Happy Christmas Eve Eve Eve to you all! As we wrap presents, watch Christmas movies, and patiently wait for Santa to bring us all the geeky presents, it’s time to discuss the real point of Christmas… Doctor Who Christmas specials! Every December 25th we are visited by the world’s most popular guys: Santa and the Doctor. One guy brings presents and the other guy has such an incredible presence. See what I did there? As it is only December 22nd and we must wait a whole 3 more sleeps until the best day of the year, we need to distract ourselves. And I have the perfect distraction: a list! And not just any list. It’s a list of my top 10 Christmas specials*. Hold on to your T.A.R.D.I.S. because here we go!
I will be discussing highlights and plot points of past Doctor Who episodes which you really should have watched by now.
10. The Next Doctor (2008)
In this Christmas special the 10th Doctor travels back to the Victorian era and runs into a man claiming to be a future regeneration of the Doctor. And there are Cybermen! This further regeneration of the Doctor is pretty convincing, he has an outfit, a companion, a sonic screwdriver, and even has the quick wit the Doctor seems to have in all his regenerations. But alas, the 10th Doctor is able to identify this next doctor as a human who is suffering from amnesia due to the Cybermen kidnapping him and he accidentally downloads information from the Cybermen about the Doctor and takes on his personality. While I love the Victorian era and the 10th Doctor, this episode was very meh. It felt like it was a reach with the Cybermen and this not-future-Doctor. While I see what the writers were going for, making the audience sit on the edge of their seats while they wait to see if this guy is really going to be the next Doctor caused the loss of a true Christmas special plot. This Christmas special didn’t focus on the holiday as much as it usually does nor did it have an action packed yet holiday meaningful ending. But it still had elements of the season with the snow and the holiday decorations and colors characters were wearing. This special ranks #10 purely because it is a Christmas special that doesn’t really focus on Christmas.
9. The Runaway Bride (2006)
AKA The Christmas special wear the Doctor first meets the legendary Donna Noble AKA the Sassmaster 3000. In this episode Donna just appears in the T.A.R.D.I.S. It baffles the hell out of the Doctor and we get to see first hand the sass level of Donna. Donna gets almost kidnapped by those creepy robotic Santas that made an appearance in the 2005 Christmas special. And we learn that Donna’s appearance in the T.A.R.D.I.S due to having an abundance of some particle and this same particle attracts the Santas to her. The Doctor and Donna end up in the basement of the Torchwood Center where the find the Empress of Racnoss AKA a giant ass spider lady. The spider lady and Donna’s new husband have been working together to use Donna to free the spider lady’s spider kids. Like, WHAT? I adore the hell out of the 10th Doctor and Donna together and I love sci-fy creatures and things. But unfortunately this episode was doing a bit too much to try and compensate for the recent loss of Rose. The creepy Santas coming back was just blah and completely unneccesary. The creepy spider lady was just that, creepy. However, the Doctor has some epic moments of realization of who he is post-Rose and how that now effects those around him (he is much quicker to kill people and creatures who cross him). Donna the sass queen and master of reason helps bring him down to earth (literally). While I didn’t enjoy the overall plot of this Christmas special, I very much loved the character development of the 10th Doctor, Donna, and their relationship and dynamic.
8. Last Christmas (2014)
This one pulls on the heart stings a bit. Santa comes and tells the Doctor he will need Santa by the end of the night. Nonetheless, the 12th Doctor and Clara go on an adventure to the North Pole because, duh, it’s Christmas! While there, the Doctor and Clara get attacked by crab creatures who put their victims in euphoric and dream-like states while the crab people feast on their brains. Santa saves them from the crab people, but Clara gets attacked again. While in her dream, she sees Danny Pink, her dead boyfriend, who tells her it’s okay to move on (someone please pass the tissues). The Doctor is forced to get bitten by one of the crab people in order to save Clara. He must then fight through multiple layers of dreams to finally meet an elderly Clara. He tells her he has regrets of not coming back sooner for her (more tissues!!!). But of course all is well when Santa comes to save the Doctor and Clara, just like he said he would. I adore that this Christmas special has Santa in it, yet he is not the main focus of the episode. Instead it is about Clara and the Doctor admitting to each other that they have lied to one another and moving past it. It shows the Doctor and Clara progressing in their relationship together and growing more trust, but it also shows that the Doctor is learning he has to share parts of himself in order for this Doctor and companion relationship to work at all. This episode is very important for Clara as she works to move on in her love life. This episode works to develop the Doctor, Clara, and their relationship all while being sprinkled with Christmas-y goodness.
7. The End of Time pt. 1 (2009)
Oh, man, this one is a doozy. It’s got so many of my favorite things. the 10th Doctor, the Ood, and Wilfred (Donna’s grandfather). The Doctor is on the planet of the Oods when he learns the Master has returned and he plans on taking over the human race in order to try to restore Gallifrey from the Time War because of course, why would England get to have one Christmas without some alien crazy? The Doctor will no longer be able run from the prophecy that states he will die when “he knocks four times”. How creepy is that? I kinda love it! The Doctor and Wilfred work together to try and stop the Master, but unfortunately the Master is able to make over the human race and the Time Lords are able to return. The only people not affected by the Master’s hold are Wilfred, the Doctor, and Donna. As I said, this episode has a lot of my favorite timey wimey things, but it also stands out to me be because it is one of very last episodes with the 10th Doctor. The Doctor can’t rely on himself and his wit to help defeat the likes on the Master and the other Time Lords. He has to rely on humans like Wilfred and Donna, who are wonderful examples of why the human race needs to be protected and defended. But at the same time, it is very hard for the Doctor to face The Time Lords, who he thought were long dead. He must watch as they become just what he feared, murderers and overtakers of an entire race of people they’ve deemed easy targets and lesser than Time Lords. There is so much emotional and physical pain for the 10th Doctor as he deals with his past and present while fighting and facing his oncoming death. There are no real Christmas elements other than this all takes place on Christmas day, but still such a worthy episode!
6. The Time of the Doctor (2013)
Daleks! The 11th Doctor! Clara! Christmas! Cybermen! Mystery message! So many lovely things in this Christmas episode. Every alien species in the galaxy, including the Doctor, receive a message that draws them to this mystery planet. But the Doctor can’t translate what the message actually says. An old friend of the Doctor places a force field around the planets that allows the Doctor on the planet, but all the other aliens can’t step foot there. The town on the planet where the message originates is called Christmas. A town called Christmas? Can I live there? The message is deciphered as “Doctor Who?” Ugh, how I both love and hate episodes centered around this message because there have been like a million (that’s right, I’m calling you out Steven Maffet!). Anywho, the Doctor discovers this has all been a trick and this planet is actually Trenzalore, the planet where it is prophesied that he will die for good. No more regenerations. No more Doctor. No more adventure in time OR space. But the Doctor insists on staying on the planet and keeping an eye on the crack in the basement of the church and keeping the aliens away. But the Doctor must fight and he must die. He of course, is granted more regenerations and begins that process as well. I love this episode purely because while the 10th Doctor is my favorite Doctor, the 11th Doctor is a very close 2nd and I adore his long and witty and honest and sad speeches he gives. I especially adore the emotional speech at the end of this episode. He made the Doctor fun and light again while also working through the darkness of his past. And we get to see Amy say her goodbyes to the Doctor, which made me weep into my candy canes. In this Christmas special we begin to say goodbye to the goofball that was the 11th Doctor. And while goodbyes are hard, they make you grateful you said hello in the first place. So goodbye, Raggedy Man.
5. The Snowmen (2012)
More of my favorite things! The 11th Doctor, the Victorian era, Victorian Clara (AKA better than regular companion Clara, to be honest), and creepy Snowmen! I adore this episode so much. The 11th Doctor is fresh off saying goodbye to his companions Amy and Rory when he lands in Victorian England. He discovers Clara who is working as a governess and snowmen that are forming themselves and coming to life and generally being evil and not good. Frosty the snowman would be ashamed. The Doctor discovers that the snowmen are being controlled by someone calling himself “The Great Intelligence”. First of all dude, if you’re that smart, you typically don’t have to put it on display like that, just saying. Once the 11th Doctor handles The Great Intelligence, he discovers that he knows Clara from somewhere else, thus she becomes the Impossible Girl. Reasons I love this episode: 1) I adore Victorian Clara. She is my favorite version of Clara that we meet. I like her so much, I named my cat after her (shout out to Oswald); 2) I mostly enjoy this episode because the 11 Doctor is learning to love and help again. He is so hurt and jaded by the loss of Amy and Rory that he started to become hard and angry at the world. Helping Clara and his friends melts him a bit (pun intended). Reason I don’t like this episode: We were given this wonderful and badass version of Clara and then she dies at the end of the episode. Really?! This is the 2nd time a Clara has died. What the hell, Maffet? And while I enjoy the idea of an Impossible Girl, once Clara dies and comes back in a very regular, very blah version, she was no longer Impossible, just impossibly boring. You ripped us off, Maffet!
4. The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe (2011)
More 11th Doctor! This episode is jam-packed with loveliness! First, a take on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe from the Narnia series, which is one of my favorite series and the first series of books I ever read. Second, this episode is set in war time England, which is another favorite era of mine. It is a very well known fact that England produced a good bit of it’s best writing in its Victorian and war time eras. Third, wood fairy things. The 11th Doctor somehow ends up being the caretaker of a recently widowed woman and her two children. The Doctor learns that they are all grieving the loss of their husband/father and are staying in this house to escape the London Blitz so he decides to take them on a snowy adventure through a portal in a present box. But the young boy goes through the portal before he is supposed to and everyone goes into the wintry wonderland to look for him. Once there the Doctor learns the trees there are being pelted with acid rain and they are slowly dying. The family and the Doctor run into wood people who are looking for a way to escape the forest and the acid rain via a crown. The widow is deemed the only person strong enough to wear the crown and guide the wood people to safety. Once out of the portal, the Doctor reveals that her husband and their father is not dead, and is there to spend Christmas with them. So much yes in one episode. Just enough Christmas touches with the decorations and presents. I adore the nods to C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I love that this episode was done with the 11th Doctor because he is so much fun and he is so caring. He wanted to help the family forget their grief and pain for a moment and enjoy Christmas through this wintry portal. In true 11th Doctor fashion, none of it goes according to plan, but the thought is there. And it is just enough to give you the warm fuzzies for the holidays.
3. The Christmas Invasion (2005)
Here we are, the top 3! The Christmas Invasion, literally the 10th Doctor’s first episode and first Christmas special. The 9th Doctor has just regenerated into the 10th Doctor and Rose is very confused and the Doctor can’t stay awake because he’s still regenerating and it’s Christmas and aliens are trying to invade the planet and there’s no one who can save the earth except the Doctor. Talk about a predicament! And there’s killer Christmas trees trying to take out Jackie and Mickey (AKA the funniest people to ever grace the Doctor Who universe. Also Mickey deserved better than Rose). After stressing through most of this episode and it not looking good for anyone, especially those with type A blood that the aliens can control and make them stand on the ledge of buildings and threaten to make them jump, the Doctor finally wakes up and boy, is it magical. He wakes up being witty and quoting the Lion King. And then there is a cool ass sword fight and the Doctor looses a hand, but ultimately makes the aliens leave earth forever. Ugh, there is so much to love in this episode. I love that we meet the 10th Doctor and he’s asleep and not very Doctor at all. I adore that when he does wake up, he states he doesn’t know who he is yet, he could be kind or he could be evil, he’s still figuring it out yet. But there are two scenes that make me love this episode so much I might explode. First, after the Doctor beats the aliens in the sword fight and tells them to leave and never come back, the alien decides to try and stab the Doctor in the back, literally, and the Doctor whips out an orange and throws it and hits a button that opens a hole right under the alien and he falls down to the earth. Second, Harriet, the Prime Minster, doesn’t support the Doctor’s decision to just let the aliens go and she orders for them to be murdered. The Doctor very calmly tells her he could end her with just 6 words and then whispers to Harriet’s assistant ” Doesn’t she look tired to you?” and just like that, her career begins to fall apart. I bow down to this episode and all of the 10th Doctor’s badassery.
2. Voyage of the Damned (2007)
Our runner up! Our Ms. Congeniality! This Christmas Special involves a spaceship named after the Titanic, a crash, a boy named Alonzo, weird robot aliens, and a group of aliens that band together with the Doctor to save those still on the ship. The Doctor comes to be on the Titanic in space accidentally, but of course isn’t one to turn down adventure, so he just goes with it. The ship has these weird robot aliens that serve the guests and start to go crazy and start attacking passengers. Then the Captain of the ship purposely puts the ship in the path of missiles and the ship is hit directly. The Doctor befriends a waitress, a couple from another planet, an Earth tour guide, a rich butthole guy, and my personal favorite, Bannakaffalatta. Together they try to figure out what the hell is going on. They figure out the Captain has a play in things, but also that the owner of these ships, Max Capricorn, was recently voted out of the company. Max plans to crash the ship into Earth to get back at the company who wants nothing to do with him anymore. The lovely waitress, Astrid, sacrifices herself to kill Max so that the whole ship can be saved. We loose other members of the group as well, but the Doctor is able to get to the wheel, where he meets Alonzo and says the infamous line “Allonys Alonzo!” and saves the day because that’s just how the Doctor rolls. So this special is my second favorite because it fully encompasses my favorite things about the 10th Doctor, he meets these strangers and immediately becomes friends with them and tries so hard to save them. The Doctor thinks everyone is worth saving and is just so happy to be around people and learn from them and about their lives and their planets, that he just is so genuine with his love and joy for people, it’s almost contagious. It’s this feeling that I think is what the holidays are all about, it’s about loving those around you and enjoying them for who they are and if you’re around strangers, that they have stories too and we should always be open to new people and experiences while surrounding ourselves with those we love and those who help us grow.
1. A Christmas Carol (2010)
Last but not least, my most favorite Doctor Who Christmas special, A Christmas Carol. I love love love different versions of A Christmas Carol, the Muppets Christmas Carol, the animated version, the old version. I adore the story too written by Charles Dickens (shout out to my British American Literature professor for making me read this even when I said that the written version couldn’t possibly be better than Jim Henson’s version. I was very wrong. Gonzo can only carry a story so far). In this version, the 11th Doctor is sent down to this planet where it is always cloudy, so thick you can’t see through it and because of those clouds, ship with his companions Amy and Rory and many others is about to crash because the Captain cannot see. The Doctor visits the man who has a device that can control the clouds. This man is our Scrooge, old and angry at the world for all he has lost and all that was taken from him. He refuses to help and so the Doctor takes on the roles of the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. In the past we learn that Kazran (our Scrooge) was a lovely lad who wanted to see the fish that swim in the clouds, but was often abused and put down by his father. His family owns a giant freezer where people who owe money can sell a family member to Kazran’s family where they will freeze the family member until the debt is paid off. The Doctor takes young Kazran and they unfreeze a beautiful woman and they go on many adventure for serval years. The adventures stop when Kazran and the young woman begin to fall in love, but she only has 1 more day to live. Karan begins to turn hard and mean, just like his father. The Doctor shows him his present where he has the opportunity to save many lives just by clearing the clouds, that he doesn’t have to be his past. But he refuses to clear the clouds. The Doctor brings young Kazran to see this older version of himself, as a hard and cruel man. Kazran breaks and asks the Doctor to release his love and together they clear the clouds and the ship is saved and Kazran goes on to spend one last day with the love of his life, on Christmas day. This episode is so beautiful because of the spacey, timey-wimey version of the Christmas Carol. But the message of the Christmas Carol still shines through-the notion of kindness. Being kind is free, being understanding and generous to others costs us nothing. Christmas day shouldn’t be the only day of the year we change and embody the spirit of love and kindness. We should always strive to be versions of ourselves that our past, present, and future selves would be proud of. Thank your Doctor Who for putting your own spin on this classic tale, but reminding us all the same that it’s always cool to be kind.
*This list is entirely my opinion. And the best thing about opinions is you can agree or disagree with them. So either way you sway, feel free to tell me your thoughts and feelings or even your own top 10 list of Doctor Who Christmas specials in the comments below! And don’t forget to tune in Christmas day for a brand new Doctor Who Christmas special! I hope you all have a wonderful and happy holiday!