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Ranking the Doctor Who Christmas Specials

It’s the season to be jolly – oh, wait, no its not, it’s January 2016. Another Christmas has come and gone, as has the eleventh holiday special of Doctor Who. Since its revival in 2005, the Doctor has gone on an annual Christmas adventure, encountering killer Christmas trees, flying sharks, Titanic replicas, and undergone the occasional regeneration. But, with eleven specials now in the bag, which ones are the best or the worst. Let’s take a look with this list, ranking them from worst to best.

11. The Runaway Bride


At the bottom of the barrel is The Runaway Bride aired in 2006. After the loss of Rose Tyler, the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) finds his future companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) randomly appearing in the TARDIS, preparing for her wedding. What follows is a clunky, cheesy story about a giant but impressive-looking space spider who plots to use Donna as a key to free her children from the Earth’s core. Unfortunately, Tate’s performance is downright irritating in comparison to her later appearances, the sinister Santa pilot fish first introduced in The Christmas Invasion are revealed to be generic-looking robots, and the Empress of the Racnoss, which is a triumph in makeup, is sadly underused. Though Gallifrey gets named dropped for the first time. And exploding Christmas baubles? Really?

10. The Next Doctor


A story with two different ideas that really don’t match. Aired in 2008, the Doctor arrives in 1851 after another season finale of misery and woe, encountering a man claiming to be his future regeneration, played by David Morrissey, actually an amnesiac man whose memories were stolen by the Cybermen. I like Morrissey’s performance, the wacky Victorian takes on the Doctor’s TARDIS and gadgets, and the scenes where everyone cheers for the Doctor is a classic. Unfortunately, the episode is spoilt by the crumby Cybermen story, the giant Cyber-King looks ridiculous, and the Cybershades look like someone glued Cybermen masks to gorilla costumes.

09. The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe


The second Christmas special for the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith), this episode pays homage to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and offers an enchanting but underdeveloped story. After being rescued by Madge Arwell (Claire Skinner), the Doctor promises to repay her kindness, appearing three years later, whisking Claire and her children away to a house in Dorset to celebrate Christmas. This includes opening a portal to another planet resembling Narnia, but the Doctor and Madge soon learn a crashed spaceship and the forest itself faces destruction via acid rain, caused by a sadly underused Bill Bailey. The episode has its charms, some impressive visual effects and design, and the ending where the Doctor visits Amy and Rory is heartwarming.

08. The Snowmen


Do you wanna build a snowman? Well, not scary ones like these monsters. The Snowmen aired in 2012, and marked the introduction of Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) as the Doctor’s companion…sort of. Anyway, the Doctor is living with Madame Vastra and co. after the loss of Amy and Rory, and killer snowmen led by a sinister Richard E. Grant and Ian McKellen as a talking snowglobe are threatening the world. And at the centre of the freaky ice sculptures and Strax’s one-liners is Clara, who will go on to have a…colourful career as the Doctor’s companion. There are some very lovely moments in the episode, such as when Clara ventures up in the clouds to find the TARDIS, and I love the inclusion of Vastra, Jenny, and Strax as supporting characters.

About the author

Mark Russell