Sunday, 21 December 2014

Doctor Whos of Christmas Past - Version 2.0

A few years ago I made a handy go-to guide of Doctor Who's Christmas specials. Since then the Doctor has fought living snowmen, met his end on the planet Trenzalore and we've all got a little older. This year the cranky Twelfth Doctor comes TARDIS to sleigh with Santa Claus himself in 'Last Christmas' so it seems a perfect time to treat you all to an updated look at the Doctor Whos of Christmas Past...

The Christmas Invasion

Story: As the Doctor recovers from his recent regeneration, the Earth has to face the threat of the skeletal Sycroax without his help. Will he wake in time to save the world? And, more importantly, what will he be like?
Thoughts: Who's first Christmas special and still one of its best. It ingeniously makes us wait a whole forty minutes for our first proper meeting with this new Doctor  - which allows us to follow Billie Piper's Rose as she has to adjust to the change and fill the Doctor's role herself. With extra kudos for being a proper sci-fi story while also thoroughly Christmassy, this one's a ball!
Christmas Rating: 4 Christmas Puddings!

The Runaway Bride

Story: The Doctor suddenly finds himself with a new companion - mouthy bride-to-be Donna - who somehow ends up in the TARDIS rather than the alter. However, it seems something much bigger is happening this Christmas - something creepy-crawly...
Thoughts: A fun Christmas romp that well fits a day when everyone wants a jolly old time. Looking back now, its interesting to see Catherine Tate as someone quite different from the more rounded Donna from Series Four.
Christmas Rating: 3 Christmas Puddings!

Voyage of the Damned

Story: Taking a trip on an ill-fated starliner called the Titanic, the Doctor - accompanied by ambitious waitress Astrid - has to save the crashed ship's passengers from the deadly Host. With the ship threatening to destroy the Earth, just how many can the Doctor save this Christmas?
Thoughts: Essentially a Doctor Who disaster movie starring Kylie Minogue, 'Voyage' could have gone very wrong but thankfully its great fun. Aside from Kylie, the ensemble casts each get a chunk of the action and you find yourself playing the 'oh, I hope they (don't) die' game.
Christmas Rating: 3 1/2 Christmas Puddings!

The Next Doctor

Story: During a Dickensian Christmas, the Doctor has a shock as he meets - the Doctor!
While coming to terms with his apparent future self, he also has a truck-load of Cybermen aided by the sinister Miss Hartigan. Surely two Doctors combined can stop the Rise of the Cyberking?
Thoughts: A total blast from start to finish, this is Davies' second-best Chrimble special. Initially feeling cheated by the reveal about Jackson Lake, I now have a great liking for David Morrisey's turn as the flamboyant would-be Doctor. Plus, a Victorian Christmas is always welcome.
Christmas Rating: 4 1/2 Christmas Puddings!

The End of Time (Parts One and  Two)

Story: When the end of time itself is predicted, the Doctor is drawn into a battle that encompasses the whole of the human race, his greatest enemy and the return of something he had thought forever lost. This time the Doctor can't win. This is the Doctor's final battle.
Thoughts: As epic in terms of storytelling as Doctor Who has ever been, this is a grand, rather melancholy exit for David Tennant's Doctor that must have the most characters and places ever featured in a single Doctor Who story. On the downside, it's not all that Christmassy.
Christmas Rating: 3 Christmas Puddings!

A Christmas Carol

Story: To save a honeymooning Amy and Rory from crashing into Sardicktown, a Victorianesque world (that has flying fish!), the Doctor must teach the miserly Kazran Sardick the meaning of Christmas and to be a better person. Can the Doctor play the Ghost of Christmas Past well enough to save his best friends - and the heart of Mr Sardick?
Thoughts: My personal favourite Who Christmas special. Its also one of my favourite adaptations of Dickens' novel. Michael Gambon is terrific as Sardick, making the change in his character thoroughly believable, Matt Smith proves himself once again an absolute star while Steven Moffat delivers one of his best ever scripts. Superior Christmas entertainment.
Christmas Rating: 5 Christmas Puddings!

The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe

Story: 1941, Madge Arwell and her children are evacuated to the country for Christmas where they encounter a quirky gentlemen with a blue box that houses another world inside. This winter wonderland is not as harmless as it once seems, however, as acid rain and the menacing Wooden King and Queen demonstrate...
Thoughts: Evoking CS Lewis' perennial children's classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is an excellent idea from Moffat for a Who Christmas special - and he certainly pulls it off. Claire Skinner is fab as, I suppose, the stand-in companion while its all a light-hearted runaround with a tender centre (in the form of the loss of Madge's husband). Perfect for Christmas Day!
Christmas Rating: 4 Christmas Puddings!

The Snowmen

Story: On Christmas 1892, living snowmen threaten to take over the world - and even those intrepid investigators, the Paternoster Gang, can't stop them. At least the Doctor is around. Oh, if only he wasn't retired...
Thoughts: Christmas belongs to the Victorians, as this charming adventure with lashings of Henry James and Arthur Conan Doyle (and a huge dollop of Doctor Who nonsense for good measure) confirms. A rare Chrimble special that serves a purpose in the wider series arc - and is all the stronger for it.
Christmas Rating: 4 1/2 Christmas Puddings!

The Time of the Doctor

Story: There is a message being beamed across the stars. The Doctor and his greatest enemies are gathered around a small planet to discover its meaning. The planet is the fabled Trenzalore, where the Doctor shall meet his end, and the message is the oldest question in the universe: 'Doctor Who?'
Thoughts: Much like 'The End of Time' before it, 'Time' has the tough task of providing a satisfying finale for a popular incarnation of the Doctor as well as a cheerful Christmas special - and is even more admirable as it does it in less than half the runtime of its predecessor. Moffat's script gives Number Eleven a fitting end and, as ever, Matt Smith delivers a beautiful performance as the man who stayed for Christmas.
Christmas Rating: 3 1/2 Christmas Pudding!

And there we have it. As a Doctor Who fan I find it rather wonderful that Doctor Who is so wrapped up in the Christmas season that its a constant fixture of festive telly. After filling up on huge dinners, millions gather round their sets to watch a Doctor Who specially tailored for this time of year. And, as this guide shows, they're guaranteed something special.

Next time: This Christmas Doctor Who puts the claws in Santa Claus as the Doctor and Father Christmas team up when terrifying monsters cause havoc in the North Pole. 25th December at 6.15 pm on BBC One.

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