Ranking the ‘Doctor Who’ Christmas Specials

Graham Host
TV Doctor Who
TV Doctor Who

Since 2005, the legendary British sci-fi show Doctor Who has been producing special Christmas episodes to spruce up the festive season with a Dasher of science and a Blitzen of heroism. That said, some of them have definitely done better than others. So the question remains – how do they stack up?

11. “The End of Time” (2009/2010)

The End of Time” comes in dead last on the list. After being summoned by the psychic Ood, the Tenth Doctor is warned that time is collapsing.

Tenth Doctor Doctor Who David Tennant

Having grown weary of their sacrifice to save the universe, a rogue faction of Time Lords – led by Rassilon himself – have planned their escape and the destruction of the universe. Although ultimately being a great Doctor Who episode, it lacks that Christmas cheer that the others have in spades. Heck, the Doctor sees his mother for the first time in centuries and dies minutes after. I actually cried!

10. “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe” (2011)

The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe Doctor Who episode

Unfortunately, poor execution made this episode – a bad pun on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – rather difficult to watch. Despite a fantastic cast, the story seems to lack any sort of ‘oomph’. None of the 1941 residents are surprised to find themselves on an alien planet, there is a plot device that seems only included to insinuate that all men are weak and it all feels more than a little forced for Christmas spirit.

9. “The Runaway Bride” (2006)

Tenth Doctor David Tennant Doctor Who and Catherine Tate

Marking the first appearance of Catherine Tate as Donna Noble, The Runaway Bride was David Tennant’s second Christmas episode. When she magically appears in the T.A.R.D.I.S, the Doctor finds himself fighting to protect not only a bride on her wedding day but the entire universe from an ancient and previously extinct threat. With exploding baubles and deadly Christmas stars, it might be not very festive, but it is full of action.

8. “Voyage of the Damned” (2008)

 Doctor Who Christmas special
Heavenly Host robots

Voyage of the Damned is one of the sadder festive episodes and more than a little on the nose. Flying on the unsinkable spaceship Titanic, the Doctor is in the thick of it when meteors strike, sending it headed for Earth. With heavenly Host robots killing the crew and Wilfred Mott and the Queen and her corgis in mortal peril, the Doctor can save the day even though many of his companions in the episode die.

7. “The Next Doctor” (2008)

The Next Doctor David Tennant Doctor Who cyberman

Having barely landed in 1851, the Tenth Doctor is surprised to hear his name called. Upon arrival, it appears that it is not him that is being called but his successor – the next Doctor. As Cybermen use orphaned children to construct their ultimate weapon, the Doctor and ‘the Doctor’ uncover that this newest incarnation is just a normal man with all the heroism of the Time Lord. With the only time the public cheers the Doctor for his efforts, this episode gets bumped up a place.

6. “The Time of the Doctor” (2013)

Eleventh Doctor THe Time of the Doctor Doctor Who

In response to a mysterious signal, the most powerful empires all cluster around a tiny backwater planet. When the Eleventh Doctor lands in the town of Christmas, he discovers the last remaining Crack with Gallifrey on the other side. If he lets them out, the planet of Trenzalore will be destroyed. Sending Clara home, he then protects the small village from aliens and makes toys for all the children for several hundred years. With no more lives to live as the Daleks move in, his people send him a precious gift – a new set of regeneration cycles.

5. “The Husbands of River Song” (2015)

The Husbands of River Song Twelfth Doctor River Song

Laying low on a remote planet to avoid Christmas, the Twelfth Doctor finds himself drawn into events when he stumbles across River Song pulling a heist. Not recognising his new face, the Doctor sees how she acts when he is not around. With a psychotic robot in Christmas red and only the last pages of River Song’s diary left unfilled, this story closes the book on the Doctor’s wife with a Christmas miracle. Their last ‘night’ is actually 24 years long. The Doctor might not be Santa, but he still finds ways to pull presents from nowhere.

4. “The Snowmen” (2012)

The Snowmen Doctor who

Nothing beats a festive bout of snow. Throwing snowballs at your siblings, rolling the largest balls you can to make snowmen. The only way it could be better was if the snowmen came alive. And in 1892, that’s exactly what happened. Whenever thoughts of snowmen appeared, so did ravenous beasts under the guise of the icy people. With the second death of a Clara – a long story best kept for another time – The Snowmen shows that even the Doctor can’t resist the good nature of the holiday and the miracles that can happen.

3. “The Christmas Invasion” (2005)

David Tennant companion and TARDIS with Christmas Tree in the background Doctor Who

With a spinning Christmas tree of death, robotic Santas with flamethrowers, and the inevitable satsuma, David Tennant’s first episode as the Doctor was filled with festivities and Christmas spirit the entire way through. Having freshly regenerated, the Doctor awakens to find himself a little under the weather. But a spot of tea soon fixes him up – even though he spends the entire day in his pyjamas.

2. “Last Christmas” (2014)

twelfth doctor peter capaldi and santa yelling at each other doctor who

We’ve all been there – on the night of Christmas Eve, snuggled up in bed, almost asleep, then Santa crashes onto the roof. With the Doctor wishing people ‘Happy Easter’ and tangerines appearing everywhere, Last Christmas is the perfect portrayal of Christmas across all ages. Everything from waiting breathlessly the night before to no longer believing in the magic but always willing to take a turn on the reigns. Getting Nick Frost to play Santa Claus might have started out as a joke, but it turned out perfectly.

1. “A Christmas Carol” (2010)

Although I almost wish that it had another title, “A Christmas Carol” is both the most festive and wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey Doctor Who Christmas special yet. After a very Scrooge-y character called Elliot Sardick refuses to help the Doctor, he decides to set a few things right.

Possibly breaking the Laws of Time, he intervenes with childhood Elliot as the ‘Ghost of Christmas Past’. When that fails, Amy becomes the ‘Ghost of Christmas Present’ and shows him the tragedy which will happen unless he helps. Finally, as the ‘Ghost of Christmas Future’, he shows young Elliot how his future self is much like his abusive father. Finally understanding the folly of his ways, Sardick is able to help but with the love of his new life dying in the process.

Despite the heartbreak at the end, A Christmas Carol is one of the best Doctor Who episodes of all time. Coupled with great effects and music, this is the best Christmas Special ever to come out of the T.A.R.D.I.S. doors.

Graham Host
Graham Host is a member of the Fan Contributor program. In his spare time, he enjoys the works of Terry Pratchett, DC Comics and a wide assortment of video games. Under no circumstances should he be fed after midnight.
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