We’re calling it – this year’s Christmas special of Doctor Who is probably the most (intentionally) confusing episode of all time. With enough levels of dreams to rival Inception and twists at every turn, it was a pretty complicated 60 minutes that you might struggle to explain to your relatives – but never fear.
RadioTimes.com is here to save your struggling explanation and hastily-scribbled diagrams. We’ve double-checked the episode to work out more or less exactly what happens in which dream – and put it together in an easy guide. And you say we never get you anything good for Christmas.
Basically, as far as we can see it the episode contains five levels of dream. From bottom to top that’s Clara’s Christmas dream, the Arctic Base after the crew are attacked, the Arctic Base again (where they’re all rescued by Santa in his sleigh), Clara and the Doctor’s reunion (where Clara is old) and then the real world where Clara and the Doctor are together and the right age.
Of course, that’s not the exact route the episode takes through the different levels of dreams – but we also think we’ve managed to map out the Doctor and Clara’s progress through the dream layers.
Before you get to the timeline itself, here’s our key:
Dream 1: From Clara’s roof to the Arctic Base
Dream 2: The Arctic Base after the crew are attacked
Dream 3: Clara’s Christmas with Danny
Dream 4: Clara as an old woman
Awake: Exactly what it says on the tin
Dream 1: The episode begins on Clara’s roof. The Doctor and Clara then travel to the Arctic base, where they’re attacked alongside the expedition crew.
Dream 2: This dream begins after the attack in the base and the rescue from Santa (Nick Frost). After learning more about the creatures, Clara gets attacked by a Dream Crab in this timeline.
Dream 3: Clara’s ideal Christmas sees her reunited with Danny – but something’s not quite right…
Dream 2: Clara’s fate is revealed in the base – where she has a Dream Crab on her face.
Dream 3: Clara’s Christmas continues – only for the Doctor to join her!
Dream 2: The action moves back up to the base to show the Doctor’s sacrifice while the expedition crew look on – he now has a Dream Crab too.
Dream 3: Clara’s vision of Danny finally manages to snap her out of the dream
Dream 2: Clara and the Doctor wake up. Soon, they realise they’re still in a dream, following the earlier attack. Luckily, Santa helps them work it out…
Dream 1: Everyone wakes up. Hooray – but then Clara points out that they’d seen Santa before the attack at the base. Everyone realises they’re still in a dream – but Santa saves them in his sleigh, which helps them all begin to wake up.
Awake: Bellows (Maureen Beattie) is the first to wake up in her wheelchair.
Dream 1: Back to the sleigh where Shona (Faye Marsay) tries to get phone numbers, until…
Awake: Ashley (Natalie Gumede) wakes up in terror to the sight of a dead Dream Crab.
Dream 1: Shona makes a last-ditch effort to network.
Awake: Shona wakes up and alters her Christmas Day itinerary.
Dream 1: The Doctor wakes up, while Clara seems reluctant to let go of Santa.
Dream 4: The Doctor rescues sleeping Clara, only to find that she’s aged; he’s full of regrets, but Santa tells him it’s not too late.
Awake: The Doctor saves Clara again, and they decide to travel together once more. The dreams are over – unless the next series is planning for a very extreme twist…