It goes without saying that this review will containspoilers. Although I did just say it, rendering the previous sentence moot. Anyway,read on.

The hit rate of Doctor Who Christmas specials in the lastfew years has been somewhat up and down. It was with this in mind that I satdown to watch Last Christmas, the 2014 Doctor Who Christmas special written byStephen Moffat, with a degree of apprehension.

That’s unfortunately what being a rabid Doctor Who fan doesto one I'm afraid. Or at least that’s what it does to me. Makes me cynical anddoubtful.

It’s quite a pity that I can’t just sit down and watch this specialas just a casual viewer after some Christmas entertainment. No, I'm always analysingand critiquing and looking for resemblances to other episodes. Is that entirelyfair to the people who worked hard to bring us an hour of solid entertainment ofone of the most magical days of the year?

No, but I'm going to press on regardless.

Peter Capaldi continues to shine as the 12thDoctor. He brings to the role a weary, sarcastic quality that is a perfectcontrast to the previous bubbly, childlike incarnation played by Matt Smith. Isuppose you’d be weary and sarcastic too after travelling through time andspace for over 2000 years. Of course, there are shades of light amongst thedarkness.

Witness his performance in the final scenes with an aged Clara, andhis sheer joy and wonder at the absurdity of getting to ride Santa’s sleigh. Niceto see him turn up in Clara’s dream as a chalkboard too, almost like that’sbecome his motif, like Tom Bakers scarf, or Colin Bakers coat.

Yes, Santa. Played here by Nick Frost, and anticipated sincehis surprise appearance at the very end of Series 8.

Frost has the task ofbeing both comedic and lightly threatening in certain places, and he pulls thisoff with typical aplomb. I knew his performance was great when I realised thatfor a few moments, I had stopped thinking “there’s Nick Frost dressed as FatherChristmas” and was just thinking “there’s Father Christmas”. Shame about theelves, mind.

I've never been an enormous fan of Jenna Coleman’sperformance as Clara. It’s still unclear to me weather that’s due to Coleman’sperformance, or the fact that her character often feels seriously underwrittenand developed. That being said, I enjoyed her turn at the end as an aged, mucholder Clara, and felt that would have been a perfect send off to her character.But unfortunately, it seems they chickened out, with the scene turning out toyet be another dream. Hmm.

The supporting cast acquitted themselves admirably, althoughthey don’t have an awful lot to work with, there characters seeming like littlemore than props to move the plot forward. Sam Anderson, in a surprise return asDanny Pink, seems very happy to be playing Danny as slightly happier and warmerthan we've been used to.

The monsters were suitably effective. Large crab creaturesthat clutch on to your face and create in your mind a dream world, which allowsyou to live out a fantasy while the creature slowly eats it way through yourbrain. Another good example of Moffat’s obsession with perception and fantasy,exploring what’s real and what’s an illusion. Large crab creatures that latchonto your face may remind one of the film Alien. As one character amusinglypoints out. Doctor Who once again proudly wearing it’s influences on itssleeve.

My only gripe with this, is the same problem you havewhenever dreams or hallucinations are introduced into any story. You immediatelystart doubting what you’re seeing. Which is fine in a way, but it does tend tocolour your own perception of later events.

There’s a scene later on whereSanta, and indeed there whole environment, is revealed to be yet another dreamstate created by the crabs. Well yes, most people probably had this figured outsoon as the crabs were introduced. I suspected as much as soon as Santa made anappearance at the end of Series 8. It’s not so much the reveal, it’s the factthat it’s written and directed AS a big reveal. Just like when Missy, the villainfrom Series 8, was “revealed” to be The Master, something most fans had figuredout by the first episode.

Stories involving dream worlds mean that literally anythingcan happen. Which is very interesting I find, as it both reinforces and throwsout the element of surprise. If anything can happen, why should we care when itturns out Santa isn't real?

We KNOW he isn't real, we know he was eventuallygoing to turn out to be a dream, or a robot, or a manifestation of the Doctor.They never would have just introduced Santa to the sci fi world of Doctor Who.

Saying all that, it’s nice to see a Christmas special that createsa dark, gloomy mood, and feels like proper old school Doctor Who. Makes it nicerwhen the inevitable scene of Santa flying over London turns up, almost feelslike we've earned it.