‘Doctor Who’, the iconic British sci-fi series, has a tradition of celebrating the festive season with special episodes. These specials are more than just regular episodes; they bring a unique blend of adventure, emotion, and the holiday spirit. As a long-time fan of the show, I’ve taken on the enjoyable task of ranking these specials. Let’s embark on a wondrous journey through the best of Doctor Who’s Christmas and New Year episodes, from the least favorite to the most cherished.
17. ‘Revolution of the Daleks’ (2021)
“Revolution of the Daleks” was an episode I had high hopes for, but it didn’t quite meet my expectations. The return of the Daleks, usually a thrilling event, felt somewhat predictable this time. However, the episode did shine in its emotional depth, especially in the Doctor’s interactions with her companions. The farewell to certain companions was handled with a touching sensitivity, adding a poignant layer to the story. Despite its shortcomings, the episode still captured some of the adventurous spirit that defines Doctor Who.
16. ‘Resolution’ (2019)
“Resolution” brought a modern twist to the Dalek storyline, which was intriguing. The episode excelled in action and the Doctor’s confrontation with the Dalek, showcasing the series’ flair for drama and excitement. However, it lacked the festive charm typically associated with Doctor Who’s holiday specials. It felt more like a standard episode than a holiday celebration, but it still delivered the quintessential excitement and adventure that fans expect from the show.
15. ‘The Return of Doctor Mysterio’ (2016)
This episode was a playful homage to superhero films, a creative departure from a Doctor Who Christmas special. The mix of superhero elements with the Doctor’s world was novel and amusing. While it didn’t have a strong Christmas theme, its light-hearted tone and humor provided a refreshing change. “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” may not have been the most holiday-centric episode, but it was an enjoyable, fun-filled adventure that added a unique flavor to the series.
14. ‘The Church On Ruby Road’ (2023)
“The Church On Ruby Road” brought a whimsical twist to the Doctor Who Christmas lineup, introducing Ncuti Gatwa as the Fifteenth Doctor alongside Millie Gibson’s Ruby Sunday. The episode, steeped in mystery and charm, delved into Ruby’s enigmatic past and her encounter with mischievous goblins. While it mostly steered away from a traditional Christmas setting, the story was rich in festive undertones and spirited adventure. The blend of new characters, a hint of the Doctor’s own personal journey, and a light-hearted confrontation with the Goblin King offered a refreshing take on the series. While not the most Christmas-themed special, ‘The Church On Ruby Road’ stood out for its engaging plot and the promising start of a new era in Doctor Who.
13. ‘Eve of the Daleks’ (2022)
“Eve of the Daleks” took a fresh spin on the time loop concept, blending humor and poignancy effectively. The Daleks, as always, were compelling antagonists, and the episode did a great job of exploring the characters’ personal stories within the loop. The combination of action, character development, and the show’s signature wit made it a memorable special. While it might not have been the most traditional holiday episode, it stood out for its creative storytelling and engaging plot twists.
12. ‘Twice Upon a Time’ (2017)
“Twice Upon a Time” holds a unique place as it was the swansong for the Twelfth Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi. This special was remarkable for its introspective tone and the way it delved into the Doctor’s psyche. The interaction between the Twelfth and First Doctor, portrayed by David Bradley, was a nostalgic nod to the show’s long history.
This episode excelled in its emotional resonance and the poignant passing of the torch to the next Doctor. It was a fitting and touching farewell to Capaldi’s Doctor, packed with the kind of depth and sentiment that makes Doctor Who so special.
11. ‘The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe’ (2011)
This special was a heartwarming tale inspired by the classic “The Chronicles of Narnia.” It stood out for its fairy-tale-like quality and the emotional journey of the characters. The story of a family finding hope and magic in the midst of war was beautifully told. The Doctor’s role as a guardian angel to the family added a sweet touch, showcasing his softer, more nurturing side. While it might not have been the most action-packed episode, its charm and warmth perfectly captured the spirit of the holiday season, making it a delightful watch.
10. ‘The Husbands of River Song’ (2015)
“The Husbands of River Song” brought a mix of humor and romance to the Christmas special lineup. The chemistry between the Doctor and River Song was fantastic, adding a playful yet emotional element to the episode. The storyline, involving a heist and multiple twists, kept the episode engaging and lively. This special was a wonderful blend of the whimsical and the heartfelt, showcasing the lighter side of Doctor Who while still delivering a story with emotional depth. It was a festive treat that highlighted the show’s ability to balance different tones effectively.
9. ‘Last Christmas’ (2014)
“Last Christmas” was a blend of the festive spirit with a classic Doctor Who twist. The episode’s take on Santa Claus, played brilliantly by Nick Frost, was both amusing and fitting for the show’s style. The story, combining elements of a dream within a dream, was cleverly executed, keeping viewers on their toes. This special stood out for its ability to weave together the festive theme with a sense of mystery and intrigue. It was a memorable episode that embraced the holiday spirit while staying true to the adventurous and thought-provoking nature of the series.
8. ‘The Runaway Bride’ (2006)
“The Runaway Bride” introduced Donna Noble, a character who would become one of the most beloved companions. This episode was a mix of humor, action, and emotional depth. Donna’s fiery personality and her chemistry with the Doctor, played by David Tennant, were highlights. The plot, involving an alien Empress and a Christmas-themed invasion, was classic Doctor Who in its blend of the absurd and the thrilling. This special was significant for setting the stage for Donna’s later development, making it a key episode in the series’ history.
7. ‘The Next Doctor’ (2008)
This special was intriguing with its concept of a man who believed he was the Doctor. The mystery surrounding this ‘Next Doctor’ was engaging, and the historical setting added an extra layer of charm. The Cybermen, always a formidable foe, made for an exciting antagonist in this Victorian-era adventure.
This episode stood out for its emotional storytelling and the exploration of identity and legacy, themes central to Doctor Who. It was a well-crafted tale that combined the show’s trademark sci-fi elements with a poignant human story.
6. ‘The Snowmen’ (2012)
“The Snowmen” was a beautifully atmospheric episode set in Victorian London. It introduced Clara, an important companion, and her mysterious connection to the Doctor. The episode’s villain, sentient snowmen, was both whimsical and menacing, fitting perfectly into the Doctor Who universe. This special was notable for its mix of mystery, humor, and a hint of melancholy, capturing the essence of the show. The Victorian setting, combined with the introduction of new characters and a compelling plot, made it a standout episode.
5. ‘Voyage of the Damned’ (2007)
“Voyage of the Damned” was an action-packed adventure set aboard a spaceship designed to resemble the Titanic. The episode’s scale and ambition were impressive, offering a mix of spectacle and emotion. The Doctor’s heroism and the diverse cast of characters made for an engaging story. This special had the right balance of excitement, danger, and heart, embodying what makes Doctor Who so beloved. The disaster movie vibe, blended with the show’s sci-fi elements, created a thrilling and memorable Christmas special.
4. ‘A Christmas Caro’l (2011)
“A Christmas Carol” was a magical reinterpretation of the classic Dickens tale, tailored perfectly for the Doctor Who universe. The episode’s blend of time travel, emotion, and the spirit of Christmas was executed brilliantly. The story, about changing a miserly old man’s past to save the future, was both clever and touching. It showcased the Doctor’s unique approach to solving problems and highlighted the series’ ability to tell profound and heartwarming stories. This special was a delightful mix of whimsy, sentiment, and sci-fi adventure, making it one of the most memorable holiday episodes.
3. ‘The Christmas Invasion’ (2005)
“The Christmas Invasion” was significant for being the first Christmas special with my favorite Doctor, the Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant. This episode was a thrilling introduction to Tennant’s Doctor, combining high stakes with festive charm. The plot involving an alien invasion during Christmas was classic Doctor Who, blending humor, suspense, and holiday spirit. Tennant’s charismatic performance and the episode’s engaging storyline made it a standout special. It perfectly captured the excitement and wonder of the Doctor’s adventures, setting a high bar for future specials.
2. ‘The Time of the Doctor’ (2013)
“The Time of the Doctor” was a poignant and epic conclusion to the Eleventh Doctor’s story. The episode was rich in emotion and narrative depth, exploring the Doctor’s sacrifice and resilience. The showdown with multiple alien species and the resolution of several lingering plot threads were handled masterfully. This special was not only a compelling sci-fi story but also a deeply moving farewell to a beloved Doctor. It encapsulated the essence of Doctor Who, with its mix of adventure, heart, and the timeless battle between good and evil.
1. ‘The End of Time’ (2009/2010)
“The End of Time,” a two-part Doctor Who special, stands out as a monumental achievement, marking the final chapter of the Tenth Doctor, portrayed by David Tennant. Comparable to ‘Avengers: Endgame’ in its scale and ambition, this special brought together an expansive cast of characters, weaving in the Doctor’s various companions, including the beloved Rose Tyler, and showcasing a grand reunion that predates similar cinematic events. The Return of the Master, played by John Simm, added depth and intensity to the story, with his complex relationship with the Doctor being a highlight. Additionally, the presence of other Time Lords, including Rassilon and characters like Wilfred Mott (Wilf), contributed to the narrative’s emotional depth and epic scope.
This special was not just a farewell to Tennant’s Doctor but a celebration of his journey, blending high-stakes sci-fi with profound emotional storytelling. It offered closure, not only for the Tenth Doctor but for the companions and stories that had been integral to his era. The End of Time’s ability to combine adventure, heart, and the Doctor’s ultimate sacrifice made it a standout episode in television history and a pinnacle of the Doctor Who series. It remains a beloved and exemplary representation of what makes Doctor Who so enduring and impactful.
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