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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 ailment.

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 mayhem.

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 Christmas…erm…Carol.

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.
Page Updated: 23/12/2011

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Written by:
Hayden Gribble

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