There are 13 Doctor Who Christmas specials in total, but which is the most Christmassy of all?
Between 2005 and 2017, the BBC produced 13 Doctor Who Christmas specials: ‘The Christmas Invasion,’ ‘The Runaway Bride,’ ‘Voyage of the Damned,’ ‘The Next Doctor,’ ‘The End of Time,’ ‘A Christmas Carol,’ ‘The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe,’ ‘The Snowmen,’ ‘The Time of the Doctor,’ ‘Last Christmas,’ ‘The Husbands of River Song,’ ‘The Return of Doctor Mysterio’ and ‘Twice Upon a Time.’ And whilst all of these Doctor Who Christmas specials are perfect for getting that festive fix, there is no doubt that some adventures are a bit more ‘Christmassy’ than others.
Here are Lovarzi’s picks…
1) The Time of the Doctor
Okay, it may not have a very Christmassy title – and this is essentially a story about the death of the Eleventh Doctor(!) – but this Doctor Who Christmas special just oozes Christmassy-ness from start to finish. For starters, it’s largely set in a town called Christmas, which is cloaked in (almost) permanent darkness, and an ever-present blanket of snow. And it is here that the Doctor takes up residence as the town’s protector and toy maker in a workshop beneath a clock tower, and if that doesn’t scream “Christmas” then we’re not sure what does.
Of course, this is a Doctor Who Christmas special, so naturally there are plenty of life-and-death situations, explosions, Daleks and maybe a Weeping Angel or two. But who said Christmas had to be all about the presents? Never, ever tell us the rules…!
2) A Christmas Carol
Everyone knows about the famous Charles Dickens novel of the same name, and there will scarcely be a household in Britain that doesn’t experience some version of it over the festive period.
So how come this Doctor Who Christmas special has the same title? Well, interestingly for Dickens, A Christmas Carol is actually a tale about time travel, so it makes sense for the good Doctor to pay homage to it in this festive offering from 2010. In the episode, a snow-covered town on an unknown planet is about to be obliterated by a crashing spaceship, and only an embittered old miser known as Kazran Sardick has the power to stop it.
Alas, he is too cold and heartless to do so – but the Doctor has the canny idea of travelling back in time and altering the man’s life. Can he manipulate Sardick into becoming a nicer person?
‘A Christmas Carol’ offers a wonderful science fiction take on Dickens’ famous story, and even adds some of its own unique elements to the mix. Who would have thought that a flying shark could guide a sleigh…?
3) Last Christmas
This is perhaps the scariest of all the Doctor Who Christmas specials and pays homage to the classic science fiction movies Alien and The Thing. It’s all set in an isolated base at the North Pole which is under attack by face-hugging critters, and it’s up to the Doctor and Clara to defend it.
And whilst this might not be the most heart-warming setting to get the festive juices flowing, ‘Last Christmas’ is one of the most Christmassy Doctor Who Christmas specials because it stars none other than Santa Claus himself played by Nick Frost.
But how can Santa Claus exist within the universe of Who? Rest assured, the explanation makes perfect sense, and it’s a good one. ‘Last Christmas’ is undoubtedly one of the more complicated and intelligent of the Doctor Who Christmas specials and will command your full attention, but it’s well worth your time – even if you do spend most of it behind the sofa…
4) The Snowmen
You may well find yourself “walking in the air” during this Doctor Who Christmas special, as the Doctor has parked his newly-redecorated TARDIS at the top of a very tall ladder! This Doctor Who Christmas special from 2012 features an all-new title sequence, a redesigned TARDIS interior, and introduces Jenna Coleman as the new companion. Well, sort of.
It also sees the return of a classic baddie who hadn’t been seen or spoken about since the 1960s – and in fact it had been so long that even the Doctor’s memory of his previous encounter was a little hazy. In the episode, the villain has taken command of an army of killer snowmen and it’s a down to a (somewhat reluctant) Doctor to deal with them. This is easier said than done, however, as he is still mourning the loss of his companions Amy and Rory, and has become something of a recluse.
Despite this, ‘The Snowmen’ captures all the magic of a traditional Victorian Christmas and is very picture-postcard in its aesthetic, replete with gas lamps, roaring fires and – you guessed it – snow aplenty. Watch this one with a mince pie and a mug of hot chocolate.
5) The Christmas Invasion
Travel back in time to 2005 and re-live the Doctor Who Christmas special that started it all. This adventure was the first to star David Tennant as the Doctor and, surprisingly, it was one of the first times (on TV, at least) that the TARDIS visited Christmas – the only exceptions being ‘The Feast of Steven‘ from 1965 and ‘The Unquiet Dead’ from Christopher Eccleston’s first series.
In the episode, the Doctor has managed to bring Rose home in time for the festive celebrations, but his body is in a post-regenerative state, and it’s weakened. As a result, he spends much of the story in bed with his still-regenerating body spewing out plumes of energy which are detected by malicious alien beings, who want some of that power for themselves.
And how do they hope to acquire it? Only by attacking the Doctor and his friends with killer Santas and revolving Christmas trees. And even when these threats have been taken care of, it is clear that “something’s coming” – and it’s something even more deadly.
This Doctor Who Christmas special is also noteworthy for the guest appearance of Penelope Wilton as Harriet Jones, Prime Minister – in case you don’t know who she is. And then of course there is the inclusion of an original festive number ‘Song for Ten’ written by Murray Gold, which plays out over the first (new series) appearance of the TARDIS wardrobe.
But this is just a selection of Doctor Who Christmas specials to get you started, and as we said at the beginning, they’re all great for putting you in the festive mood. Aside from the ones listed at the start of the article, other mentions must go to ‘The Unquiet Dead’ and ‘Turn Left’ which have distinctly Christmas flavours, and if you want to start channelling some of that New Year energy, we recommend the 1996 TV movie and 2022’s ‘Eve of the Daleks.’
But which Doctor Who Christmas specials will you be watching over the festive period? And which one is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.