With the eleventh Doctor Who Christmas Special of the modern era this year I thought it’d be a good time to count down the previous ten. I’ve decided to not include the William Hartnell era ‘The Feast of Steven’ for three reasons; one it’s not from the modern era, two it would ruin the whole top ten thing and three I haven’t seen it.
(10) The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe / Matt Smith / 2011
The Doctor has crashed landed on Earth in 1938 and becomes caretaker to a recently widowed mother. His gift for her children goes wrong and they are transported to a forest world; whose trees are about to be melted with acid rain.
Review: How could a ‘Doctor Who’ episode, based on The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, featuring Bill Bailey and Alexander Armstrong go so wrong? It’s not that this episode was awful just so passable. It’s rare that I get bored watching ‘Doctor Who’ but, this was one of those times. The worst Christmas Doctor of the modern era.
(9) Voyage of the Dammed / David Tennant / 2007
The interstellar cruise ship ‘Titanic’ has been sabotaged and is on a collision course with Earth, The Doctor and one off companion Astrid must save both the Earth and those on board.
Review: ‘Voyage of the Dammed’ is one of those episodes that splits opinions. Some love it and wished Astrid had become the Doctors new companion others hated it. Me I fall into the later. The whole disaster movie feel just didn’t work, most of the characters were so annoying that I didn’t care if they made it or not and the plot, all insurance fraud and killer robots, was as exciting as the ‘Phantom Menace’. The main issue is Kylie Minogue and her almost insipid take on Astrid. Wooden to the point of no personality she struggles through the episode with no personality or charisma. The episodes only saving grace is the first appearance of Bernard Cribbins as Donna Nobles granddad Wilfred Mott. One to avoid.
(8) Last Christmas / Peter Capaldi / 2014
Both the Doctor and Clara keep being visited by Santa and his elves. All this is happening whilst they help a group of scientists battle an alien race known as the Dream Crabs.
Review: Peter Capaldi’s first Christmas episode was much anticipated. He was slowly becoming a very popular Doctor amongst the hardcore ‘Whovians’, it had former Doctor Patrick Troughton’s son Michael in and Nick Frost was playing Santa. The hype was so high that maybe that’s why it felt a little bit of a letdown. It’s not a bad episode just nothing spectacular. There are some great one liners from Capaldi and Jenna Coleman’s Clara starts her rehabilitation in the audience hearts after being so annoying in the proceeding series. So worth a watch but not a classic.
(7) The Snowmen / Matt Smith / 2012
Victorian London is being terrorised by killer snowmen. It’s up to the Doctor and his new friend Oswin Oswald to save the world from the Great Intelligence.
Review: Seen as the start of the fifty year celebrations ‘The Snowmen’ was a massive improvement on the previous years Christmas episode (The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe). Richard E Grant is menacing as the Great Intelligence’s ally Dr Simeon and Dan Starkey is always a joy a Strax. It lacks a little of the magic that previous Christmas episodes have had but, still a worthwhile addition to the ‘Doctor Who’ story arc.
(6) The Runaway Bride / David Tennant / 2006
Bride to be Donna Noble is mysteriously transported to the Tardis whilst walking down the aisle. She teams up with the Doctor to save the Earth from the spider like Racnoss Empress who is trying to revive her species.
Review: Many were worried by the appearance of Catherine Tate as, what was thought of at the time, one off companion Donna Noble but, they shouldn’t have been. ‘The Runaway Bride’ is a fun filled entry in the ‘Doctor Who’ universe; full of snappy one liners and sideways glances. That’s not to say it’s not without its serious side. The almost unrecognisable Sarah Parish as the Empress is truly terrifying (especially to anyone scared of spiders) and writer Russell T Davies take on a Christmas star is inspired.
(5) A Christmas Carol / Matt Smith / 2010
The Doctor must try to stop the space liner Amy and Rory are honeymooning on from crashing. The only way is to persuade Scrooge like figure Kazram, who controls the planet’s atmosphere, to have a change of heart.
Review: ‘A Christmas Carol’ is another one of those episodes where opinion is pretty much split. I personally loved the episode. It’s a wonderful take on the Dickens classic. Matt Smith handles his first full Christmas episode with ease. The main support from Michael Gambon as Kazram and Katherine Jenkins as Abigail is strong. They make their characters love story and heart-break believable and not once too sugary. I even liked the flying sharks (a bone of contention amongst some Whovians). One thing most Whovians agree on (even those who didn’t really like the episode) ‘Abigail’s Song’ is a beautiful moment of television.
(4) The Next Doctor / David Tennant / 2008
London 1851 and the Doctor encounters a stranger also claiming to be the Doctor. Together they must stop the evil Miss Hartigan and her Cybermen allies from conquering the Earth.
Review: The main thing to say about ‘The Next Doctor’ is just how much fun it was. This is largely down to a great script and supporting cast. The story twists and turns; with great reveals and action. Dervla Kirwan makes a sinister foe that makes her characters final redemption believable, whilst Velile Tshabalala is one of those one off characters who easily fits into the ‘should have been a companion’ category. It’s David Morrissey as the other Doctor / Jackson Lake who gives the strongest support. So much so he easily fits into the ‘would make a great Doctor’ category. A great episode worthy of repeat viewing any time of year.
(3) The Christmas Invasion / David Tennant / 2005
Earth is attacked by the Sycorax who demand that either the Earth surrender or they’ll make a third of the Earths population commit suicide. The Doctor is in a coma so it’s up to his companion Rose Tyler, her mum Jackie and boyfriend Mickey to save the day.
Review: David Tennant’s first full appearance as the Doctor is almost a sleeper episode for him. So it’s up to Bille Piper as Rose to carry the first festive ‘Doctor Who’ of the modern era. She does a fine job with great support from Camille Coduri as Jackie and Noel Clarke as Mickey. An honourable mention also must go to the wonderful Penelope Wilton who plays Prime Minister Harriet Jones. When the Doctor finally awakes from his coma his entrance is fantastic and verges on iconic. A great first Christmas episode and the start of a festive tradition.
Rating (out of 10): 9.5
(2) The Time of the Doctor / Matt Smith & Peter Capaldi / 2013
The Doctor is once again lured to the Trenzalore where he must battle in a seemingly endless war with the Daleks. As time goes on secrets are revealed, story arcs concluded and old enemies become new allies.
Review: If the previous years Christmas episode (The Snowmen) was the start of the fiftieth celebrations this was very much the end. Matt Smiths regeneration episode had it all; great dialogue, an amazing story, action and tears. Throughout there is great support from Jenna Coleman as companion Clara Oswald and even a cameo from ex-companion Amy Pond. Not only a wonderful addition to the ‘Doctor Who’ universe but, a great story in its own right.
(1) The End of Time / David Tennant & Matt Smith / 2009
The Doctor assisted by, Donna’s grandfather, Wilfred Mott try to save the Earth from The Master, his army of doppelgangers, and the return of the Time Lords.
Review: David Tennant’s final story isn’t only one of the finest Christmas episodes but, one of the finest in the ‘Who’ universe. John Simm reprises his role as the Master once again making him both mad, evil but, strangely lovable all at the same time. Timothy Dalton as The Lord President of the Time Lords literal spits his lines with pure venom. It’s Bernard Cribbins as Wilfred Mott who is the strongest of support; giving a sympathetic and highly believable performance. Of course David Tennant’s regeneration still brings a tear to the eye. Highly recommended.