End of 2005, Doctor Who kicked off an annual tradition in the form of Christmas specials, one-off holiday-centric adventures, and timey-wimey events typical of the sci-fi show. The first special, the tenth doctor’s story “The Christmas Invasion”, proved successful enough to warrant twelve more over the following years.
Despite their popularity, Christmas episodes were discontinued in 2019 at the start of the Thirteenth Doctor’s era, replaced with New Year’s specials that no longer seem able to capture the same magic. From famous guest stars and pop stars to superheroes and even Santa Claus, Christmas specials always had something to keep viewers entertained throughout.
13 “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe” explores a classic story (7.2)
After losing control of the TARDIS, the Eleventh Doctor crashes in England at the end of the 1930s. A young mother, Madge Arwell, finds him and offers to help him, prompting the Doctor to promise that he will return him one day. his kindness. Three years later, during World War II, the Doctor, a recently widowed Madge, and her children experience an adventure in time and space.
“The Doctor, The Widow & The Wardrobe” is inspired by the novel by CS Lewis The lion, the witch and the wardrobe, both in name and plot. It premiered in 2011, serving as the show’s seventh Christmas special and reuniting the Doctor with his companions Amy and Rory towards the end.
12 “The Next Doctor” introduces a mysterious new Doctor (7.4)
After landing in Victorian London, the Tenth Doctor meets a man who claims to be the Real Doctor. Armed with their screwdrivers and characteristic wits, the two Doctors face off against a group of strange Cybermen who take control of the city. But who is this mysterious other Doctor? Has the tenth doctor’s time finally expired?
“The Next Doctor” is the penultimate Christmas special with David Tennant as the tenth Doctor and was written by then-showrunner Russell T. Davies. Despite the introduction of what many believed to be a future incarnation of the Doctor, David Morrissey’s character simply turned out to be a delusional human with too much information about the time-traveling alien.
11 “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” takes place in New York (7.4)
Unlike most Christmas specials, “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” is set in New York City rather than London or space. He follows the Twelfth Doctor and his new companion, Nardole, as they join forces with an enigmatic superhero named the Ghost and attempt to save the world from the Harmony Shoal, an alien race determined to conquer humanity.
Given the unfortunate delay of season ten, the Christmas special served as Doctor Whothe only episode of 2016. “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” includes several references to past episodes, as well as various nods to comic book superheroes like Superman and Spider Man, which were inspirations for the special.
ten “The Runaway Bride” presents Donna Noble (7.6)
The Tenth Doctor meets his opponent in “The Runaway Bride”, the 2006 Christmas episode. Right after the end of the season two finale, “Doomsday”, the Doctor confronts the unknown bride who had managed to break into it. inside the TARDIS. She becomes his reluctant companion as he faces a deadly alien empress.
“The Runaway Bride” features Donna Noble, who would return in the first episode of season four “Partners in Crime” and would become the Doctor’s full-time companion until her departure on “Journey’s End”. The Christmas special has a much more comedic and silly tone than the previous one, which drew mixed reactions from fans.
9 “Voyage Of The Damned” is the most successful Doctor Who to date (7.6)
After crashing into the Titanic ship, the Tenth Doctor meets and befriends waitress Astrid Peth, played by Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue. When a bitter alien businessman puts the spaceship on a fatal path to Earth, the Doctor and Astrid must stop the ship from destroying the planet.
“Voyage of the Damned” is the most successful Doctor Who Christmas special to date, with over thirteen million viewers tuned in for its first broadcast. Reactions to Minogue’s inclusion have been mixed, but his character’s death marked the series’ first companion death rekindled.
8 “The Christmas Invasion” got the ball rolling (8.1)
Still suffering from the after-effects of his recent regeneration, the Tenth Doctor and Rose confront the Sycorax, an alien race threatening to kill a third of the planet’s population if humanity does not surrender.
“The Christmas Invasion” was the first Christmas special and the first story directed by the Tenth Doctor. It continues the story involving Torchwood from the first season and reintroduces the modern version of UNIT. The episode also includes the first appearance of “Merry Xmas Everybody”, a song by British rock band Slade which has been featured in several episodes of the series as an Easter Egg.
7 “Twice Upon A Time” Was The Last Modern Christmas Special (8.1)
The twelfth doctor meets his past in “Twice Upon A Time”. The 2017 special sees the First Doctor and the Twelfth Doctor dealing with their own rapidly approaching regenerations during World War I at Christmas 1914.
“Twice Upon A Time” was the last Christmas episode of the modern series. It also marks an important change in the direction of Doctor Who, with key personnel in front and behind the camera like Peter Capaldi, showrunner Steven Moffat and lead songwriter Murray Gold moving on to other projects. Towards the end of the episode, the Twelfth Doctor regenerates into the Thirteenth Doctor, starting a new era for the long series.
6 “Last Christmas” presents Father Christmas (8.2)
After finding Santa Claus stranded on Clara’s roof, the Twelfth Doctor and Clara decide to help him get rid of the scientists who have taken control of the North Pole. When they arrive, they find more than they expected: a group of crab-like creatures have taken over the whole place.
As the Twelfth Doctor’s first Christmas special, “Last Christmas” received fairly positive reviews from critics and fans alike. The episode features comedian and screenwriter Nick Frost as Santa Claus and includes several nods to Hollywood movies like Extraterrestrial and Miracle on 34th Street.
5 “The Snowmen” shows a retired doctor (8.4)
Having lost Rory and Amy, the Eleventh Doctor decides to retire and hide in Victorian London. Luckily, he meets Clara Oswald, a housekeeper-bartender who looks identical to Oswin, the girl he had met in “Asylum of the Daleks”. Intrigued by her, the Doctor befriends Clara just as something strange begins to happen in the snow in London.
Jenna-Louise Coleman returns in “The Snowmen”. The 2012 episode builds on Clara’s mysterious existence and shows the Eleventh Doctor at one of its lowest points. It also brought back a prominent classic-era foe, the Great Intelligence, voiced in the special by Sir Ian McKellen.
4 “Doctor’s time” fulfills a prophecy (8.4)
Finally fulfilling the prophecy that torments him, the eleventh doctor goes to Trenzalore. His enemies, having learned of his location, ambush him and fight him for hundreds of years as he attempts to defend the planet and the imminent return of the Time Lords.
“Doctor’s Time” is a swan song on the Eleventh Doctor’s term. The episode deals with several important plot points, including the Doctor’s limited regeneration cycles and the Eleventh Doctor’s journey against Silence and Time Cracks. This is Matt Smith’s fourth and final Christmas special, as he passes the baton to Peter Capaldi at the end.
3 “The Husbands Of River Song” Presents River Return For One Last Goodbye (8.5)
River Song returns for a final goodbye in “The Husbands of River Song”. Mistaken for a surgeon, the twelfth doctor is summoned by River to remove a large diamond from her new husband’s forehead. Shocked that she couldn’t recognize him, the Doctor didn’t know how to proceed.
“The Husbands of River Song” ends a five-season story that began when River was introduced in “Silence in the Library” in 2008. Nardole, who would later become the Doctor’s Travel Companion, also made his official debut in the special as a servant of River.
2 “The End of Time” shows a jaded doctor (8.5)
For the 2009-2010 holiday season, the BBC has commissioned a two-part film that would run from Christmas to New Year’s Day. “The End of Time” follows a jaded tenth Doctor as he embarks on his latest adventure alongside Wilf Mott, Donna’s grandfather, against his nemesis, the Master.
The Tenth Doctor reign comes to an end, with Matt Smith taking over as the Eleventh Doctor at the end of the second episode. Like “Twice Upon A Time,” the vacation special marks a significant change for the show, as most of the cast and crew have stepped down from their roles and the show has welcomed a new crew.
1 “A Christmas Carol” is a twist on the classic tale (8.6)
The Eleventh Doctor meets a Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol”. Following the eponymous story it’s based on, the special sees the Eleventh Doctor interacting and trying to reason with the grumpy rich Kazran Sardick, who refuses to help a spaceship in need. In order to make him nicer, the Doctor travels through Sardick’s past.
“A Christmas Carol” is the Eleventh Doctor’s first Christmas adventure. Irish-English actor Michael Gambon and Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins also played the roles of Sardick and Abigail respectively. The episode is the most watched Christmas special of the Eleventh Doctor’s tenure, with just over twelve million UK viewers.
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