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Doctor Who and the Victorian era is a match made in heaven. There is something about the reign of Queen Victoria that remains eerie and has stayed in this Country’s imagination to this day. Charles Dickens remains arguably the most imaginative and inspirational writer to have ever put quill to paper and hightened the mystery and darkness of the time he lived in, where some characters who shared the same London air as he, have passed into myth and legend. He wrote A Christmas Carol, one of the greatest novels of all time - released six days before December 25th, and has already seen itself parodied by our favourite Science Fiction show.
The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) - 'The Talons of Weng-Chiang' (1977).

It is no surprise that a couple of the greatest Doctor Who stories of all time have immersed themselves into the 19th century.

In 1967’s The Evil of the Daleks, the sight of Skaro’s finest rolling through the hallways of a Victorian house juxtaposed with the ancient and futuristic, scared many.

1977’s classic; The Talons of Weng-Chiang, sees The Fourth Doctor's costume fit the dark smoke-filled streets of London like a chain shackles Marley’s ghost, adapting his costume to blend in with his surroundings for the only time in his seven years in the TARDIS. But it is when Doctor Who meets Dickensian Christmas that the show’s majesty really comes to the fore. The smoke and snow makes for a dark, intriguing and slightly dangerous area that you shouldn’t go near and nothing is more frightening than a London side alley where something sinister awaits you...

It’s such a magnificent time of the year and of our history to have an adventure. In the 1800s, Britain was experiencing a nostalgic boom in the way the festive season was celebrated. The erection of a Christmas Tree became a more common sight, having been introduced by Queen Victoria’s Husband, the German Prince Albert, coupled with the release of Dickens’ masterpiece, where he popularised the saying ‘Merry Christmas!’ and created the famous phrase, ‘Bah! Humbug!’ it seems to us such an iconic picture. The snow falling heavily blanketing a cold, dark town, yet illuminated by carol singers and warm fires whilst all walks of life pass the toy shops where young children salivate over the wooden craftsmanship of skilled toymakers. That is the scenario that is represented by mantelpiece ornaments that would stay in our lofts the rest of the year but if you look at it closely, imagine how a blue police box would fit in the setting? It fits perfectly. Doctor Who and a Victorian Christmas go hand in hand - and as we know, it has been done before.
Charles Dickens (Simon Callow) - 'The Unquiet Dead' (2005).

Cast your mind back to that glorious Easter of 2005. Doctor Who was back and had blasted any doubters of its immediate success fully into the stratosphere. We had met a young girl on a council estate and the menace of the Nestenes and then hurtled forward in time to the year five billion to meet a vast array of aliens and a piece of skin that was as cunning as she was greedy, but it wasn’t until the third episode that, in my eyes, the programme was well and truly back. Mark GatissThe Unquiet Dead was a tale that sits highly on my list of stories and was a perfect blend of horror, humour and the hint of the humbugs of the season, which mainly come from old Charlie boy himself!

Not only did The Ninth Doctor set foot on the virginal snow of the 1800s but his successor also landed in Victorian London for the 2008 Christmas Special ‘The Next Doctor.’ This time, The Tenth Doctor, travelling alone in the TARDIS, fights the Cybermen and after defeating The Cyber King, allows a man who mistakenly took his identity to talk him into a turkey dinner. This is a century-old man, who, in his grief and loneliness, has sought solace in the festivities of the season and still remains hard to the hand of friendship from a stranger but then changes his mind as realises that Christmas really is a time to be with people, not alone like Scrooge or even Charles Dickens himself, as he had intended before the incident with the Gelth.

Of course, The Eleventh Doctor has also dipped into the Dickensian spirit before too, but with a twist. This time he left our world and landed on an unnamed planet where he encountered a character not so dissimilar to Ebenezer Scrooge and acted as the ghost of Christmas past, present and future to save his companions Amy and Rory and the passengers of a ship hurtling towards the planet.
The Doctor & Clara (Matt & Jenna-Louise) - 'The Snowmen' (2012).

The re-working of Dickens’ classic might not have been everybody’s cup of tea at the time of inception but the story’s main narrative is the core and it remains to date the best Christmas story in the show’s history as it gets the feel and the atmosphere, and more importantly the spirit of Christmas across to the viewer and leaves you feeling warm and festive - even with a repeat viewing in July!

In a way, Christmas is at the heart of Doctor Who. No matter how cold the weather is, there is something that draws us in and brings the family together to watch it, so what a blessing that the show is now at the centre of the Christmas Day schedule. It might be a little scary but it is imaginative, bright and wholesome. The Victorian influences are rife in the programme, especially at Christmas and especially ‘A Christmas Carol’, which seems to have been the default influence for many a Who script.

This year, we wIll be greeted with a new companion to the TARDIS to share our adventures with The Doctor and we shall spend the afternoon (5.15pm air time in England - tut-tut BBC - we won’t have eaten our Christmas dinners yet!) cowering behind pillows or the biggest present in our reach and shiver at the cold threat that is The Snowmen.

Once again, The Doctor finds himself in Victorian London, surrounded by allies from the past (or future, who knows?) but grieving in his loss of two of his closest friends. It is the time of year when you should be with the ones you love and it is clear that our hero is not. But someone very special is about to change all that and warm all our hearts at this, the most wonderful time of the year.

Merry Christmas to one and all!

© Copyright Hayden Gribble & Doctor Who Online, 2012.
Page Updated: 26/12/2012

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Hayden Gribble

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