They're both ridiculous.
Back in the very first issue of Neil Gaiman's groundbreaking Sandman comic book series, the story ends with a character being punished with the Curse of Eternal Waking. You might think, from the name, that he is cursed to never sleep again. That isn't the case, though. Rather, he is cursed with endlessly finding himself trapped in a nightmare and waking in terror, only to find that he is still dreaming and trapped in another nightmare, on and on for all eternity. I bought that issue back in January of 1989 when it first came out, and that ending has haunted me forever.
Apparently the same idea haunts Steven Moffat as well, and he thought it would make the perfect theme for a Christmas special. Huh? Let's talk about that.
(TARDIS Data Core recap)
What to you get when you take Alien, The Thing, and Miracle on 34th Street, toss them in a blender, and add a Scotsman with Attack Eyebrows? You get this story. Clara Oswald meets Santa and two elves on the roof patio of her home, is rescued by the Doctor, and the two of them travel to the North Pole only to find a scientific station beset by a nest of Dream Crabs. During a crab assault, Santa and the Elves show up again to save the day, because of course they do.
This story is, to put it lightly, a wee bit surreal. If it all seems to be operating under a dream logic, that's because... it is. The Dream Crabs attach themselves to the face of their prey (and yes, the similarity to Alien face huggers is directly acknowledged), and lull their victim into a dream state while the crab slowly bores in through the skull and devours the gray matter. The victims are all scooped up into a kind of shared gestalt dream, with their brains scrambling to make sense of everything and to smooth over the gaps in logic.
As with the Sandman story, a great deal is made of the fact that literally none of the characters can tell what is real or whether they are dreaming or awake.It's creepy as hell, and surprisingly dark for a Christmas episode. I mean, sure, Nick Frost has a lot of fun playing Santa and it's nice to see Dan Starkey (better known as the Sontaran Strax from the Paternoster gang) get to play an elf. So the story is not without humor. But then it comes right back around to the whole "slowly turning your brain to soup and sucking it out of your skull with a straw-like proboscis" thing.
In the end, each of the base scientists turn out to be just four random people whom the Dream Crabs attacked. Most likely they attacked the Doctor first, then followed his thoughts to Clara, and the other four were just random collateral. Ultimately the Doctor is able to rescue almost everyone, with only one fatality. Also ultimately, the Doctor invites Clara back on board the TARDIS, partly because he misses her but mostly because Jenna Coleman changed her mind and signed on to do another season.
This means that we get a third season with a third version of Clara that behaves completely differently from either her first or second season personas, because as I may have mentioned Steven Moffat has never regarded Clara as being an actual character but rather a plot device. On the upside, third season Clara actually gets decent scripts which is a pleasant change.
But I'll get there tomorrow. Twenty seven days to the finish line, people. Twenty seven days.
Companion(s): Clara Oswald, Danny Pink
Episode(s): Last Christmas
Steps Walked: 8,795 today, 3,427,912 total
Distance Walked: 4.71 miles today, 1,791.64 miles total
Push-ups Completed: 0 today, 6,579 total
Sit-ups Completed: 0 today, 929 total
Weight: 246.62 lbs (five day moving average), net change -60.68 lbs