‘Doctor Who’ Christmas Special: The Best Easter Eggs and Cameos

Kim Taylor-Foster
TV Doctor Who
TV Doctor Who

Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for the Doctor Who Christmas special 2017.

So, out goes Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor, alongside departing showrunner Steven Moffat. The Doctor Who duo’s parting shot is a Christmas special episode stuffed (like a turkey) full of Easter Eggs and cameos. Here are our favourites.

The Tenth Planet

“Previously on Doctor Who…” reads the caption before leading into black and white footage from the original-run Doctor Who adventure “The Tenth Planet”. The clip features William Hartnell as the First Doctor, and also features Anneke Wills and Michael Craze as companions Polly and Ben. And it’s a thrill to see it again, and used in this way.

“Quite an Arctic storm blowing out there,” says the Doctor. “Come along, Polly, my child; my cloak.”

It then cuts to the Doctor saying: “We don’t know what we’re in for outside there. Pretty soon we shall be having visitors.”

They’re seen coming under attack from Cybermen, with the Doctor saying to one on board the Tardis: “Emotions – love, pride, hate, fear, have you no emotions, sir?”

The line begins as spoken by Hartnell, only to be dramatically recreated and completed by David Bradley, playing the First Doctor in the modern footage. We then see him begin to regenerate as he says: “I guess this old body of mine is wearing a bit thin.”

He awakens, unchanged, muttering that things are far from “all over”.

“I must get back to the Tardis,” he says. Another caption tells us: “A long time ago at the south pole, the Doctor refused to regenerate…”

“I can’t go through with it. I will fight it. I will not change,” says the First Doctor, just before he comes face to face with Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth.

The footage links the 1966 story to the most recent Doctor Who adventure, “Twice Upon a Time”, which begins with First and Twelfth Doctors meeting at the south pole as time goes a little bit screwy.

Mondasian Cybermen

Doctor Who
The Twelfth Doctor with Mondasian Cybermen.

We were treated to an unsettling recreation of the original Mondasian Cybermen in the most recent season of Doctor Who. In a chilling episode, entitled “World Enough and Time”, we saw outgoing companion Bill Potts transformed into a Cyberman at the hands of John Simm’s Master.

Here, we get a glimpse of them in their original form in “The Tenth Planet” footage, where they made their very first appearance.

Original Tardis

Doctor Who
Inside the original Tardis.

The First Doctor isn’t too impressed by the Twelfth Doctor’s modern Tardis. But Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor has no such criticisms of David Bradley’s First Doctor’s “ship”. And not only do we get to have a gander at the famous retro police box, we also get to spend some time inside! Its internal walls are covered in those familiar white hexagonal and disc shapes, and the central console is lovingly recreated. It’s a neat, reverential homage to the early days of Doctor Who by Moffat.


While the two Doctors are introducing Mark Gatiss’s Captain to the fantastically futuristic joys of the Tardis, Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor notes that he’s an officer from World War I. The captain is incredulous.

“World War I?” he asks.

“Judging by the uniform, yes,” responds the Doctor.

“Yes, but what do you mean, ‘One’?”

“Oh, sorry — spoilers.”

This was River Song’s catchphrase – uttered whenever she stopped herself revealing too much of the future. River, of course, has a complex relationship with the Doctor and was once his wife. At the start of the most recent season, it was revealed that the Twelfth Doctor kept her photo on his desk at the university where he was stationed.

The War Doctor

Doctor Who
John Hurt's War Doctor, with Billie Piper's Rose Tyler.

The glass woman refers to the “Doctor of War” on a couple of occasions. The first time is when the Doctors are first transported into her craft. The War Doctor was an incarnation of the Doctor portrayed by John Hurt in a 50th anniversary special called “The Day of the Doctor”. He was created by showrunner Steven Moffat, who bows out following the 2017 Christmas special.

In the special episode, first shown in 2013, the War Doctor was the version responsible for fighting in the Time War.

All the Previous Doctors

Doctor Who Christmas Special
Previous Doctors appear in glowing balls.

The glass woman shows the First Doctor the faces of the incarnations he will become. They appear in floating bauble shapes. Amongst them are David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor, Tom Baker’s Fourth, Peter Davison’s Fifth, Jon Pertwee’s Third, Paul McGann’s Eighth, John Hurt’s War Doctor and Matt Smith’s Eleventh.

She also says that the Doctor is known by many names and lists them. These include the Imp of the Pandorica, the Shadow of the Valeyard, the Beast of Trenzalore, the Butcher of Skull Moon, the Last Tree of Garsennon and the Destroyer of Skaro. All are references to past Doctor Who storylines.

Dream Crabs

Doctor Who

As they step out of the Tardis and begin to explore their surroundings at the centre of the universe, the Captain is attacked by a facehugger alien. We see lots scurry about and the inference is that they’re Daleks without their shells.

“That creature, it looked familiar,” exclaims the First Doctor.

“It’s mutated a bit, but yes, I should think it did,” says the Twelfth.

The method of attack here, and their appearance, however, are reminiscent of another alien from the Steven Moffat era. Dream crabs.

Dream crabs, or Kantrofarri, appeared in “Last Christmas”, the 2014 Doctor Who Christmas special.

Rusty the Dalek

Named Rusty by Capaldi’s Doctor, this particular Dalek’s shell had malfunctioned, allowing him to come to the realisation that Daleks were evil. The Doctor first encountered Rusty in an episode called “Into the Dalek” during Peter Capaldi’s tenure. So-called because of his old, damaged casing, Rusty became hellbent on destroying his own race.

Here, appears when the Doctors wind up at the centre of the universe, where he’s been busy exterminating Daleks. The Doctor references their first meeting, citing the “good old days, when I got miniaturised and climbed around inside you”.

Captain Lethbridge-Stewart

Towards the end of the episode, the Captain reveals his name – Captain Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart — and his true identity as a relative of a prominent recurring Doctor Who character. He’s related to Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart – a long-time ally of the Doctor and the man who set up UNIT, which originally stood for United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, an organisation founded to protect Earth from alien threats.

Just before time is restored to its normal state, the Captain asks the Doctor to look in on his family – his wife and sons – from time to time. At a Q&A following a press screening of “Twice Upon A Time”, Mark Gatiss confirmed that the Captain was the grandfather of the Brigadier, and great-grandfather of Jemma Redgrave’s Kate Stewart, UNIT’s chief science officer and the Brigadier’s daughter.

Original Regeneration

At the end of the episode, as the First Doctor finally submits to regeneration, black and white footage of William Hartnell and his Doctor’s regeneration into Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor is seen.

Returning Companions

Doctor Who Clara
Jenna Coleman as Clara in the Christmas special.

Alongside Polly and Ben, and recent sidekicks Bill Potts and Nardole — who we see at the end — Jenna Coleman’s former companion Clara also pops up in the episode’s closing moments. She calls Capaldi’s Doctor a “stupid old man”, and tells him not to go forgetting her again.

Nikki Anuka-Bird

Doctor Who
Nikki Anuka-Bird.

Nikki Anuka-Bird plays glass woman Helen Clay in the Christmas special. In casting Anuka-Bird, the show continues its tradition of recycling actors we’ve encountered before within the universe in different roles. The actress also appeared in an episode of Doctor Who spin-off series Torchwood as a character called Beth.

Toby Whithouse

Doctor Who
Toby Whithouse as the German soldier.

Being Human creator Toby Whithouse features as the German soldier facing off on the World War I battlefield against Mark Gatiss’s British army captain. But, like Nikki Anuka-Bird, it’s not his first time associated with Doctor Who — he’s written a handful of episodes. Also like Anuka-Bird, Whithouse has previous with Torchwood, having written an episode called “Greeks Bearing Gifts” which first aired back in 2006.

Nicholas Briggs

Doctor Who
Rusty the Dalek in the Christmas special, voiced by Nicholas Briggs.

Nicholas Briggs lends his voice to the Daleks once again in this special Christmas episode. He’s been providing voices for Doctor Who nemeses for years. But it’s not just Daleks that have benefitted from his vocal talents. Since the show was first rebooted in 2005, he’s played characters including Nestene and Skaldak as well as Judoon, Cybermen and Zygons. He has also featured in Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Chronicles plus various Doctor Who video games and related screen iterations.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.