12 Doctor Who Specials Of Christmas
Apropos of nothing, and seeing as in a couple of weeks time the title above will be out of date, I've cast my mind back over the first 12 years worth of Doctor Who Christmas Specials, and have ranked them in order of preference. (I am betting no two people would have them in the same order)
12) The Time Of The Doctor (2013) - My least favourite Doctor Who Christmas Special by miles, because it's just a hateful mess. We want The Doctor to go out with a bang, instead we get him sitting round for hundreds of years doing sod all, and all because supposedly he's on his last regeneration, even though (in the Sarah Jane episode Death Of the Doctor by RTD) it had been explained away that Timelords could have hundreds of lives. So this was tedious, indulgent, almost unwatchable, and scared off a potential next generation of Doctor Who fans (I was left alone watching it, while the rest of the family decamped to more interesting rooms. I bet I wasn't the only one). Dreadful.
11) The Snowmen (2012) - This came at the start of a season that I hated. Bogged down as it is with the whole "Impossible Girl" Clara storyline, which was never satisfying to me (apparently she's a leaf, or something, and she goes into the Doctor's timeline, whatever that is, and goes back in time to fight the single least convincing villain there's ever been, The Great Intelligence who, if he was that Great or indeed Intelligent would have asked his agent to get him the hell out of it) it's hard to either warm to or, on its own, understand. I like the Sontaran, the Silurian, and the Ninja, but that's about it for this confusing mess. Almost the last episode you should show to someone who's never seen Doctor Who before.
10) The Return Of Dr Mysterio (2016) - Having not watched this since it was first on, I find I've forgotten what happens towards the end, but I seem to remember enjoying it. We've gone full superhero movie with this one, and I think it works, though being able to remember it less than a year later would be helpful.
9) The Next Doctor (2008) - I was picky about this at the time, as the Cybermen began their Law Of Diminishing Returns descent into never quite being as good as they were the last time you saw them (remedied, finally, in the stories with Missy in). And the hot air balloon and giant Cyberman are just silly. But the Victoriana is perfectly Christmassy, and it's enjoyable if you haven't got your over-critical head on.
8) The Husbands Of River Song (2015) - Way to scare off every curious viewer with the title! Who the hell was going to watch something that screams "you won't understand this unless you've been watching the show for at least fifty years". Such fan indulgence aside, it's a rollicking romp, not too bogged-down in continuity, and fun to rewatch.
7) A Christmas Carol (2010) - Sometimes less is more, and this felt like a bit of a dogs breakfast, with far too many ideas competing for space, swamping a story which would have worked much better if kept simple. The nonsense with singing and fish still seems quite inexplicable to me, and the flying shark was wasted. Maybe some of us still hadn't adjusted to a new Doctor yet.
6) The Runaway Bride (2006) - Didn't like this at the time, with so much standing around talking, but on subsequent viewing it's surprisingly good fun, and shows that the Donna character, who was only intended to be in this one story, was fully realised from the start. The fact of the Earth being built around a giant spiders web didn't bother me at the time, whereas a similar bit of nonsense in Kill The Moon 10 years later annoyed the hell out of me.
5) Voyage Of The Damned (2007) - I'd recommend this as a fine introduction to anyone who'd never seen Doctor Who before, which so many RTD episodes work as. Filmic, comic, heroic, and a perfect early afternoon episode (probably cos it's so reminiscent of The Poseidon Adventure).
4) The End Of Time (2009) - Possibly the least Christmassy Christmas story, and one that I parodied mercilessly with the Socks. Much Shark-jumping with the Master, a lot of interminable messing around with the Master's wife and some pensioners, none of which is ever satisfactorily resolved, and some wasted aliens and unscary bad guys doing forgettable stuff. But the climactic scenes - first The Doctor vs The Master vs The Timelords; then the Doctor giving up his life; then the brilliant sequence of visits The Doctor pays to all his co-stars (which had me dewey-eyed when I was watching it just last week), more than makes up for it. A good end, which is what we were waiting for.
3) Last Christmas (2014) - This was more like it. Santa meets Alien meets one of those virtual reality stories that Steven Moffat specialises in. With good characters throughout, good simple scares, and a nice bit of schmaltz towards the end - especially the return of Clara, which I didn't think I'd be in favour of, but I was - it's a spot-on Christmas episode, maybe for a slightly older kid who'd never seen Doctor Who before.
2) The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe (2011) - Some people dislike this because of its sentimentality, which is precisely why I love it. A perfect balance of comedy, drama, and schmaltz. Very filmic, perfectly Christmassy. Another one that I'd show to a kid who'd never seen Doctor Who before.
1) The Christmas Invasion (2005) - I was so impressed by this at the time, despite my trepidation at anyone replacing Christopher Eccleston, who had already become "my Doctor". Despite plot holes the size of swiss cheeses - what are those "pilot fish" Santas, for example - it is a really satisfying adventure story, full of excellent characters, convincing threat, and a perfect introduction to David Tennant's Doctor. A definite contender for Best Regeneration Story too.
And there you have it. Just some idle thoughts, that I had while wiling away time in my hotel room before going off to play a Socks gig in Ripon. Thanks for listening.
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