Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Doctor Who "Last Christmas"

The latest Christmas special from Doctor Who may be the best one of these specials thus far. It is certainly one of the more enjoyable episodes of Doctor Who. Even if—spoiler alert—once again, almost none of what we see ever happens. At least this time we don’t get an episode where time travel renders all the action inconsequential. Well, almost at the end there but that was simply more of what we got the whole episode. The story-tellers messing with us.

Most Who viewers, assuming people who have love for a particular show in common share a general taste, were likely not caught off guard during this special. Most had probably seen the myriad of influences already. “The Thing”, “Alien”, and “Inception” just to name a few. The real fun here is the way this episode is used as a chance to play with the show itself. The comparisons made between The Doctor and Santa are fun. The quip about fantasy and reality being so similar was clever—and deep if you think about it. And Nick Frost did a superb job. The banter with the elves had me smiling the whole time.

But this show had a deeper side as well. It is a story about people living in a flawed reality, one that is killing them, but also one that is lulling them into inaction as it kills them. In this sense the story serves as commentary on reality. We do live in a world where things are not right and people are lulled into inaction while we all suffer and die. However, unlike this story, it is not enough to merely realize our condition to reverse it.

Actually, the episode highlights that problem as well. It takes someone from outside the reality to wake Clara up from here deepest dream-state. It is then that knowledge that enables the group to recognize their condition and do something about it. And, the entire situation is only manageable because:

(a) The dream of the North Pole conveniently directly informs our heroes of their condition. (A terrible flaw for a creature that wants to remain unknown.)

(b) The Doctor has prior knowledge of the threat. (Once again, outside of “reality” assistance.)

and (c) They have Santa helping them. (The “supernatural” aspect of the dream that is not under the control of the dream creators.)

In spite of the Christmas theme of this special, this is not a Christian story. However, in this way it does explore the Christian truth. If humanity were trapped in an imperfect reality where we were all slowly dying, it would take help and knowledge from outside of that imperfect reality to awaken us to our plight. And, if the source of our problem were our own rebellion and rejection of the intended reality—in which we were created to exist—it would take a supernatural savior to redeem us.

That many reject that assistance because it seems too fantastical is tragic. However, just like in the special, only childlike faith can save us.

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