Matthew You woke up tonight to a strange sound. After hugging you goodbye in a coffee shop and lying about returning to our homeworld, we’ve reappeared on your snowy roof. It’s really us – you’re not dreaming (or are you?) – we’re back. Now hurry, don’t ask questions, just get inside The Companion Piece !

Spoilers from here on for the 2014 Christmas special.

So Christmas has been and gone and, as always, we received the now traditional present of a new episode of Doctor Who . Which, if you think about it, is a really weird tradition. This one felt more Christmassy than usual, though, as Santa himself made his first appearance in one of these things.

Emily May I ask the starting question?

How would you rate this Christmas episode in comparison to last year’s?

Matt K Almost as good, though I question them using Last Christmas as the first thing that comes to me is the song.
Cookie Well to be fair it was Matt Smith’s swansong, so I preferred last year’s if I’m honest. Felt a lot stronger in story and dialogue than this year’s. I liked the premise just not the execution.
Paul I think I prefered this Christmas’ one. Christmas and horror surprisingly work well together!

Emily Yeah, the contrasting elements meant that it didn’t get too schmaltzy.

Last year’s also wasn’t open enough for uninitiated family members.

Paul Last year’s Christmas special just seemed to go nowhere.
Matt K Yeah, now that you mention it, the whole build up to the planet Trenzalore in the later half of Matt Smith’s run concluding in the Christmas special did feel disappointing.
Cookie I think last year’s was more to set things on track for the new season and to answer questions left open throughout Matt’s tenure. And it set everything up for the potential return of Gallifrey.
Matthew I’m not sure it’s fair to compare this one to last year’s, since that was such a big event episode. Maybe we should be comparing it to the ones before that – The Snowmen or The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe – and it was definitely better than those, no question.

Cookie I just found this year’s to be weak compared to others.

It had a good premise – I really liked how they used Santa to be their subconscious trying to get them to wake up. Liked the whole dreams within dreams, too, and the monsters were interesting.

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Who you gonna call?

Yet Santa was way too cheesy for me.

Matt K Well I found it an interesting take on Santa’s personality with Nick Frost portraying him.
Emily Santa was badass, and I like badass Santas. Attitude makes a Santa!

Paul I’m really glad they didn’t try to make it seem Santa was real.They’ve already established this whole “story versus history” angle with Robin Hood, and this was a good follow-up.

Matthew For a while, though, I almost did believe that Santa was real. We see crazy, unbelievable stuff every week – the Doctor himself is just as unrealistic as Santa (hence the sleigh being bigger on the inside) – so why should this be any different? I kinda liked that.

Cookie Yeah and it’s an interesting concept to be fair.

But no characters really stood to me out like in other specials. Never really felt they made a huge difference.

Paul I think you’re right with the no single character being outstanding. Although I like how they were still characterised.
Cookie I liked how the research station was set in the North Pole as well – nice touch.
Paul Yeah, it felt like a cross between The Thing , Alien and Inception . Which, to be fair, are 3 excellent films!

Matthew Did you notice that was basically the one woman’s Christmas to-do list when she woke up?

She was planning to watch Alien , The Thing , and Miracle on 34th Street – which definitely explains her weird dreams!

Cookie Even so, they kept it relatively realistic, you could believe it was really the North Pole – no massive candy canes!

Paul Exactly.

And I think there wasn’t really any Deus Ex Machina either. The solution didn’t just come out of nowhere.

Emily They used their heads. It was wonderful.
Cookie True, and it kept you guessing till the end.
Paul So what did you think of the twist about the Arctic researchers being ordinary people?
Matt K Made some sense.
Cookie Yeah that was a nice little spin on the affair. Was good to see a brief glimpse of what they were like in reality as well.
Emily Though it was very heartbreaking to learn that the one lady was wheelchair bound in reality. She seemed so sad when she woke up and realised her true situation.
Paul Yeah. It was quite interesting how one of them was in a wheelchair. It’s not something that’s talked about much.
Cookie Agreed, was certainly unexpected and a little sad especially as she seemed to be the one who was in charge – taking control of the others.
Paul And the one which wrote “forgive Dave” was quite interesting as well. She seemed kind of lonely. Hopefully we’ll see more of her – do a whole Donna Noble type thing.
Cookie That could be interesting.
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Listen!

Matthew I definitely don’t think we’ve seen the end of her. Though it’s hard to know exactly how she fits in now that Clara’s still around.

Emily I heard rumours that Coleman wants to stay on board longer than what previous rumours were suggesting.
Cookie Yeah that seemed a little bit of a U-turn. It’s good to see her staying on for another season, although I was quite looking forward to seeing another companion enter the fray.
Paul Yeah, I think they played on the rumours quite well. I was expecting in several moments in the episode for Clara to die. And it was a little heartbreaking when the Doctor thought he saved Clara when she was old.
Cookie That was good but I knew he was still in a dream.
Matthew Not me – I fell for it hook, line and sinker. That’s exactly the kind of gut-punch I expect from the show at this point!

Matt K I was actually almost convinced that the Doctor saved Clara when she was old.

The way they showed old Clara made me think that this would show the one thing the Doctor would never be able to save his companions from… Time.

Paul Which is a bit silly because of the whole time-traveller thing.

I’m really glad they didn’t linger too much on the drama about them lying to each other, though.

Matthew I loved how they handled that. It was such an understated scene, and it worked so well – especially when (for a few minutes at least) it looked like Clara had lived her whole life and grown old believing the lie.
Cookie Yeah, alas I think there will be more drama regarding the lying now they are back together in a non-dream world.
Paul What I don’t quite get is how Santa appeared at the end of the last episode…
Cookie This is a good question. Perhaps they had already started dreaming – setting the scene.
Paul They still haven’t answered the question of why that face though. Do you think that will be something in the next season?

Cookie I believe so – Moffat did tease us an answer would be forthcoming. Alas there’s still more questions than answers.

Gallifrey for one seems to have been mentioned very little this last season.

Paul The interpretation that I got of the scene in the 50th anniversary is that the last Doctor to join – the 13th – was that Capaldi’s Doctor was the one to drag Gallifrey somewhere else. So they have to answer it before the end of Capaldi’s run!

Cookie That’s what I thought too, but Doctor Who does like to throw in the odd surprise.

They could keep us guessing for ages yet. Might carry it on to the next doctor and the next…

Matt K Well we will have gone through four Doctors over eight series. It would be nice to see if the next Doctor could be involved with the return of Gallifrey.

Cookie Yeah, and it would open up a whole can of worms and potential!

What did we think to the little part from Mr Pink? Was nice to see him, even if it was just a dream.

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Dreaming of a Pink Christrmas.

Paul It was kind of nice. Though it did seem kind of frustrating how Clara, at least for a while, preferred the dream world over reality.

Cookie I could see why she would though!
Paul I think I would have preferred a little more resistance, though.
Matthew I’m always happy to see more of Danny, and I liked that he got a slightly less rushed send-off this time. Totally bought that Clara would want to stay with him, too.
Matt K I was kind of wishing for a Christmas Miracle with him, like that one special with the tree planet.

Emily I really didn’t like seeing him again.

Also, how could they afford all that on teachers’ salaries? That’s how I would know it was a dream.

Paul Haha. Very true.

I think we’ve pretty much covered everything so shall we wrap up with our thoughts on the episode as a whole?

Matt K It was a good episode, nice story that felt Christmassy enough but with an interesting horror twist to it.

The whole dream within in a dream was pretty well set, too. And the Alien reference was a good laugh.

Emily I really enjoyed Nick Frost’s turn as Santa, his character enabled a lot of things to happen in its own fantasy logic that we rarely get on regular episodes. There were surprises and scares, but nothing that was so jarring that it took you away from the magic of the episode.

Matthew I definitely enjoyed it. It was a great mish-mash of serious and fun, as all the best Doctor Who should be.

The monsters were obviously pretty derivative and seemed kind of an afterthought, but they still brought plenty of scares. And I love that Stephen Moffat found a way to weaponise “The Game” (if you think about Dream Crabs, you lose). I liked the use of dreams and dream-logic, all the emotional beats landed for me and, of course, any part with Nick Frost was a treat. Mainly, though, I’m just glad we get to keep Clara around for a little longer.

Overall, it was a solid enough Christmas episode, but probably not a classic.

Paul I actually really liked this episode. It had a good combination of mystery and surprise. The characters (other than the Doctor and Clara) were a little unhelpful, but considering who they really are, it’s not that much of a surprise. They got the lie from the previous episode out of the way pretty fast, so it didn’t feel like the drama was deliberately being prolonged. Overall, it makes me feel like there’s still hope for the series yet – especially with those moments when The Doctor argues with people he knows can’t be real.

Cookie I think for once I’m the one with the differing opinion!

I thought it had a great concept, loved the monsters and dreams within dreams. Also liked how Santa was their subconscious trying to get them to wake up. However I felt the dialogue was weak and there were really no memorable characters like in previous specials.

A little tad disappointing if I’m honest.

Matthew It’s time for us to leave you again, I’m afraid. We have no idea what 2015 will bring for the Doctor – there was no trailer for the next series, and no broadcast date – but you can be sure that Hex Dimension will be there to catch the action and throw crazy theories around.

Until then, we wish you a Wibbly-Wobbly Christmas and a Timey-Wimey New Year!