It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Toys in every store, decorations glowing in the dark nights while we
huddle by the fire and await the big build up to the day itself on
December 25th. Not only do we get the annual exchange of presents but it
is also the perfect chance to slump in front of the television and get
our seasonal dessert of Doctor Who. It is the perfect time to gather
round with the family and sit back and enjoy a jolly slice of the good
Doctor on a day that was just made for a character like him.
We have been served our usual slice of Christmas Who every year since
the show returned back in the mid noughties and in that time we have met
a new Doctor, born on that day the Sycorax invaded Earth, a runaway
bride that we would get to know a whole lot more and a disaster movie
scenario involving a spaceship by the name Titanic being sabotaged and
crashing towards our planet. The Doctor then took us to Victorian London
and an encounter with Cybermen and his possible future self, then to the
heartbreaking conclusion of the Tenth Doctor’s reign when someone
knocked four times.
The Eleventh Doctor then saved his companions and a scrooge-like man
from himself last year and now we have the treat of a fairytale journey
with a family from Blitz torn London and the Doctor’s there again to
bring us the main piece of the BBC’s main Christmas meal, complete with
all the trimmings.
Many newer fans may think that 2005’s The Christmas Invasion
was the first Doctor Who story to go out on Christmas Day. But they
would be wrong. We have to go back a lot further than that. Let’s set
the controls for Christmas Day – 1965.
Yes, forty years before David Tennant’s festive debut,
the First Doctor was in the middle of one of his most epic and dangerous
adventures ever. The classic 12-part story, The Daleks’
Masterplan, was gathering pace and building up to a
climactic end, but the Doctor and his companions took a little time out
from their battle with the monsters from Skaro.
The Feast of Steven, which was the seventh
part of the three month long story, broke away from the plot altogether
and delivered the series regulars to a film set where a runaround ensues
and they bump into Charlie Chaplin. There has never
been another episode of Doctor Who like it. It plays out like a comedy,
and acts as a refreshing interlude from all the seriousness and violence
of the preceding six episodes yet it does unfortunately takes the
reality out of the story.
On the surviving soundtrack, the episode sounds very chaotic and the
scenes when the time travelers have a brush with the thin blue line fail
to fill me with seasonal warmth. Then right at the very end of the
episode, William Hartnell does the unthinkable. He turns to the camera,
looks straight down the lens to the viewers at home and wishes them a
Merry Christmas. It’s a nice touch but ultimately one that makes me
think “Oh, they’re actors, that’s a bit of a disappointment”. Within
another two weeks we were back to mass slaughter and Egyptians beating
up Daleks. That’s more like it!
So after the show’s return was a runaway success, it was up to
Russell T Davies to pen the Tenth Doctor’s debut and the first
proper Christmas edition of Doctor Who. He has an awful lot to do in the
hour-long episode. He has to cover Rose’s difficulty to adjust from one
Doctor to another, an alien invasion on Christmas morning, render the
Tenth Doctor unconscious for half the episode then awake him just in
time to save the day and give us the now traditional stuffing of
everything we relate with Christmas. You have got Santa’s, albeit robot
killer Santas, Christmas trees, okay, KILLER Christmas trees and all the
emotional moments that go hand in hand with this time of year. Oh and a
big sword fight, lovely jubbly!
I still think that David Tennant’s first Christmas
special is his best. It ticks all the boxes and even that bit when the
Christmas tree tries to kill Jackie, Rose and Mickey, it is all done
tongue in cheek and can get away with it because it’s funny at the
silliest time of the year.
The following year we see Catherine Tate make her debut
as Donna Noble when she materializes in the Doctor’s TARDIS. The Doctor,
still mourning the loss of Rose in the previous story
Doomsday, is distant and hurt, but we can already see how
having someone like Donna in his life begins to heal him. That’s what we
need at Christmas, the people we love most around us to share in the
festivities with, because we all know that spending Christmas alone
can’t be fun.
Although I like The Runaway Bride for some
reason it just isn’t Christmassy enough for me. It is probably the only
Christmas Special I could watch at any given time in the year. Maybe it
was because it was filmed during a heat wave in July (Have you ever seen
a December THAT sunny? Even David Tennant’s hair gel
has evaporated in the heat!) Yet you can’t blame that on the makers if
the show. It’s possibly because the episode shows a side to Tennant’s
Doctor that we hadn’t seen before, one that is rather distant and hurt.
It’s a shame that Donna didn’t take up his offer to travel with him, but
we’d see her again.
2007 saw international superstar Kylie Minogue join the
cast in a move that got the tabloids tongue’s wagging.
Voyage of the Damned was watched by 13 million as a result
and David Tennant’s Doctor, having just met his fifth
incarnation after Martha and Captain Jack have left him crashes into the
Titanic. No not THAT Titanic. This one is a spaceship, which is
sabotaged by it’s suicidal Captain and the rest of the crew are
terrorized by The Host, angel like waiters turned assassins who are
probably related to the Voc Robots.
The Doctor meets Astrid, played by Minogue, who dreams of seeing the
stars and they hit it off immediately. The pair even find time to beam
down to Earth and meet Bernard Cribbins’ Wilfred Mott
for the first time before the trouble ensues. After the Poseidon
adventure in space where the Doctor only just manages to prevent the
Titanic from crashing into Buckingham Palace, the Doctor must face up to
the haunting memory of another life who sacrificed herself for the Time
Lord. After Astrid plunged the corrupt billionaire Max Capricorn into
his fiery doom, she also perishes and the Doctor can only partly save
her and commits her atoms to space. Touching stuff and not nearly as
harrowing as the seasonal edition of Eastenders
that follows it! The Doctor leaves Christmas behind alone yet again and
although Voyage of the Damned leaves us feeling festive it does also
send out a clear message – never trust a billionaire!
In October 2008 David Tennant confirmed that after a series of specials
he would be leaving the role, along with Head Writer Russell T Davies
who would also be standing down. This gave the production team a chance
to have a little fun with they’re audience. So when the title of that
year’s Christmas Special was announced as The Next Doctor,
it got our taste buds tingling. Will we genuinely see who the next
Doctor will be? I did think at the time “Wow they cast David
Morrissey pretty sharpish!” With the promise of the Cybermen
invading Victorian London to look forward too also, this special was
shaping up very nicely.
The Next Doctor was also the first time that
the Tenth Doctor faced the notion that his current incarnation’s time
may be running out. It is the beginning of the end. The Ood’s prophecy
may be sooner than he expected. He immediately bonds with Morrissey’s
character, who later turns out to have been confused when he fired an
infostamp of the Doctor at the Cybermen and the information fired back
on him. His real name is Jackson Lake and the Cybermen murdered his wife
whilst his son was kidnapped along with other orphans in the city who
are used to generate the power to construct the ‘Cyberking’ a giant
robot who terrorizes London on Christmas Day.
In the end the Cyber caper is all just a bit of fun, and the Doctor,
still sore after all his friends leaving his side again and Donna’s
departure, initially turns down Jackson’s invite to Christmas dinner. It
turns out though that not even the Doctor can resist the temptation to a
slap up roast and spends Christmas with friends for the first time since
Christmas with the Tylers two years earlier.
At the turn of the decade, a wind of change was sweeping through the
world of Who. The time had come for David Tennant to
hang up his sonic screwdriver and face his worst nightmares in
The End of Time. With the Doctor teaming up with Wilf,
the two old soldiers must face one more final battle, against the
Master, who turns the whole of mankind into impressions of himself to
amplify the drumming in his head and find the answer to his maddening
The Master’s actions bring about the return of the Time Lords. What a
cliffhanger that was eh folks! Rassilon and his Gallifreyan cronies
return through the immortality gate and the Doctor has to go to extreme
lengths to stop them. The Doctor knows he is standing on the brink of
his own death but it is in fact the Master who prevents the Time Lords
from going through with they’re terrible plans of immortality and sends
them plunging back into the hell of the Time War. The Doctor thinks he
has cheated death but then the heartbreaking four knocks from Wilf,
trapped inside the booth, which is about to flood with deadly radiation,
spell his end. So on New Years Day, with a new decade, new Doctor and
whole new look for the show looming, the old Doctor sacrifices his tenth
life and after a moving (and slightly longwinded) goodbye he passes and
we meet the Eleventh Doctor for the first time, in a blaze of fire and
The Eleventh Doctor is perhaps the biggest kid at Christmas. His eyes
light up like baubles in the winter light. With Matt Smith’s
first Christmas outing as the Doctor, Steven Moffat
treats us to the most festive Doctor Who story there has ever been and
retells the classic Charles Dickens' novel
A Christmas Carol in the Christmas Special named um…A
Amy and Rory need rescuing on they’re honeymoon from a crashing space
liner, but to allow the ship to land safely the Doctor has to convince
cold hearted tycoon Kazran Sardick to turn off spire to allow for a safe
landing. But the Doctor is dealing with a cold hearted, evil old man,
who’d no sooner strike a child than allow 4,000 innocent people to die.
So in the spirit of Christmas the Doctor shows Kazran Christmases past,
present and future and manipulates his time stream, even helping him
fall in love with a terminally young girl with the voice of an angel.
Throw in a sleigh ride with a shark and aqua mariner life living in
clouds and you have got yourself a bonkers bit of fun which is just
perfect for Christmas Day viewing, what joys will this year throw up?
So with all the stocking fillers of yesteryear discussed, what can we
look forward to this year on Christmas Day? The children will have
they’re latest toys on the floor, playing with them while the afternoon
film plays out, the fire will be roaring, the parents falling asleep by
the fire, catching up on the sleep they lost when the kids jumped on
them at 4am. If this is the scenario in your household this Christmas, I
can guarantee that your children will stop playing and you wake up just
in time to see that magical blue box materialize on the TV set and this
the most wonderful time of the year.
Have a very Merry Christmas Who fans!
Copyright Hayden Gribble & Doctor Who Online, 2011.