I’ve gotta be honest, you guys: the Doctor Who Christmas specials aren’t always my favorites. Now, hear me when I say: I don’t hate the Christmas specials. They’re always fun, but often times the specials feel like fillers, or they’re hella depressing. Still, they’re a pivotal part of being a Whovian, so even if they aren’t always memorable stories, they are always fun to get to watch on Christmas Day.
So I’ve made a bit of a viewing guide for re-watching the specials based on the type of Christmas mood you find yourself in.
For a Blue Christmas
Sometimes you’re just not feeling the merriment and Christmas cheer, and really you just want to have a crying, cathartic Christmas. For those of you, I offer you the Who Christmas special that will officially ruin your Christmas spirit.
This special was highly rumored to be Jenna Coleman’s final episode as the Doctor’s companion, and happily it wasn’t. So compared to the other titles on this list, this isn’t the saddest of the bunch–in fact, I quite liked this episode. However, it was when we had to say our final goodbye to the wonderful Danny Pink, and they definitely had us waiting until the final moments of the episode before they gave us the final word on Clara’s future with the Doctor. It was definitely a tears and feels-inducing episode, perfect for someone wanting a slightly melancholy Christmas, without going with a full-blown Doctor regeneration or final companion episode.
“The End of Time”
Tennant isn’t “my Doctor”, but I can’t watch the final moments of this episode without full-on ugly crying. The episode itself, like any regeneration episode, is a crazy-intense adventure (especially because you know he’s regenerating at the end). However, it is always tragic saying goodbye to a Doctor, especially one as great as Tennant. Watching him check on and offer his final farewells to his former companions is heart-breaking enough, and then watching the Ood “sing him to his sleep” just before he utters his BRUTAL final line (giffed above) is just the ticket you need to kill any seasonal joy you may have.
“The Time of the Doctor”
Smith is my Doctor. He’s the one that pulled me into the series, he’s the one who made me care about phone boxes, Time Lords, angels, the Silence, Ponds, and bow ties. So this episode rips me apart is all sort of awful fangirl ways. The fact that they bring back one of my favorite companions to be with Eleven in his final moments is even WORSE. I found a gifset on Imgur that properly explains my how I handled this episode.
Leave me to die, Whovians…
The “Welcome to Doctor Who” Specials
Of course, we don’t all want to be super bummed this holiday season, so instead of watching a bunch of specials that signal the end of eras, maybe focus on the specials that welcome new Doctors and new companions.
“The Christmas Invasion”
This marks Tennant’s first run as the Doctor, and for Nu-Who viewers, it was their first experience going through a regeneration. Rose is also the first of two Nu-Who companions to stick with a Doctor through his regeneration (Clara Oswald being the second). The episode itself isn’t my favorite, if I’m honest, and it doesn’t help that Tennant is unconscious for a huge portion of the episode. However, once he wakes up, he instantly introduces us to that classic Ten sass that we all love, and gets everyone excited for the adventures to come. Definitely a more pleasant watch than “End of Time”, that’s for sure.
“The Runaway Bride”
I’ve heard from a lot of Whovians that they really couldn’t stand Donna the first time we met her on Doctor Who, but I love it. Her situation is a bit unique in that she first appears in this special, a season goes by with another companion, and then she joins the Doctor. Donna is undoubtedly one of my favorite companions (if you can’t tell, I don’t have one fave), and even though she’s a bit shouty in this episode, it’s the start of one of the best friendships on Doctor Who.
Okay, so technically this isn’t the first time we meet Clara. We actually first meet her as Oswin back in the episode “Asylum of the Daleks”, BUT this is our first introduction to her as the Doctor’s official companion. It also kicks off Clara’s first
tiresome story line as the Impossible Girl. Mercifully, she became a MUCH more complex and fascinating companion once the Doctor sorted out how she could be so…well…impossible, and even though I got a bit weary of the “I was born to save the Doctor” bit I did really enjoy her Christmas special. Plus, it also stars Strax, Vastra, and Jenny, who I absolutely adore.
For those Wanting Some Low-Key Time Lord Christmas Fun
More often than not, the Christmas specials don’t have a great deal to do with the Doctor’s larger story. While we’ve got some that include regenerations and introductions to new companions, they often times are a fun, holiday romp with a MOTW—er AOTW (alien of the week?)–feel to them. While these aren’t my favorite episodes, they’re always solid Whovian fun, and are perfect if you’re wanting to watch some low-key, lower-stakes fun with your favorite Time Lord.
“A Christmas Carol”
This one is a fun adventure where the Doctor plays the ghost of Christmas (essentially), trying to get the Scrooge character Kazran Sardick to care about saving the lives of the people trapped on an intergalactic cruise ship–and, of course, two of those lives just happen to be Amy and Rory Pond–er–Williams.
“The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe”
This one is the last Christmas special the Doctor has with the Ponds in his life. He’s been distancing himself from the Ponds, and has full intention to never bother them again. However, after helping a family reunite and survive a Narnia-like world, the Doctor decides to spend Christmas with his family–Amy and Rory. It’s a cute episode, and the ending is super sweet.
“Voyage of the Damned”
Can I make a confession? I know a lot of people talk about loving this episode, but it really isn’t one of my favorites. Sure, Kylie Minogue does a great job as Astrid, and it’s great to see the Doctor finally meet someone called Alonso, but it isn’t an episode that hardcore stuck with me. Ultimately, it’s a fun romp on a futuristic version of the Titanic, a poorly-named spaceship that ultimately lives up to its namesake, so it’s perfect for lighthearted Whovian fun.
“The Next Doctor”
This episode makes me feel uncomfortable in the same way watching Tennant as Kilgrave on Jessica Jones makes me uncomfortable. I’m used to seeing David Morrissey as the evil, eye-patch wearing Governor from The Walking Dead, so it’s weirdly fascinating to watch him as the sweet, good-natured Jackson Lake on Who. The episode follows the Doctor in old London Town as he works with Jackson (who may or may not be another regeneration of The Doctor) to stop a cyberman invasion. The episode features classic Who villains in the cybermen, and Jackson’s journey gives the show plenty of heart, making it a super fun Christmas special without any major heartbreaks to worry about (other than the general “the Doctor is lonely” stuff we always worry about).
The Official, Distracted Blogger Recommended Doctor Who Christmas Viewing
Of course, I couldn’t stop this post without letting you know my personal favorites–and the specials that I love to recommend most when people are planning a Christmas special marathon. I didn’t include either Tennant’s or Smith’s regeneration episode. Both are solid episodes, but watching Doctors regenerate is too sad for The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, in my opinion.
I wasn’t really sure what to think of Capaldi as the Doctor. Capaldi’s Doctor started out mean, cold, and highly insensitive. While the show made sure to string along some key Doctor personality traits (like always having Clara’s back), he felt VASTLY different. While Tennant and Smith are both very different Doctors, they both felt like good men. I wasn’t so sure about Capaldi. Which, yeah, that was a whole story arc for him, but still, watching My Doctor regenerate into a guy that might not even be good was tough. However, towards the end of the season and into the Christmas special, I began falling for Capaldi. By the end of this episode, not only did I love Clara as a companion (her Impossible Girl days long behind her), but I loved Clara with the Doctor. The two have great chemistry here, Nick Frost makes the BEST Santa, and watching the Doctor interact with Clara as an old woman was strangely endearing. It really showed that he cared for her. There’s just a lot to love in this episode.
I’ll be honest, the actual Snowmen storyline was a bit goofy, but it proved to be the perfect way to watch the Doctor get over losing the Ponds, it was a fun introduction to Clara, and it featured my favorite trio of Vastra, Jenny, and Strax. Really any episode where we get to hear Strax talk battle strategy is a win for me. After the particularly brutal goodbye from the Ponds, it was nice to see the Doctor happy, with friends, and saving people again.
“The Runaway Bride”
This was another special to help the Doctor–and us–get over the loss of a companion, Rose Tyler. Like I said, I know a lot of people couldn’t stand Donna in this episode, but I felt like this entire episode was the perfect balance to the AWFUL events that went down at Bad Wolf Bay. Donna and the Doctor have the best chemistry together, and I love the friendship they form. She’s the perfect companion to the Doctor, and frankly I’m still heartbroken on how Donna left the show. Even though we have to get through an entire season of Martha Jones (who is great, but I hate that so much of her story is her unrequited love of the Doctor), it’s a great way to move on from a lost companion and get excited about future adventures.
Are you going to be re-watching any Doctor Who Christmas specials to get ready for the 2015 Who Christmas Special? Which of the specials are your favorite? Let me know in the comments, and get ready to see River Song again in this year’s Christmas special, “The Husbands of River Song”! I. CANNOT. WAIT.