Who Wednesday: Ranking the Christmas Specials!

Hello everyone, and welcome to a new feature on the website called Who Wednesday. I’m a passionate Doctor Who fan, so I’m going to start doing regular reviews and articles on one of my favourite shows every other Wednesday. (Hence the title!)

I hope you’re all having a fantastic Christmas, I thought for my first piece it would be fitting to rank the 13 Christmas specials that we’ve had since 2005. It’s possible we may not see another Doctor Who Christmas special for a while now, thanks to Chris Chibnall deciding to bin it, but at least we’ve got these to look back on, and at least a few of them are very good! Here are my rankings:

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

The less said about this episode the better, not only the worst Christmas special we’ve had, it’s one of the worst episodes in the modern era of Doctor Who. A fairly strong cast can’t salvage what is a poorly written, boring and forgettable adventure… Not the finest moment from the Smith/Moffat era!

12. The Time of The Doctor. (2013)

One of the most frustrating stories in Doctor Who history for me. Matt Smith’s swansong as The Eleventh Doctor had so much potential, but there simply wasn’t enough time to wrap everything up, leading to a jumbled mess of a story. I still to this day think that this should have been a two-parter akin to David Tennant’s final story, but sadly it wasn’t to be. I appreciated the effort taken to try and bring the entire Matt Smith era full circle, but it just didn’t work and I imagine would have been immensely confusing for the casual viewer. That being said though, The Eleventh Doctor’s regeneration was done brilliantly, with one of the best monologues that the show has ever produced.

11. Voyage of the Damned. (2007)

David Tennant and Kylie Minogue do a perfectly decent job in this adventure. But sadly the whole thing is rather forgettable and let down by an underwhelming third act… It’s easy viewing and a perfectly acceptable adventure, however, just not one that I would rush to watch again in a hurry!

10. The Next Doctor. (2008)

It was a brilliant piece of publicity to reveal the title of this episode around the same time that it was confirmed David Tennant would be leaving the titular role. David Morrissey is fantastic as the potential future incarnation of The Doctor, in fact, he was so brilliant I remember wishing at the time that he would truly be “The Next Doctor”. But alas, it wasn’t to be, and after the reveal that he is in fact not a future incarnation of The Doctor, the story goes downhill a bit once we get to the reveal of the gigantic Cyber-King. It doesn’t look good, and it brings down what began as a quite grounded story, it’s certainly up there as one of the weaker Cyber-Men stories, in my opinion!

9. The End of Time, Part One. (2009)

This first part of David Tennant’s exit is fine, but I’ve found I’m not as fond of it as I was back when it first aired. I understand that a lot of it had to build up to Part Two, but there was quite a lot of moments in this episode that were downright depressing and seeing The Tenth Doctor crying over his impending doom just didn’t really work for me, because then the next scene would be happy and upbeat, this story is tonally all over the place and it is a bit of a mess. Still, it’s got some fantastic performances and getting to see John Simm back as The Master is worth the watch alone. To this day it’s still the first Christmas Special that is the first part in a larger story, and as I alluded to earlier, I do wish Matt Smith was given the same treatment.

8. The Snowmen. (2012)

Serving as the first proper introduction for Jenna Coleman as the new companion, this story is good fun, although it is mainly just set-up for “The Impossible Girl” story arc that was prominent in Series 7. It keeps with the Christmas spirit by having the main villains be some animated Snowmen, Matt Smith does deliver one of his best performances as The Eleventh Doctor, and it’s got some of the best visuals I’ve ever seen in a Doctor Who episode. That being said, it’s not higher on this list for the reason that again, I never really have been tempted to watch it again.

7. The Return of Doctor Mysterio. (2016)

Superheroes in Doctor Who? Surely not. This had every right to not work as an episode, but amazingly it does. Sure, the villain might not be that great, and the plot is a bit ridiculous. But you know what? This is just brilliant fun and it’s hard not to enjoy it, perfect for the festive period but also a good reintroduction to the show, as there wasn’t a full series in 2016. (It’s also got a beautiful, poignant ending with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor making a moving speech about grief and loss.)

6. Last Christmas. (2014)

Originally intended to be Jenna Coleman’s last episode, this is surprisingly not the most festive episode we’ve ever had, despite the fact you’ve got Nick Frost playing Santa Claus! Described by many as heavily influenced by Alien and Inception, this is a very solid, very fun adventure. It manages to chuck in the festive factor without detracting from the overall story, which is admirable considering how many episodes can get bogged down by it. You can certainly tell that the ending had to be quickly reshot when Jenna Coleman changed her mind about leaving, because you certainly get the vibe that this was meant to be the end of Clara, but it’s all dealt with really well, and it’s probably for the best it ended on a happy note, because there would have been a lot of tears otherwise!

5. The Christmas Invasion. (2005)

The first attempt at a Christmas special, and it’s still one of the best. The only reason that it’s not higher is due to the fact that David Tennant is notably absent in his debut story, still, it’s worth the wait when he does snap out of his post-regeneration coma and saves the day in what is an immensely fun episode. There was a lot riding on this, but David Tennant immediately captured the hearts of the nation in the small amount of time we had, and the show continued to prosper, many would continue to argue that the years that followed were the pinnacle of the show.

4. The Husbands of River Song. (2015)

In what would be the last episode of Doctor Who for a whole year, Moffat regular River Song makes her return for her first (and last) adventure with The Twelfth Doctor. It’s all a bit crazy, and the main portion of the episode is bonkers, with The Doctor taking full advantage of and enjoying the situation he finds himself in. (River has no idea who he is.) It’s a thoroughly entertaining ride, only made better by it’s emotional and heartfelt ending that brings River Song’s story arc full circle, over 7 years after she was introduced. I’m just gutted we never got to see more of her and 12 together, because their chemistry was fantastic.

3. The Runaway Bride. (2006)

After the heartbreaking ending of the Series 2 finale, this special needed to prove to the audience that there was a future without Rose Tyler, and it did so perfectly. Welcome, Donna Noble! (Catherine Tate) It’s funny, it has Santa robots, a TARDIS chase on the motorway, one of the best-looking monsters in Doctor Who history in the Racnoss, and some much-needed character development for The Tenth Doctor, who really gets to show off his darker side in the climax… I believe this story will always be up there with the best Christmas outings Doctor Who has had. It also paved the way for Catherine Tate to later become a full-time companion in Series 4, to date, she’s still my favourite companion.

2. Twice Upon a Time. (2017)

This is the Christmas special that wasn’t supposed to happen. Peter Capaldi was meant to have regenerated at the end of Series 10, but to maintain the Christmas slot for Doctor Who going forward, Moffat and Capaldi agreed to do one last episode. (Which begs the question, why go to so much effort to maintain the Christmas episode if Chibnall was only going to axe it this year?!)

Considering that this episode was never planned, it’s amazing how well done it is. Not only does The Twelfth Doctor get a beautiful ending, Moffat reintroduces The First Doctor, (played remarkably by David Bradley, who really captured the essence of the late William Hartnell) who also gets a poignant ending of his own, 51 years after his last episode first aired! It’s incredible how they seamlessly fit this adventure into a portion of an episode that aired in 1966, without it feeling forced or unnecessary.

It also keeps with the Christmas theme, by ending with the Christmas truce of 1914. It’s a touching, unexpected scene that encapsulates the character of The Doctor.

It’s not only one of my favourite regeneration stories, it’s one of my favourite episodes of Doctor Who, period. Peter Capaldi had a fantastic ending, and over a year on, I still wish he was The Doctor.

Bravo Moffat, bravo!

1. A Christmas Carol. (2010)

Was there really any doubt about this one? Retelling a classic Christmas tale with a typical Doctor Who twist, this is, in my opinion, one of the finest episodes the show has ever produced, not surprising really, when you consider this was around a time when it was at its absolute peak. With a stellar supporting cast that includes Michael Gambon and Katherine Jenkins, this festive tale will probably never be topped. It stays loyal to the source material but Moffat adds in his own brand of madness which works on all levels. In almost every single aspect, this episode is a triumph, and I would happily watch again and again.

There’s not much more I can say about this episode without going into way too much detail, I think one day I’ll have to give it a full review! Basically, it’s the best. If any future special (if we get any) is anywhere near as good as this one, then we’ll be in for a treat indeed.

So that’s it! Thank you for reading, let me know what your favourite Doctor Who Christmas special is, are there any of my rankings you completely agree/disagree with? I’d love to hear you opinions. Hope you’re all having a wonderful Christmas season.

Until the next time. 



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