Last Christmas (TV story)

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Last Christmas was the 2014 Christmas Special of Doctor Who. It was the show's tenth Christmas special since its revival and the first of four Christmas specials starring Peter Capaldi as the Doctor.

It guest-starred Nick Frost as a dream manifestation of Santa Claus, previously seen at the end of Death in Heaven as a lead-in to this story.

This story dealt with repairing the bond between the Doctor and Clara after they parted ways under the belief that the other had a better life waiting for them instead of continuing their adventures. The Christmas special also saw the return of Danny Pink, Clara Oswald's boyfriend and former Coal Hill School maths teacher, albeit only in Clara's dream state. It also dealt with Clara finally moving on from her grief.

Casting-wise, it was notable for featuring the first on-screen Doctor Who appearance of Michael Troughton, son of Second Doctor actor Patrick Troughton and brother of David Troughton, who had previously made several of his own guest appearances on the series. It also sees Dan Starkey, who previously portrayed the Sontaran Strax in numerous stories, now in a small part of the Elf Ian.


Clara Oswald is in for one Christmas Eve that she's never going to forget. Reunited with the Twelfth Doctor, she faces what could possibly be her last Christmas.

Something sinister lurks in an arctic base at the North Pole, and it's beyond even the most terrible, nightmarish creatures the Doctor has faced before. Who ya gonna call? Santa Claus!


On a frosty night before Christmas, Clara Oswald awakens to the sound of an object crashing on her rooftop. Putting on her dressing gown, she leaves her room to investigate and discovers Santa Claus, his elves Ian and Wolf, reindeer and sleigh upon her roof, having crashed after an accident. Ian quickly informs Santa that they've been sighted. They weakly attempt to pass themselves off as ordinary people, but after Clara sees the reindeer flying loose in the sky, they reveal their true identities. One elf points out the beard Santa grew to hide his identity has been public for some time.

Clara tries to deny his existence as a fairytale, having always believed her parents had given her presents instead of him, which the elves laugh at. Santa even lists items Clara wanted at Christmas; everything Clara wanted was actually practical items, instead of other items for hobbies and such. Santa questions if she still believes in fairy-tales, as the TARDIS materialises. The elves are surprised to have been upstaged; it's not very often that happens. The Doctor emerges, telling a stunned Clara that he's back; he then orders her to remain absolutely silent and go into the TARDIS right away. She obeys.

The Doctor leans in close to Santa and states that he knows what is going on, and what is at stake. Santa questions if he truly does, and tells him that before the night is through, the Doctor will be glad for his help. The Doctor departs by wishing Santa a "Happy Easter" and tells him that no-one likes his tangerines. The elves laugh, having previously said the same thing to Santa, but weren't believed.

Inside the TARDIS, Clara comments on how much she had missed it, as the Doctor takes off. He tells Clara that she should trust nothing and be critical towards everything, concluding that the most important question is if she truly believes in Santa Claus. She answers that right now, she does, believing Father Christmas brought the Doctor back as a gift.

At a base in the North Pole, a group of scientists are tracking Shona as she enters an infirmary. One of the scientists called Ashley tells Shona not to think about "them" and to concentrate on something else. She enters the infirmary and begins dancing to Slade's "Merry Xmas Everybody" which appears to take her mind off the victims. She reaches the end of the infirmary, by which point the Doctor and Clara appear. Shona initially mistakes them for ghosts, calling the Doctor a skeleton man.

As Clara wonders what's happened to the victims, they wake up and begin moving. Shona warns them not to think about what they can see, mumbling the song to herself, and the Doctor deduces that the creatures attached to the victim's faces are both deaf and blind, but they use telepathy to keep a constant image of themselves in someone's memory, allowing them to 'see'. In an attempt to save Clara, the Doctor insults Danny, succeeding in flooding her mind with emotion. As the victims close in, the scientists appear with guns ready to attack, and then several crab-like creatures appear from the ceiling and attack the group.

Santa arrives to save the day.

Suddenly a wall blasts off and an army of toys march in. Everyone looks out the hole to see Santa riding Rudolph, and dismounting. The reindeer is humourously calmed by Santa, using a car fob. Santa demands an answer as to what is happening; he doesn't want any trouble on his property. To everyone's surprise, Santa is able to order the victims back to bed. Everyone heads into a different room to avoid waking them again. Shona wonders who Santa is, to which the Doctor sarcastically states to take a guess, listing the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Santa tells the Doctor that an invasion has begun. Clara wonders if it's an invasion of elves, angering them; they retort that she's one to talk as she's almost as short as them.

Santa presents a captured creature, which the Doctor recognises as a Kantrofarri or "dream crab". Santa's existence is questioned by everyone, especially Shona, whom he angers, but he encourages them to focus on the dream crabs as Earth may have just seen its last Christmas depending on how many are there. The Doctor encourages Ashley to deduce what they are and what they do; he then explains that they are dying and most likely asleep. He points to the TARDIS, explaining that reality and fantasy are difficult to tell apart because both are ridiculous. He and Clara then admit to each other that they lied - he about finding Gallifrey, she about Danny returning from the Nethersphere - so the other could move on with their lives to be happy.

The Doctor asks Ashley to show him CCTV footage of the other crew members arriving on the base. The footage shows the four crew members discovering the creatures, buried in the snow. The footage then shows one of the creatures coming down from the ceiling, which sends the camera static. The Doctor explains that when a dream crab attacks someone, it places them in a telepathically induced dream state. Whilst the victim is "dreaming", the crab drills into the victim's head and eats away at their brain. And if you are thinking about a dream crab, one is most likely coming for you. Albert compares the creatures to facehuggers, confusing the Doctor; after Albert explains that he means the horror movie Alien, a miffed Doctor explains that it's really offensive and must be why real aliens keep invading Earth.

Clara's dream Christmas with Danny.

Clara goes to check on the captured crab, only to find it missing from the container. It begins to stalk her, at which point Clara tries thinking of maths equations and then of Danny to stop it. Unfortunately, it breaks through the table she's hiding under, putting her into a dream state. Clara finds herself at her house on Christmas day with Danny; when Clara is confused by his outfit, Danny jokes he's "Father Easter". The Doctor and the group arrive at Clara's side, where the Doctor tries to work out a way to remove the crab without killing Clara. Ashley states the only way to remove the crab would be to kill Clara. He refuses to do so, asking Santa (who can't be targeted by the crabs) to bring one to place on his head.

In Clara's dream, night has fallen and she's snuggled up to Danny on a couch facing their Christmas tree. Hearing someone at the door, Clara goes and answers. It's the Doctor, who informs her that everything she's seeing is not real; annoyed, Clara lets him and introduces dream Danny. The Doctor greets him, earning a military holiday greeting in return; something the real Danny would do to annoy him. Clara knows it's not real, but wanted to spend more time with Danny; however, in a few minutes, the dream crab will have burrowed too deep into her head to be removed. The dream Danny explains that while he did die, it was to save Clara; the rest of the world got lucky. He encourages Clara to move on but to mourn him for five minutes a day. The Doctor and Clara awaken, causing the crabs to fall off and disintegrate; "Carnivore's hazard; food has teeth, too."

Despite waking up, Clara complains of a pain on the right side of her head. Shona compares it to the "ice cream pain" and confirms she has the same pain. The Doctor then works out that they are in fact still in a dream, having been attacked when they arrived. With some help from Santa — who is revealed to be a manifestation of everyone's brains telling them something is wrong — the group are able to wake up. They escape the infirmary, barely evading the victims. The Doctor bids farewell to the group as Clara goes after him; the Doctor explains that unless the group is stupid enough to let the dream crabs out, they should be fine. He also explains he can't keep constant watch, stating that there are other dangerous things on the planet.

Clara notes they both saw Santa on her rooftop, meaning they're still dreaming. They return to the base where the Doctor questions the scientists on why they only have four base manuals for a crew of eight people. They perform the Helman-Ziegler test, resulting in each person reading off the first word of page 12; "Very, very, very, dead". It's another sign that they're still dreaming; worse, it means the danger has increased, given three "very"s. Taking them to the CCTV monitors, the Doctor reminds them of the patients, which he reveals are dream constructs of what's coming to kill them. The victims awaken and transport themselves through the CCTV, killing Albert in the process. The group travel outside and try to work out a way to escape, of which the Doctor suggests using the TARDIS to escape. Clara notes it isn't the real TARDIS, and as they head towards the TARDIS, dream constructs of themselves appear. Worse, the constructs have multiplied; "logic of a nightmare" the Doctor notes.

Clara doesn't want to wake up.

The Doctor tells everybody to use their imagination to get themselves home, and so they all dream of Santa, who appears in his sleigh and rescues the group. Having been rescued by Santa, the memories of the group's real lives start coming back to them, meaning that they're waking up in the real world. Shona suggests that they exchange phone numbers so they can meet up once they awaken, but the Doctor states that it's unlikely that they will remember anything that's happened in the dream. One by one, everyone except Clara awakens, who wants to stay in the dream world forever.

The Doctor travels to Clara's house and is successful in removing the crab from her face with his sonic screwdriver, but finds 62 years have passed for her since they said goodbye in the coffee shop after Danny's death; this places Clara at age 89. In Clara's living room, the Doctor brings in Christmas hats, believing that anything seems funny if the hats are worn. They discuss her life since they last met. She travelled, but never married despite numerous admirers; she does admit that there was one other man besides Danny she liked; "but it wouldn't work out; he was impossible." They pull a cracker together, with the Doctor helping the elderly Clara do so. He apologises for not returning for her sooner, wishing that he had. From the doorway, Santa again appears and asks if he really does wish for that. They are surprised this is yet another crab-induced dream. Santa whispers; "Wakey-wakey!!"

The Doctor awakens for real this time and he travels to Clara's house, removing the crab from her face again to reveal that she is still young; humorously, the Doctor can't tell whether Clara is young or not. Realising what could have been, the Doctor invites Clara to resume her travels in the TARDIS with him. She happily agrees and he whisks her away, still in her nightie. As they dematerialise, a tangerine sits on the window sill and there is a faint hint of sleigh bells...


Uncredited cast[[edit]]


General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.

Uncredited crew[[edit]]


Food and drinks[[edit]]

  • Santa is visibly offended when both his elves, and later the Doctor, tell him that no one likes tangerines.

Culture from the real world[[edit]]

  • Shona dances to the song "Merry Xmas Everybody" by Slade to distract herself from thinking about the dream crabs while she is in the infirmary on the North Pole base.
  • Santa uses a RoboSapien.
  • Professor Albert compares the dream crabs to the facehugger version of the title creature from the 1979 sci-fi/horror movie Alien. The Doctor has heard of neither the facehuggers nor the film, and is visibly appalled that a horror movie is named Alien.
  • The Doctor tells Clara not to get too attached to the people at the arctic base because it "isn't Facebook."
  • When the Doctor leaves Santa on the roof-top, he mockingly tells Santa, "Happy Easter".
  • When Ashley asks who Santa is, the Doctor asks her who she thinks he is and gives the "tooth fairy" and "Easter Bunny" as possible examples.
  • Santa mentions My Little Pony when proving to Shona that he is real.
  • In Shona's Christmas Day itinerary, the films Alien, The Thing from Another World and Miracle on 34th Street are named, along with "Thrones". The first three films are very clearly sources for aspects of the shared dream state (the facehuggers, a group of scientists trapped in an isolated Arctic base by a deadly alien creature, and a man who believes he is Santa, respectively).


  • Shona seemingly forgives a person called Dave.

Story notes[[edit]]

  • This episode saw a one-off modification to the title sequence. The clock faces the TARDIS flies through are blue and icy, and the TARDIS is covered in snow, which both dissipate. The names of the lead actors dissolve into snowy particles, and the subsequent time vortex has flying snowflakes.
  • This is the third consecutive Christmas special to feature Dan Starkey. He had previously appeared in his recurring Sontaran role, Strax, in The Snowmen, then as both Commander Skarr and his unnamed subordinate in The Time of the Doctor. He appears as an elf named Ian in this special.
  • This is also the third consecutive Christmas special to feature Jenna Coleman. She previously appeared as a version of Clara Oswald in The Snowmen, then as the original Clara in The Time of the Doctor and Last Christmas. Clara is the first companion to appear in three consecutive Christmas specials.
  • Steven Moffat, Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi later confirmed that Coleman was initially going to leave the series with this episode, but last-minute lobbying by Capaldi and Moffat convinced her to stay on for one more series. According to Moffat, the decision was made rather late in the process, perhaps as late as the readthrough, resulting in an eleventh-hour revision to the ending. The character of Shona was floated as a possible replacement, but a fully developed character wasn't worked out.[3]
  • To keep the appearance of Danny Pink a surprise, Samuel Anderson was uncredited in Radio Times and on the BBC website.
  • Steven Moffat almost put K9 Mark IV in the episode, but decided against it.[4]
  • The events of this episode seem to retroactively reveal that the mid-credits scene at the end of Death in Heaven takes place after the Doctor has been caught by his dream crab, though the ultimate shot implying that Santa really exists casts some doubt onto this interpretation.


Production errors[[edit]]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • When the Doctor accidentally antagonises Clara about what Danny Pink may be up to, she slaps the right-hand side of his face, yet he clutches the left side.
  • Shona's hair changes style and length throughout the episode, even within the space of a few minutes. The production team intended for her changing hair to be a clue to the dream, but sometimes her hair changes within the same 'dream'.
  • The CGI shots of Big Ben are extraordinarily out of scale, portraying Big Ben as tiny or the sleigh and its occupants as massive.


  • The Series 8 finale and possibly more of the season was a dream. This is due to the Doctor waking up on what appears to be the same volcanic planet seen within Clara's induced dream state in TV: Dark Water, coupled with the fantastical afterlife-related plotline of the two-parter and the fact the Doctor's dream is seemingly underway by the time Santa appears in the mid-credits sequence of TV: Death in Heaven.
  • Clara and the Doctor are still dreaming as the episode ends. This is left ambiguous due to the presence of one of Santa's tangerines at the end. However it should be noted that Santa Claus does exist within the televised Whoniverse per TV: A Christmas Carol.


Home video releases[[edit]]

DVD & Blu-ray releases[[edit]]

  • Last Christmas was released as a standalone DVD and Blu-Ray in in region 1/A on 17 February 2015, in region 2/B on 26 January 2015 and in region 4/B on 28 January 2015. It included a behind-the-scenes featurette.
  • It was later also released as part of the Complete Ninth Series DVD and Blu-ray boxsets in region 1/A on 5 April 2016, in region 2/B on 7 March 2016 and in region 4/B on 9 March 2016.

Digital releases[[edit]]

  • The episode was released to buy in HD or SD on Amazon Instant Video.
  • The episode was released on Google Play and iTunes in HD or SD, complete with various features including Earth Conquest, a trailer, Steven Moffat interview and behind the scenes featurette.
  • In the United Kingdom, this story is available on BBC iPlayer as part of Series 8.

External links[[edit]]