Sometimes I wonder why Chris Chibnall binned the Doctor Who Christmas Specials because they were brilliant. Often a lot more whimsical, yet often still dark at points, these overstuffed episodes were a staple of Christmas Day for many Doctor Who fans. Well what better way is there to get in the Christmas spirit than to look back at the best Christmas Specials? And who knows Russell T Davies might resurrect them in the not too distant future. Anyway, enough of me pining for their return let’s get into some history about the show before I properly get into the list.
The Doctor Who Christmas Specials first started airing in 2005, with The Christmas Invasion, and ran until 2017 with Twice Upon A Time. Now these episodes would often follow the Doctor as he would end up in some random place on Earth or a different planet on Christmas Day. Naturally there’s some sort of classic alien threat, like the Cyberman, Great Intelligence or whatever else was needed to provide some problems for the Doctor. Also, while a lot of later episodes were more whimsical in nature there are some utterly brutal episodes to watch which I will more than likely be touching on later in the list. So no sense in wasting more time on history and background about the specials. Let’s get into the list properly now.
10: Last Christmas (Episode 253)
Kicking off the list of the best Doctor Who Christmas Specials is Last Christmas. And no I’m not referring to the god awful Emilia Clarke film but instead the first Christmas Special for Peter Capaldi. And good lord this is nonsensical but hilarious. I say this because it involves Santa, The Doctor and brain controlling crabs. Yes really and honestly as you’ll soon see logic often goes out the window in the best way. And honestly this is a perfect example of a more light hearted Christmas special especially with that uplifting ending….
9: The Next Doctor (Episode 199)
The Next Doctor? But who is it? Ok terrible segue aside this is another very silly Christmas special based around a Victorian man, Jackson Lake, believing that he is the Doctor. Now that’s fine if the real Doctor wasn’t right in front of him…. Anyway what follows is a very silly Cyberman plot to take over the world with a giant CyberKing Robot powered by a woman’s rage. Beside all of this madness The Next Doctor is actually quite meta. This is because David Tennant was reportedly thinking about quitting the show and the actor, David Morrissey, was reportedly lined up as his replacement. So the more you know…..
8: The Runaway Bride (Episode 178)
And once we keep up with the theme of great David Tennant Christmas Specials with the Runaway Bride. So a huge part of this episode’s brilliance is Tennant’s chemistry with Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble. And yes Donna Noble is one of the greatest companions in Doctor Who history. Besides me getting sidetracked, this features Noble materialising in the TARDIS on her wedding day and desperately trying to get back to it. Only problem is a debuting monster, the Racnoss, standing in their way. So all in all a very good episode…..
7: The Christmas Invasion (Episode 167)
Speaking of David Tennant Christmas Specials, how about we mention the very first Christmas Special? Not only was this the first outing for Tennant’s beloved Doctor but also it’s a great episode in its own right. What makes it great? Well people being attacked by Christmas trees, the Doctor using a sword and of course the iconic line. You all know the one but if you don’t it’s This is a Fighting Hand said in a shocking American accent. So yeah this special laid the groundwork for arguably the revivals best run which makes it pretty good.
6: The Snowmen (Episode 231)
Now this one is slightly divisive amongst Doctor Who fans for its use of the Victorian governess Clara, played brilliantly by Jenna Coleman. Now while she would be portrayed very boringly after this there’s no arguing her first appearance is one of her best. Basically the Doctor is depressed after the end of the Angels take Manhattan and is moping around Victorian England. However it’s here he, Clara and the Paternoster gang find themselves fighting the Great Intelligence and his evil army of snowmen. This makes use of the darker themes of Moffat with the silliness of the Christmas Specials. So while the aftermath was boring, the Snowmen is a great Doctor Who Christmas Special.
5: Voyage of the Damned (Episode 188)
And at the halfway point of the best Doctor Who Christmas Specials is Voyage of the Damned. Not only does this feature a typically phenomenal performance from David Tennant but also guest star Kylie Minogue. Yeah who would have thought it… Anyway, this special sees the Doctor onboard a spaceship version of the Titanic which if you’ve seen the episode is horribly ironic. So when the ship’s insane owner, Max Star, decides to crash it into Earth it’s up to the Doctor and a team of passengers to prevent it. Also this special continues the trend of introducing great monsters and villains for one off appearances. This time it’s the Heavenly Angels seemingly harmless until programmed for evil by our good friend Max. Honestly so much to love about this Christmas special…..
4: The End of Time Part 1 (Episode 201a)
It should be noted that any of the top 5 episodes could feasibly make a case for Number One which shows the quality of these episodes. Anyway, the End of Time is quite a fitting title for this two part special for obvious reasons. So when the Master is brought back to life he starts causing chaos. This includes him getting his hands on an Eternity Gate. Basically it allows him to make everybody on Earth him which is a lot of Jon Simms. Anyway this special brings together Tennant’s Doctor with the late great Bernard Cribbins’s Wilfred Mott. And naturally there is some fantastic chemistry including Wilf wanting the TARDIS to be cleaner. Honestly such a good dynamic on display here…..
3: The End of Time: Part 2 (Episode 202b)
So this episode kicking off the top three best Doctor Who Christmas Specials is The End of the Time Part 2. So why is the second part better than the first? Well mostly because of the ending which still gets me every time I watch it. For those who haven’t seen it it involves Wilf trapped in a chamber. The problem arises when it requires someone else to take his place. Naturally this leads to a phenomenal speech from David Tennant about how long he has lived. Even without this emotional ending there’s plenty of stuff to enjoy about this special. This includes the Time Lord’s return, Jon Simms being phenomenal as the Master and also did I mention the emotional end to the special? If I sound like I’m rambling it’s because of how good the ending is as an encapsulation of Tennant’s Doctor.
2: The Husbands of River Song (Episode 263)
Narrowly missing out on the top spot in the best Doctor Who Christmas Specials is The Husbands of River Song. Now while Steven Moffat copped a lot of criticism for his writing at times The Husbands of River Song is a near perfect Doctor Who episode as well as a brilliant Christmas special. This is because of Peter Capaldi’s fantastic chemistry with Alex Kingston and for evidence of this look no further than the Hello Sweetie scene. Basically the episode sees River refuse to believe Capaldi is really the Doctor and therefore her husband. So naturally this is an incredibly emotional moment which is played superbly by Kingston and Capaldi. I should also mention the supporting cast is excellent with the likes of Matt Lucas and Greg Davies amongst others making up an excellent episode. However there’s still one which is marginally better…..
1: A Christmas Carol (Episode 213)
And the best Doctor Who Christmas Special is…. A Christmas Carol. Now what makes this episode so good? Well firstly Matt Smith’s Doctor jumps down a chimney Santa Claus style. And also it’s a phenomenally well written and acted episode. Take for example the Doctor going full Dickens to change Kazran Sardick, the Scrooge of this tale. This is in order to save Amy and Rory from death by flying shark. Aaah there’s the nonsense of the Christmas Specials. Anyway, similarly to other episodes there is a massively emotional ending. This sees Kazran release his childhood sweetheart, Abigail, from cryotherapy in order to spend one last night together. Honestly who started chopping onions in here cause it wasn’t me…..
What are your favourite Doctor Who Christmas Specials? Let me know in the comments below!