It is Christmas time once again and while that means different things to different people it means something special to all Doctor Who fans: the Doctor Who Christmas Special.
This year's Doctor Who Christmas Special is especially special since it will be the last episode for the lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat, who has been writing for Doctor Who since the show's first season and has been the showrunner on the series since its fifth season.
This will also be the final episode to star Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor, who will regenerate into Jodie Whitaker's Thirteenth Doctor, and to co-star Pearl Mackie as companion Bill Potts. It is a definite turning point for the series and one that looks back on the entire 50-year history of the franchise by guest-starring David Bradley as the First Doctor, who was originally played by William Hartnell.
In this year's Doctor Who Christmas Special, titled "Twice Upon a Time," the First and Twelfth Doctors meet during the events of "The Tenth Planet," when both were refusing to give into their impending regenerations. A British army captain, played by guest star Mark Gatiss, seemingly destined to die in the First World War is taken from the trenches to play his part in the Doctor's story. The Twelfth Doctor must face his past to decide his future, along the way realizing the resilience of humanity and discovering hope in his darkest frozen moment.
But before all of that, ComicBook.com is going to look back at the Doctor Who Christmas Specials that have preceded "Twice Upon a Time" and rank them all, from David Tennant's debut as the Doctor in "The Christmas Invasion," to the first appearance of the Ghost in last year's Christmas episode, "The Return of Doctor Mysterio."
Keep reading to see how each Doctor Who Christmas Special ranks.
12. "The Time of the Doctor"
Not only is "The Time of the Doctor" a disappointment as a Christmas special, but it is also an unworthy send off to Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor.
Yes, "The Time of the Doctor" pulled double duty as a Christmas special, which mostly seems to serve as the justification for naming the town the Doctor spends a lifetime defending "Christmas."
Steven Moffat tried to tie up all of the many, many loose ends involved with Smith's run as the Doctor in a single episode, and it became something of an impenetrable mess of a story that just seems to go on, and on, and on...
Matt Smith's final scenes are touching, and Karen Gillan's cameo is welcome, but this episode is no Christmas joy.prevnext
11. "The Next Doctor"
"The Next Doctor" feels like a one-note gimmick that somehow got turned into a full-length episode of television.
This Christmas special hit just after Russel T. Davies announced he'd be departing Doctor Who, so fans were naturally very curious about what was next for the series.
Enter David Morrisey as a character who has somehow come to believe he's the Doctor. Is he from the future? Would he replace David Tennant?
The answers are all rather anticlimactic, leaving the episode rather forgettable. It is most notable for arguably being the poorest use of the Cybermen in modern Doctor Who and for Morrisey's commendable performance.prevnext
10. "The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe"
The title of "The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe" is an obvious reference to C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia novel The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, but this special doesn't justify the reference.
Steven Moffat's script uses evil trees in place of a truly identifiable, substantive villain in an episode that relies far too heavily on the sentimentality of Christmas to carry it through. The episode's plot is threadbare, leaving nothing but forced drama that mostly fails to find the mark.
The one exception is the final scene, in which the Doctor joins Amy and Rory for Christmas dinner, but as touching as that scene is, it is still hardly enough to redeem this stretch of a Doctor Who story.prevnext
9. "The End of Time, Part One"
Taken as a whole, "The End of Time" is a great sendoff for David Tennant's Tenth Doctor. However, it was a two-part episode and most of the good stuff was in the back half, which didn't air until New Year's Day.
The first half on its own is a bit difficult to digest. The first 30-minutes or so play like a hard to follow film school project that leaves viewers lost, and the back half is 30 minutes of mostly spinning wheels while waiting to get to the point.
The episode fails to build much tension or momentum, but it does have John Simm's fantastic performance as the Master, and when the episode finally does get to the point it is quite the cliffhanger.prevnext
8. "Voyage of the Damned"
"Voyage of the Damned" is an interesting episode because it puts the greatest strengths and most infuriating tics of Russell T. Davies' Doctor Who on display.
The episode doesn't have the most surprising plot. It's a disaster set in space on a ship namedTitanic and it plays out pretty much exactly how you'd expect.
Davies' fixation with the Doctor as a Christ-figure is at its least subtle, with robot angels at one point carrying the Doctor upwards.
On the other hand, it is hard to deny that the episode has charm, and Tennant has genuine chemistry with stunt-casted guest companion Kyle Minogue.
"Voyage of the Damned' is a mixed bag to be sure, but it could be much worse.prevnext
7. "The Return of Doctor Mysterio"
"The Return of Doctor Mysterio" did something that, in the current era of popular culture, seems inevitable to the point that it was almost surprising that it hadn't happened before: it pit Doctor Who, the quintessential British superhero, against a traditional Western superhero.
The episode jumps into superhero mythology with both feet, dropping references to established heroes left and right, but the episode feels like a bit of let down for playing the idea so completely straight and for not doing enough to compare the morals and methods of Doctor Who to that of the Ghost.
While the episode is entertaining, it leaves audience waiting for another shoe drop that never comes.prevnext
6. "Last Christmas"
Peter Capaldi's first Christmas special as the Doctor was a key moment, as his curmudgeon of a Doctor finally began to remember how to be connected to those around him.
The Inception-like plot of "The Last Christmas" is bold, and it's executed competently, if not extravagantly. Nick Frost as Santa Claus is an interesting choice as well, though he mostly only seems to be there because the episode happens to be a Christmas special.
It's also true that, without the "will she, won't she" mystery surrounding Jenna Coleman's continued involvement with Doctor Who at the time this Christmas Special aired, it loses a bit of its luster, and the multiple twists ending end up feeling like a bit of drag because of it.
Still, "Last Christmas" is a solid enough way to spend Christmas evening.prevnext
5. "The Runaway Bride"
"The Runaway Bride" will always be best known to Doctor Who fans for introducing Catherine Tate as Donna Noble, who would return a season later to become the Doctor's new full-time companion.
The chemistry between Tennant and Tate was instantly apparent, and they seem to be having a great time through an episode that is mostly a fun romp right up until it turns tragic when Donna learns that her fiance is evil.
If the episode has a stumbling block it's the villain, the Queen of Racnoss, who is a fairly generic giant space spider. That the doctor defeats the Queen and her spiders by flushing them down a drain only emphasizes the goofiness of the concept.
Still, this special is a solid enough episode of Doctor Who and it hinted at great things to come from the Doctor-Donna.prevnext
4. "The Snowmen"
"The Snowmen" is a solid episode of Doctor Who that does a remarkable job of being accessible to viewers just casually tuning in on Christmas Day while also being absolutely essential to the series as a whole.
Here, the Doctor encounters a version of Clara Oswald that he, quite surprisingly, is not able to save. This sets up the entire "impossible girl" saga of the coming seasons.
There's also the Paternoster Gang - Vastra, Jenny, and Strax - who are some of the strongest supporting characters of the modern Doctor Who era, even if Strax is played up for comic relief a bit too often.
Add in killer snowmen, a wonderful villain performance from Richard E. Grant and the reintroduction of the Great Intelligence, and this is a winner of a Christmas Special.prevnext
3. "The Husbands of River Song"
"The Husbands of River Song" did something fans were becoming increasingly convinced that Steven Moffat was simply incapable of doing: it brought River Song's story to a satisfying and full conclusion.
The episode inverts the very way fans were introduced to River Song, by making it so that the Doctor is aware of who she is while she fails to recognize him because he is wearing a face that he never told her about.
That thread plays out perfectly in a single beat when the Doctor says "Hello sweetie" and he becomes instantly recognizable to River.
If this is the last Doctor Who adventure with River Song, and that does appear to be the case, then it is a great way for the character and her epic, impossible romance to end.prevnext
2. "The Christmas Invasion"
The first Doctor Who Christmas Special brought Doctor Who fans perhaps the greatest Christmas present of all: David Tennant as the Doctor.
The episode nearly squandered that gift entirely by leaving the Doctor asleep and recovering from his regeneration for half of the episode, but at least that gave some of the supporting cast like Rose and Micky a chance to shine.
This helped drive home the idea that Tennant's Doctor would be more connected to the humans around him, a theme that could continue throughout the remainder of Russell T. Davies' and Tennant's time on Doctor Who.
Add in some killer Santa Clauses and vicious Christmas trees and "The Christmas Invasion" is the purest fun of all the Christmas specials.prevnext
1. "A Christmas Carol"
Could there be a more appropriate way to top a list of Doctor Who Christmas Specials than with Steven Moffat's reimagining of Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol in space?0comments
Matt Smith was in top form in his performance in his first Christmas special, joined by Michael Gambon as a character filling in for Ebenezer Scrooge.
Watching the Doctor try to warm the heart of this space Scrooge in time to stop a space shark from killing thousands of people is not only the best episode of Doctor Who to air on Christmas Day so far but the Christmas Special most infused with the Christmas spirit.prev