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The Best And The Worst Of The Doctor Who Christmas Specials

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Whether or not they celebrate or even care about Christmas as a holiday, every Whovian looks forward to Christmas Day because they know with it comes a new Doctor Who Christmas Special. A tradition launched in the second series of the revived show, watching  the Christmas Special has become required holiday viewing in many households across the world.



With ten specials coming in at an hour or longer runtime a pop, that makes for a lot a festive fun to put your feet up to and enjoy. So as a holiday treat to myself I decided I would watch all the specials again and as long as I was set out to do that I should treat you guys by ranking them from the craptastic to the Christmas classics.

So which specials filled my heart with joy and which ones felt like getting a lump of coal? You’ll just have to read on to find out!


10. The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe (2011)

Doctor-Who-final We start off not with a bang, but with a dull thud, such is the case with this outing for everybody’s favorite Time Lord.  It is the 1940s and to get away from the bombings a family decides to hit up the empty countryside estate of a family member’s for Christmas. There they meet the mysterious new caretaker (the Doctor) who has fantastic presents for them, so fantastic that they might just get them all killed.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that this is at the bottom of the list as fans seem to universally agree that this is the worst of the lot. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt so bad if Steven Moffat’s name wasn’t attached to this, but it just goes to prove that even Moffat can have a bad day.  The story is lame, the characters are bland, the jokes repetitive and unfunny, and the whole damn thing is just too predictable and safe. The one saving grace is the final scene with the Doctor, Rory, and Amy. That one scene packs more punch then the rest of the special combined. You can check it out if you want to, but as their are so many better choices I say just watch the last bit and then move on to something else.


9. Voyage of the Damned (2007)

drwho460From the worst of the Smith era we slide right into the worst of the Tennant period.  Hovering above the Earth is the space liner Titanic, and with a name like that you can pretty much guess what happens. Russel T. Davies had this whole “the Doctor is a Christlike figure” thing going on during the later half of Tennant’s run and woo-dogie is it on display here as the Doctor at one point ascends through fiery wreckage being lifted up by angels. True the angels are in fact killer robots only made to look like angels, but that’s still laying on the imagery pretty thick.

The supporting cast are cliches instead of characters so it is really hard to have any investment as they die in this desperate struggle to survive. Once you get past all the spectacle you’ll find a story that makes less and less sense the more you think about it, thankfully there is enough eye candy to keep you distracted during the initial viewing. Enjoy it for the mindless fun that it is because there is nothing deeper to be found here.


8. The Next Doctor (2008)

thenextdoctordrwho A fun enough story, however the years  have taken all the bite out of this story. This was the first of the “Tennant Specials”, people knew that David Tennant would be leaving once these specials were complete and speculation as to who the next Doctor would be. That is what this story wanted to tap into. A Christmas Special where the Doctor fights the Cybermen in Victorian London with the aid  of a possible future incarnation of himself, the fanbase was near frothing at the mouth in anticipation for this one. Was David  Morrissey our new Doctor?

Well, unless you live under a rock you should know the answer to that question.

Without the hype we’re left with a story that is serviceable, but also rather inconsequential to the overall plot of the show.


7. The Snowmen (2012)

uktv-doctor-who-xmas-2012-15I’m just going to come out and say it, without the inclusion of the Paternoster Gang this sucker would not be as high on the list. They serve in inject a great deal of fun and personality in what would otherwise be a very average story. Sulking around Victorian London after losing Amy and Rory, the Doctor runs into Clara Oswald and some evil snowmen. Can Clara and the Gang shake the Doctor out of his funk before the evil Ian McKellen snowglobe can take over the world?

This was the proper launch into the “Impossible Girl” plot-line that would run through the later half of series seven, so if you’re a Clara fan this is required viewing.What stops me from enjoying this more is that I don’t find the story to have any organic flow to it.Nothing fantastic, but it has enough wit and charm to keep you warm throughout the snowfall.


6. The End of Time Parts One and Two (2009)

drwhoendoftime1Sometimes referred to by fans as “The Passion of the Doctor” this is one of the most divisive entries in the entire show’s history, some seeing it as a fitting and powerful ending to the Davies era of the show  and other viewing it as a bloated, self-obsessed mess that hurts the overall mythos of the show. While I do think the story is padded to high hell and their might be some character inconsistencies depending on your feelings about the characters, but I find there is still a lot to love in the Tenth Doctor’s swan song.

The story this time is that time itself has begun to unravel and at the center of it all stands three men, the Doctor, the Master, and of all people Donna Noble’s grandfather Wilfred Mott. Can these three men figure out what is going on before it is too late?  Love it or hate it, this is required viewing for every serious Who fan out there so watch it and make of it what you will.


5. The Time of the Doctor (2013)

Doctor-who-Christmas-the-time-of-the-Doctor-gbThis one is ranked over Tennant’s final story for only two reasons, the first is that it isn’t nearly as needlessly stretched out and I dig the hell out of Matt Smith’s final speech. A strange signal is coming from a small planet in the middle of nowhere and everyone in the universe is gathered around the planet to investigate, including the Doctor. What secrets does this planet hold for the Doctor and will he even survive long enough to find them with all his enemies hovering overhead?

My only major complaint here is that there are large chunks of time dedicated to jokes that are okay at best meanwhile major plot revelations for the entire Smith era are only given one or two throwaway lines. Rest now Raggedy Man, it is time for someone else to run.


4. The Christmas Invasion (2005)

the-top-5-doctor-who-christmas-specialsThe one that started it all. The first special was a big damn deal, not only was this going to be broadcast on Christmas but this was the first proper outing for David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor. Having just survived their encounter with the Daleks the newly regenerated Doctor and Rose return to modern day London just in time for Christmas. The Doctor manages to crash the TARDIS in front of the building where Rose and her mother live before passing out. Seems the regeneration did not go well and the Doctor is now seriously ill, which is kind of a bummer as a full scale alien invasion is going on. Will the Doctor get better in time to save the day?

Russel T. Davies knew that this would be the first time many viewers had dealt with a regeneration and whole episode is meant to ease the audience into accepting the idea and Tennant as the Doctor. Things have gotten dire enough that when Tennant opens the doors of the TARDIS in nothing but PJs and a robe the audience is hungry for him to be the Doctor and save the day. A true treat, worthy of your time any day.


3. The Runaway Bride (2006)

Doctor_Who__The_Christmas_specials_in_picturesI love the Doctor and Donna’s relationship, the way they bounce off each other is endearing and comedic at the same time and this is the story that first brought them together. Out in the middle of space the Doctor is shocked to turn around and find a woman in a wedding dress has materialized inside the TARDIS. Neither side wanting to deal with each other so they resolve to get Donna back to her wedding right away so that they can get on with their lives. However, \there is something sinister going on behind all Donna’s appearance, can the Doctor and Donna figure it out before the Earth pays the price?

If you’re up for a manic romp full of twists and turns, then this is the story for you. Tate and Tennant have perfect chemistry be it comedy or drama and that’s a good thing otherwise they could never have pulled this one off.


2. Last Christmas (2014)

doctor-who-season-8-christmas-2015I really, really like this year’s Christmas special. It’s smart, funny, creepy, dangerous, slightly melancholic, and ultimately jubilant and hopeful. Everything Christmas Who should be. The Doctor pops back into Clara’s life on Christmas. Evil forces are at work tonight and if the Doctor and Clara are going to make it through the night they’re going to need to rely on one man to save them, and that man is… Santa?!

Here is a special that not only encourages but rewards those that rewatch it. It’s layered in such a way that you can appreciate it on multiple levels. Capaldi’s Doctor, who usually is such a grump has his defenses fall away just for a moment and we get to see a moment of pure childlike wonder. It really is very beautiful to watch. Jenna Coleman’s Clara also gets plenty to do and has some character growth of her own. Things like this make me excited to still be a fan of the show after all these years.


1. A Christmas Carol (2010)

doctor-who-christmas-carol_featured_photo_galleryPure magic. Everything in this one shines like the brilliant diamond it is. This installment is not only the best of the specials, but many including myself would argue that this is one of the best things the show has done since its return. Up above an unnamed planet is a space liner of 4,003 people who are going to crash unless the man who controls the skies, Kazran Sardick saves them. Too bad for everyone that Sardick is about as apathetic and heartless as they come. Can the Doctor warm this bitter old man’s heart before everyone on the space liner dies?

A delicious blend of the show’s timey wimey wibbly wobbley ways and the Charles Dickens classic, this modern interpretation does the source material proud. The plot has logic issues, but I can’t say that I care given how heartfelt, imaginative, and wonderful this special is. The cream of the crop folks, as good as it gets.


Agree? Disagree? Hate my face? Let’s here your thoughts in the comments below!

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