So, can Doctor Who have Nick Frost as Santa--really Santa--and work? Turns out yes, at least for me. And it somehow manages to be a perfect follow up to the season finale, a bitter-sweet--slightly more bitter than sweet and maybe better for that--rumination on the memories of dead loved ones and possibilities. And what a fascinating way of consciously drawing influence from Alien and Howard Hawks' The Thing From Another World. And I mean really consciously--this is a screenshot.
The itinerary belongs to a charming Faye Marsay guest starring as a young woman named Shona. I can see how someone might see Thing From Another World as a Christmas movie but Alien? Well, I can dig it.
Of course, there's a very good argument for the idea that the Doctor Who serial The Ark In Space influenced Alien. And there was at least one Doctor Who serial already that was influenced by Thing From Another World--The Seeds of Doom, and possibly The Ice Warriors. But the superficial elements of those stories serve a completely different theme here, one not completely new for current head writer Steven Moffat--the capacity for dreams to both harm and heal. In this case, the fascinating argument seems to be that the more absurd the dream, the healthier, which of course is at base another argument for the existence of a show about a time travelling alien in a police box.
The last few scenes in the episode between the Doctor and Clara were fantastic. I can see how a minor tweak might have happened to accommodate a decision by one of the actors. I'm not really sure which way I'd prefer it, though as it stands now enough elements of the original idea still exist in the characters' minds to make it satisfying.
Or maybe it was all to trick the reportedly reticent Peter Capaldi into entertaining the idea of the Doctor and Clara becoming lovers. Or maybe it was Capaldi misleading us all along . . .
Casting Nick Frost as Santa really helped the concept work, too. His comic timing oddly helps bring sincerity to the character.