For "Doctor Who" fans, Christmas has come to mean a lot more than just friends, family, and a pile of presents. Over the years we've said goodbye to two Doctors -- and welcomed number Ten -- on December 25, so needless to day, the "Doctor Who" Christmas specials can bring a ton of Holy Night anxiety.
Luckily we don't have to worry about saying goodbye to Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor this year, but will "Last Christmas" bring the end of his beloved companion Clara (Jenna Coleman)? And how on earth does Santa (Nick Frost) factor in?
MTV News screened the episode early, so while I can't exactly answer those two most crucial questions, I can give you six spoiler-free secrets to get you through the next two days:
It's actually scary.BBC
You never really know what you're going to get week-by-week monster-wise in the standard, regular-season episodes of "Who." It could be a G-rated "Robots of Sherwood" sort of outing, or the brand of sheer, not-safe-for-kids terror that comes from the Weeping Angels or that "Mummy on the Orient Express."
However, the Christmas episodes can always be counted on to provide lighter fare... until now. The monsters in "Last Christmas" are actually terrifying, and the episode's moody, claustrophobic arctic expedition setting believably ups its stakes. Kids won't necessarily be shaking in their boots if they're allowed to watch it -- this isn't a pure horror episode like "Blink" -- but it definitely comes with a mild parental advisory warning.
Its monsters are pure Moffat.BBC
We all know by now that Steven Moffat loves to up the creepiness factor with his monsters, and the ones we meet this week are no different. Fans will undoubtedly find similarities with the Silence, but the repetition actually works, here -- mostly because these bad guys come with an interesting twist that leads to some very emotional scenes between Clara and the Doctor. Which brings us to...
There's a moment toward the end that will wreck you.BBC
Did you think "Raggedy Man, goodnight" and "I don't want to go" were bad? Eh, that's because they were. They were really, really bad. But "Last Christmas" -- while it doesn't say goodbye to a Doctor, thank God -- also packs a super emotional punch at the end, so bring tissues.
It completes the Doctor's series eight arc.BBC
By the end of the night, ladies and gentleman, the Doctor is officially in. The majority of series eight found Twelve wrestling his inner demons to figure out who he truly was, and "Last Christmas" -- more so than any other Christmas episode "Who" has done so far -- is not so much a special as a crucial chapter in the season's overarching story. I personally think fans will rejoice over the the Doctor's rejuvenated sense of purpose, and how he finds it should psyche them out even more.
Father Christmas plays a major role.BBC
Of course, the main thing fans are curious about right now -- besides the whole "will Clara return?" thing -- is the fact that Santa himself is in this episode, which is seemingly very un-"Who" in a whole lot of ways.
So, what is he? An evil alien murder-Santa? A robot sent from Gallifrey's future to warn the Doctor of yet another impending apocalypse? Or could he be (gasp!?) he real deal? This will all be revealed by the end of the night -- and know that, yes, there's some standard Christmas hokeyness involved -- but Santa's role in the story is so well thought-out, and Frost is such a talented actor, that Mr. Kringle's presence really shouldn't ruffle any feathers.
And I know I said no spoilers, but I lied -- the Doctor is most definitely on the naughty list.
There are some glorious pop-culture references.BBC
One of the nerdy references comes at the beginning of the episode and is much more overt, but the sneaky one towards the end -- the one that directly involves one of the most popular television shows in the universe right now -- is what fans will be freaking the f--k out over on Twitter come Thursday night. Get ready, and look carefully -- or, in other words, don't blink.