Doctor Who: Every Christmas Special Ranked From Worst To Best

Like that curiously shaped present under the tree, Doctor Who's Christmas can delight or disappoint.

Doctor Who Christmas Specials

Doctor Who may have been rested this year, but The Return of Doctor Mysterio will mark the twelfth consecutive Christmas Day special for the BBC's flagship show. Already pencilled in for the 2017 Christmas Day schedules, Doctor Who has become as much a part of the day as the Queen's Speech, the hour long soap specials, and It's A Wonderful Life.

The Doctor's Yuletide adventures are not meant to be your run of the mill episodes.

They need to appeal to a wider audience than usual, whilst at the same time not alienating invested fans of the show. To put it crudely, the Christmas Special is one of of most effective ways of marketing Doctor Who - the perfect opportunity for the producers to reel in the casual viewers.

So what gives the Christmas Special that all important X-factor?

It has to have that Christmassy feel - Santa Claus, Christmas Trees, and snow on snow; the big guest stars; thrills and spills with an overindulgence befitting of the feast; laughter (even if only on the level of a Christmas cracker joke); a feel good Christmas message; and conversely an element of tragedy, just like those disaster filled Christmas Day soaps.

With all that considered, which ones turned out to be Christmas crackers, and which are more like lumps of coal?

11. The End Of Time (Part One)

Doctor Who Christmas Specials
BBC Studios

Tinsel Factor 1

Star Quality: 10

Laughter Lines: 1

Thrill Meter: 8

Christmas Spirit: 1

Soapy Spoilers: 2

Total Score: 23

On the day when children finally get to open the presents under the tree, ending a Doctor Who Christmas special on a cliffhanger hardly seems festive. But nonetheless this was the brave decision taken in 2009.

This is the least Christmassy of all the specials, and the early reference to the holiday season as a “pagan rite to banish the cold and the dark,” sets the ominous and serious tone that follows.

Even the playful excesses of Christmas are given nasty twists, with Naismith trying to build the ultimate gift for his daughter – the Immortality Gate - and the Master getting quite a kick from all the seasonal feasting.

Christmas is supposed to be the season of peace and goodwill, yet Wilf is reminded of his days as a soldier and drawn to his revolver, with the promise that the time is coming when he will have to take up arms again.

There is one present the viewers are teased with – the chance for the Doctor to be reunited with Donna Noble, undoing the terrible consequences of Journey’s End. But when Donna’s memories are restored, all hell breaks loose and we realise it’s a gift that was never meant to happen.

On a positive note, a Christmas special wouldn’t be a Christmas special without a stellar supporting cast, and as names go you can’t get much bigger a than former James Bond, with Timothy Dalton hamming it up as Rassilon.


Paul Driscoll is a freelance writer and author across a range of subjects from Cult TV to religion and social policy. He is a passionate Doctor Who fan and January 2017 will see the publication of his first extended study of the series (based on Toby Whithouse's series six episode, The God Complex) in the critically acclaimed Black Archive range by Obverse Books. He is a regular writer for the fan site Doctor Who Worldwide and has contributed several essays to Watching Books' You and Who range. Recently he has branched out into fiction writing, with two short stories in the charity Doctor Who anthology Seasons of War (Chinbeard Books). Paul's work will also feature in the forthcoming Iris Wildthyme collection (A Clockwork Iris, Obverse Books) and Chinbeard Books' collection of drabbles, A Time Lord for Change.