[Note: The following post contains SPOILERS for Doctor Who season 8]
Doctor Who is once again set to return on Christmas Day - in a 2014 Christmas Special that forgoes Santa Claus robots for the genuine article (to be played by Nick Frost). As with any Doctor Who Christmas Special, showrunner Steven Moffat is attempting to keep specific details under tight wraps; however, following a divisive and (for many) depressing season 8 finale, fans have an especially hopeful eye on this upcoming holiday episode - after "Death in Heaven" ended on an especially dour note.
In the mid-credits stinger, Santa Claus himself appears outside the TARDIS, declaring that the Doctor and Clara are "not alright" - indicating that this year's Special will have a significant impact on the larger Doctor Who story. Instead of another one-off holiday adventure ("A Christmas Carol"), this year's special appears as though it will help resolve lingering season 8 story threads - once again begging the question: is Clara (and actress Jenna Coleman) done with the Doctor?
Rumors of Coleman's exit have persisted long before season 8 of the series even premiered - with insiders asserting that the 2014 Christmas Special would mark her final regular appearance on the show. While Coleman has never outright confirmed how big a role she'll play in the episode, during a recent interview with In Style the actress offered new details about the Christmas Special story:
“It’s written in sections and it’s about dreaming – what is real and what is not. Father Christmas is there – played by Nick Frost!”
As for whether or not Coleman will be returning for season 9, the actress once again avoided a direct answer, deflecting the question toward what she'd like to do, not necessarily what is confirmed for her schedule in 2015:
"There are no grand plans. I’d like to do some theatre, get back into the rehearsal room. I think it’s all about surrounding yourself with really clever, talented people so you can soak up some of their brilliance!”
Still, with only six weeks (and zero episodes) before Christmas Day, can Moffat wrap-up the companion's arc in just over one hour of television - after The Doctor and Clara outright lied to each other in the finale? For many, the final act of "Death in Heaven" made it even more apparent that the pair need one another (maybe now more than ever). For that reason, not to mention the death of Danny Pink, it's hard to imagine that a single Christmas episode will pull triple-duty and reunite The Doctor with his companion, deliver an engaging standalone holiday adventure (complete with Santa Claus), as well as establish a satisfying exit point for Clara - especially given that we don't even know how much Coleman will actually be in the episode.
Check out a new image featuring Nick Frost and Peter Capaldi below - as well as a teaser trailer for the episode (in case you missed it after "Death in Heaven" aired):
After all, Doctor Who Christmas Specials often do not feature a significant role for current companions. Doctor Who has never shied away from emotionally challenging material, even on Christmas ("The End of Time"), but with the inclusion of Santa Claus (who outright states he wants to help The Doctor), it seems as though Moffat is planning to provide viewers with a slightly more uplifting storyline this year.
As for what we can expect, the TV spot came tagged with the following teaser: "Something sinister is afoot… does the Doctor need a helping hand from Santa?" Yet, it's hard to pin-down what exactly The Doctor is up against this time. We know the episode takes place at the North Pole and features St. Nick (as well as his elves) but a brief glance at slimy alien creatures suggests a very creepy new enemy could have taken-up residence at Santa's workshop.
Coupled with Coleman's suggestion that the episode is "written in sections and it’s about dreaming – what is real and what is not," fans will, no doubt, have plenty of room for speculation in the coming weeks. Specifically, how did Santa even know where to find The Doctor in the first place - and is he even real? Could The Doctor, himself, once again be dreaming (similar to The DreamLord episode "Amy's Choice") or will Santa Clause be the second fabled hero The Doctor discovers to be real this season (following on the heels of Robin Hood in "Robot of Sherwood")?
Fortunately, fans won't have to wait too long for more details - as BBC has confirmed they'll be airing a special preview of the 2014 Christmas Special during this year's Children in Need. Doctor Who is often prominently featured during the BBC charity event, which provides funding for young people across the UK, where fan-favorite mini-sodes "Time Crash" and "Born Again" debuted. The 2014 Children in Need appeal night is scheduled for November 14th at 7:30pm on BBC One - meaning that by Saturday morning, fans should know slightly more about this year's holiday episode.
— BBC One (@BBCOne) November 12, 2014
That said, while the BBC has indicated that they'll be airing a Doctor Who Christmas Special "preview", there has been no official word on just what footage will be shown. The tweet included the previously mentioned image of Frost and Capaldi (shared in the middle of this post) with the tag "Santa Banter" but it's unclear whether the network was simply captioning the new picture - or directly teasing a clip (read: banter between Santa and The Doctor) they'll be showing during Children of Need.
Back in 2012, BBC premiered the first of three prequel shorts for "The Snowmen" - which portrayed events leading up to the actual Christmas Special. Still, given that "Death in Heaven" ended on a cliff-hanger (as Santa appeared), it's unlikely that Moffat will pick-up where he left-off in a prequel mini-sode that sets-up the Christmas Special this early. Instead, fans should probably expect the network to unveil a new trailer for the upcoming episode - albeit one that still holds-back plenty of key information.
The 2014 Doctor Who Christmas Special will air December 25, 2014 on BBC and BBC America.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for any future updates on Doctor Who, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.
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