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Doctor Who Christmas Specials Ranked: Which Doctor Who Christmas Special Is The Best?

The last holiday Doctor Who Special landed on New Year's with Jodie Whittkar's Resolution.


BBC has been skipping out on Doctor Who Christmas Specials in the recent years. The last holiday Doctor Who Special landed on New Year’s with Jodie Whittkar’s Resolution. It has been confirmed by the showrunners that there will be no Doctor Who Christmas Special this year either. With no new content to watch this Christmas Day, it is time to revisit some old Christmas classics with Doctor Who.

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The thing is with 14 episodes and 4 Doctors to choose from, it can be quite difficult to pick just one Doctor Who Christmas Special. While there is no such thing as a bad Doctor Who Christmas Special, there are some episodes that offer much more to celebrate than others. Merry Christmas Wishes

We start with our lowest pick and celebrate the best at last. We have only ranked episodes from the Revived Era. Classic Who Era Christmas Specials are not included in this list. So now, without further delay, here is our list of the best BBC Doctor Who Christmas Specials from the revived era.

The best BBC Doctor Who Christmas Specials

14) Voyage of the Damned

Voyage of the damned doctor who christmas special

This episode had everything it needed to be a top-ranking episode in this list. It even had the star power of Kylie Minogue as the waitress Astrid Peth. While ‘Voyage Of The Damned’ does have the highest viewership of any episode since the BBC’s Doctor Who revived, it is certainly not the best Doctor Who Christmas Special out there.

The point is it looks like it’s going to be an awesome episode on paper. Doctor Who on an intergalactic Titanic, an A-list guest star, and Christmas. It sounds like the recipe for an awesome Christmas special. However, the actual episode fails to deliver. Voyage of the Damned is a bland, monotonous Doctor Who Christmas Special that has fans wondering when the episode is going to kick off. Spoilers: It never kicks off.

Kylie Minogue fails to create enough of an impact for viewers to actually be swept in the big emotional crescendo of her death. Sure, you feel bad for the characters momentarily but it’s the equivalent of a character death on Supernatural. It just doesn’t mean anything anymore.

David Tennant tried his best to breath life into this deadweight episode but can’t quite manage it. It’s not a bad Doctor Who Christmas Special (no such thing), it’s just utterly unremarkable.

13) The Snowmen

The snowmen doctor who christmas special

While the basic idea of The Snowmen is perfect for a Doctor Who Christmas Special, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. While the episode’s villain, sentient snow being controlled by the Great Intelligence, could have been a legitimate threat, it never feels that way. The snow just serves as a lackluster backdrop to the return of Clara in the Victorian era.

In addition, this is one episode of Doctor Who where we found something to gripe about Matt Smith. His grief over the death of Amy and Rory just feels a bit trivial if you compare it to David Tennant’s strong performance at Rose’s (supposed) death. Airing just after the emotionally wrecking ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’, this episode was a huge letdown. The show needed to address the catastrophic end of Amy Pond before asking it’s audience to move on.

However, the episode did provide one of the most visually stunning sequence in the Doctor Who history. We are talking, of course, about the time Clara walks up the staircase to find the TARDIS stationed in the clouds. This single scene wasn’t enough to save the episode though and it comes as near to a bad Doctor Who Christmas Special as it is possible to be.

12) The Return of Doctor Mysterio

The return of doctor mysterio doctor who christmas special

Doctor Who combined with Superheros sounds like a very geeky Christmas dream come true. However, reality fails to measure up to the dream. It does have some beautiful moments with Peter Capaldi and Young Grant. However, it doesn’t grow beyond being a parody of comic book cliches.

It is most certainly not the worst Doctor Who episode you could watch on Christmas, it’s just that there are way better episodes than this one. That being said, The Return of Doctor Mysterio is a fun, campy Doctor Who Christmas special that checks every comic book cliche while still managing to be wholesome in bits and pieces. This is the second time we see Nardole who was introduced in the 2015 Christmas Special The Husbands of River Song (which ranks way higher in this list).

Tune in to this cheesy Doctor Who episode to enjoy Justin Chatwin’s performance as the boy next door turned superhero. However, there are much better Doctor Who Christmas Specials you could be tuning into.

11) The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe

The doctor, the widow and the wardrobe

The premise of this story is tragic and heartwarming at the same time. Madge is trying to hide the fact that her husband is missing from her two children. She believes the news that their father is missing or dead is going to ruin Christmas for them forever. However, the day is saved when Madge uses the power of her desire to reunite her family just in time for Christmas.

It’s not an awful Christmas Special episode, it’s just that Doctor Who has set the bar high with some spectacular Christmas Specials. This does not take away from the fact that The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe is a festive, feel-good Christmas Special that benefits from the presence of comic guest stars Bill Bailey and Arabella Weir.

10) The Next Doctor

The Next Doctor

The Next Doctor legitimately had us believing that there was a Doctor we missed somewhere in the mix. However, David Morrissey’s Jackson Lake is not The Doctor but just burrowing the Doctor moniker.

This episode offers plenty of festive vibes complete with the Doctor sharing a Christmas dinner with his new friend, The Doctor. Next Doctor is brought to life by the villainous Ms. Hartigan a daring antagonist and Lake’s companion Rosita.

9) The Runaway Bride

The Runaway Bride doctor who christmas special

Donna Noble is quite a polarizing figure. We love her. However, there are plenty of Whovians who dislike the character. We can’t blame them. Donna’s Christmas hating vibe is not for everyone. However, this Christmas offering by BBC Doctor Who does have a lot more to offer than a Christmas hating runaway bride.

This episode is heavily laden with Christmas imagery with Killer Christmas trees and robot Santas. With a giant spider ruining Donna’s wedding, this Christmas special offers a lot of wacky entertainment.

8) Resolution

Resolution doctor who christmas special

Resolution wasn’t aired on Christmas and was more a finale to the first female Doctor’s arrival than a Christmas debut. This episode would probably rank higher if Jodie Whittaker had been around a bit longer. However, while we love Jodie as the Doctor, she needs more time before fans really get invested in her as The Doctor. For now, she is facing the same trouble every new Doctor faces. Fans love the previous versions so much that the new one is an adjustment.

We have full faith in Jodie Whittaker though and we are sure she will make her own niche in the Doctor Who universe. That time just hasn’t arisen yet. This is why Resolution, while a fairly good episode, isn’t higher on this list.

In addition, the episode really doesn’t have much of a celebratory vibe. Yes, there are a few New Year’s mentions but overall the episode could just have been a regular Doctor Who episode. It was missing the wacky sense of a Doctor Who Christmas Special.

7) The Time of the Doctor

The time of the doctor doctor who christmas special

If not for the multitude of brilliant Christmas Specials still to go, The Time of the Doctor would probably rank higher. A lot. Matt Smith’s final episode as the Doctor might be a bit too pessimistic for the Christmas vibe but it feels believable. It is in line with the Doctor’s incessant need to sacrifice himself before he can see someone else suffer. The Time Lords’ just gifting their regeneration energy to Doctor Who does feel a bit contrived but it is the season of miracles after all.

However, it is Matt Smit’s final goodbye that had us reaching for the tissues and wishing we could rank this way higher. The closing moments of the episode see the return of Amy Pond as “the first face this face saw”. It is a full circle for their relations ship as Amy ends up becoming an imaginary friend to her imaginary friend. If we were basing this list on Matt Smith’s performance alone, this would be a top pick. The line “I will not forget one line of this. Not one day. I swear. I will always remember when the Doctor was me.” is as much Matt Smith as the Doctor and it manages to break our Whovian hearts. Cause really, We don’t wanna let him go.

6) The End of Time, Parts One and Two

The end of time

Speaking of Don’t wanna go, David Tennant wreaked emotional havoc with a simple “I don’t wanna go” long before Tom Holland’s Peter Parker in Infinity War. It makes it only more heartbreaking that there was no companion with him and he is utterly alone. There was not one Whovian left with dry tears when Tennant said his emotional goodbye to BBC Doctor Who.

That’s the good part. However, as an episode ‘The End of Time’ is all over the place. It tries to do everything at once and ends up with a mess on the plate. The story feels like a four to five episodes arch crammed into a single episode.

That being said, this Doctor Who Christmas Special is not one we will forget in a hurry. It made us sob like babies and we loved every moment of it.

5) Last Christmas

Last Christmas doctor who christmas special

Santa Claus is in this one. Nick Frost makes an appearance as the rescuer of Clara and the Doctor. As with all things Moffat, this story wouldn’t be complete with a sadistic, macabre twist on it. This is the man behind The Angels Take Manhatten after all. However, the episode ended up being a lot less pessimistic than originally intended.

The original plan for Last Christmas was to serve as Jenna Coleman’s farewell episode with an elderly Clara bidding goodbye to the Doctor. Thankfully, the BBC decided to prolongate the sad event giving fans a merry Christmas.

4) A Christmas Carol

A christmas carol doctor who christmas special

Doctor Who and Steven Moffat make a deadly combination. Moffat often comes up with episodes specifically targeted to making us bawl. However, A Christmas Carol is a surprisingly tender offering from Moffat. Based on Charles Dickens’s 1843 novella A Christmas Carol, the episode sees a version of Scrooge in Kazran. Kazran Sardick (Michael Gambon) can control the cloud layer but refuses to help. Naturally, the Doctor attempts to use time travel to alter Kazran’s past and make him kinder.

A Christmas Carol is a tale of redemption and moving on from past regrets and it is one of the most Christmas oriented Doctor Who adventures yet.

3) The Husbands of River Song

The husbands of River Song Doctor Who Christmas Special

The Husbands of River Song is an episode so delicately intricated into the Doctor Who timeline that it’s beautiful to witness. It wraps up the story set in motion in the Silence of the Library in a very tender moment with the Doctor finally taking his wife to the singing towers of Darillium. The amount of forethought that must have gone into creating this complete circle is what makes this episode rank so high in the list.

It is tragic to realize that the next time River would see the Doctor, the last time, he wouldn’t even recognize who she is. This is the Doctor’s goodbye to his wife and it has a decidedly personal feel to it. It might be sad, it might be tragic but it is the perfect wrap to the story of River Song. It is also one of the absolute best Doctor Who Christmas Specials to date.

2) The Christmas Invasion

The christmas invasion doctor who christmas special

The Christmas Invasion is the first Christmas Special of the modern era Doctor Who. It is Doctor Who’s most Christmas-y Christmas Specials to date and has the Tenth Doctor sitting down for a Christmas dinner, paper hats and all.

While Jackie Tyler yelling “I’m gonna get killed by a Christmas tree!” with Jingle Bell’s for a soundtrack was enough to sell us, it is the Doctor who seals the deal. The Sycorax leader severs the Doctor’s hand. However, the Doctor is still within the first 15 hours of regeneration. He re-grows his hand and then defeats the Sycorax leader with a satsuma orange. This here is why we love Tennant’s Doctor so much.

1) Twice Upon a Time

Twice upon a time doctor who christmas special

Peter Capaldi’s swan song, Twice Upon A Time, has the twelfth Doctor meeting his first regeneration. The story revolves around the two Doctors as they refuse to let go and regenerate. It’s often comical yet profound to see the clash of views between the two. While the First Doctor can’t stand Twelfth’s outlandish and flamboyant fashion sense, Twelfth is often left cringing at his predecessor’s casual sexism. The episode gains more poignancy once you realize that after all the sexist commentary by the first Doctor, Jodie Whittaker is set to arrive as the first female Doctor at the end.

The episode is more contained than most Doctor Who episodes with no villain to defeat. Twice Upon A Time focuses solely on the Doctor and his fear of regeneration. It makes for an emotional yet oddly satisfying viewing experience and hence is on the top of our best BBC Doctor Who Christmas Specials list.

We hope this list helped you find the perfect Doctor Who Christmas Special to celebrate with this year. Happy viewing and we wish you a very Whovian Christmas.

ALSO READ: Doctor Who New Series 12 Trailer Teases ‘Something Coming’

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