Description: The first Christmas specials of Doctor Who’s continuation.
• Well written and fun to watch.
• As Steven Moffat would become the master of the two-parter, Russel T. Davies was a master of the Christmas special.
• Were more just strong stories that happened to be set during Christmas.
• Helped to lighten the often darker undertones of the newly revived series.
• At least partly influenced the tone of the succeeding seasons.
• While never feeling forced, some of the more christmasy elements might seem a bit cheesy and redundant.
Doctor Who did have at least one episode during the Classic Era that was a Christmas special with the First Doctor, “The Feast of Stephen,” in 1965. It is one of the many lost episodes, and part of the overall serial “The Daleks’ Master Plan.” So, a holiday special was not truly unprecedented, but Davies wrote them in a way much more significant to the overarching series narrative.
“The Christmas Invasion” —
Even though the special was not unprecedented, it was written in a way that made it feel like it was. It featured the first full story with David Tennent as the Tenth Doctor. Similar to the Third Doctor’s first story, Ten was rather inactive through much of it, the Ninth Doctor all but destroying himself to save his companion Rose from temporal energy (the resulting Bad Wolf entity technically still exists). So, the episode can be a bit slow going and odd at first, but is written so well that is somehow a plus. I remember happily being glued to the TV wondering what the Doctor needed (it was steam from tea). When the renewed Doctor did wake up fully, the payoff was satisfying and a little shocking (chopped off and regrown hand, no second chances, Torchwood destroying the Sycorax). Given the events that would lead to the Tenth Doctor’s regeneration into the Eleventh, “satisfying and shocking” was the underlying theme of the Tenth Doctor’s time.
“The Runaway Bride” —
The Tenth Doctor’s second Christmas special is perhaps even more significant the Tenth Doctor’s time, “Christmas” here practically an afterthought. The wedding gown clad Donna Noble, having already mysteriously been transported into the TARDIS, is the central mystery, while her significance in future episodes almost retroactively makes her first appearance just that much more interesting. She literally saved the Doctor’s life here and in later episodes, becoming far more than she ever can or should remember. Plus, we are even shown the beginnings of the Earth itself! That and the mention of “really good” Mister Saxon. This was easily one of the most narratively transcendent of all the specials until recently.
“Voyage of the Damned” —
The Tenth Doctor’s third Christmas outing was perhaps a bit less significant than the prior. It was less memorable and may be too weirdly absurd at times. We literally get to see the Doctor float around like an angel, there are robots built to resemble angels, and an ill-fated space-liner by the provocative name of “Titanic.” His one-off companion also dies in this episode, a rarity in the show but not the last instance. Most are saved by the Doctor otherwise. Still, many elements of this story would affect the tone of the succeeding episodes, particularly how the Doctor hid his declining psychological state since the end of the Last Great Time War.
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The Christmas Invasion