Christmas Special

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The Christmas Special was a yearly tradition for BBC Wales/BBC Studios Doctor Who, beginning with 2005's The Christmas Invasion through to 2017's Twice Upon a Time and continuing again from 2023's The Church on Ruby Road. On 25 December, nearly every year since the series was revived, a new special would air on BBC One.

Many Christmas Specials have introduced important plot points (e.g., new companion or a new incarnation of the Doctor) and were vital to series continuity. They were often the most-watched episodes of the programme in the respective years in which they aired. The Next Doctor, Voyage of the Damned and The End of Time were amongst the best-rated episodes of all time.[1]

Instead of 2018, 2019, 2020, or 2021 Christmas Specials, the start of 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 had episodes air on New Year's Day. With the exception of 2020's Spyfall (part one), these episodes did not air during the regular run, and were New Year specials. The December 2022/2023 season did not have either kind of special, with The Church on Ruby Road coming more than a year and 11 months after 2022's Eve of the Daleks. Both Christmas and New Year Specials have collectively been referred to in more recent years as Festive Specials.

List of Christmas specials[[edit]]

Other candidates[[edit]]

Though largely a phenomenon of BBC Wales and BBC Studios Doctor Who, there were two minor precedents for the Christmas Special in the original era of the programme.

The very first episode to premiere on Christmas Day was "The Feast of Steven", very nominally the seventh part of the 1965-1966 serial The Daleks' Master Plan. It had almost nothing to do with the plot of that 12-parter, and was consciously written as a "Christmas sidestep" from the Dalek adventure. Indeed, it ended with a fourth wall-breaking "Happy Christmas" from the First Doctor to the audience.

Another example was A Girl's Best Friend, the pilot for K9 and Company. Though technically, therefore, not a "Doctor Who Christmas Special", it is now generally regarded as a part of "classic series lore". Its Christmas theme was not especially obvious until its ending scenes, where Sarah Jane is able to relax following her adventure, and K9 actually sings "We Wish You a Merry Christmas".

In the BBC's Christmas message of 1981, a small segment featured Doctor Who characters.

Additionally, the BBC produced a short sketch in 1978 called Merry Christmas Doctor Who. Not initially intended for public release, it was eventually included on the DVD of The Armageddon Factor.

The series 1 episode, The Unquiet Dead, was referred to by Russell T Davies as "the forgotten Christmas Special", though it aired as part of the regular series, and in April as opposed to Christmas time.[2]

A Christmas special of The Sarah Jane Adventures, Miracle on Bannerman Road, was planned to precede the fifth series. It was cancelled for various reasons.

Non-televised examples[[edit]]

Comics[[edit]]

December 1965 saw the publication of two comic strips released just two days apart in seperate publications, either of which could nominally be considered the first ever Christmas story in the franchise's history, dependant on what factors one considers: an untitled instalment of TV Century 21's Cosmic Capers series, and TV Comic's A Christmas Story. While the former is the first Doctor Who-related story of any kind to have a Christmas theme, the latter is the first that this wiki currently considers a valid source.

Issue 16 of Titan's ongoing Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor comic series, which contained the Christmas-set story, Relative Dimensions, was explicitly promoted by its first two covers as a "2015 Holiday Special".

Also from Titan, 2019 saw the release of a two-issue miniseries to bridge the gap between the first and second years of Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor, explicitly titled Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Holiday Special, containing the Christmas-themed story of the same name, with early solicitations for the series outright claiming that the series was being made to make up for the lack of a televised Christmas Special that year.

Doctor Who Magazine occasionally publishes single-part comic strips in their December issues that are either outright Christmas-themed or, at least, festive in nature, usually in the event that a December issue happens to fall between the end of one multi-part strip and the start of another. Such stories to fall under this category include; The Professor, the Queen and the Bookshop (2010), Imaginary Enemies (2012), Be Forgot (2016), and It's Behind You! (2021).

Doctor Who Adventures[[edit]]

Doctor Who Adventures also published at least one Christmas-themed comic strip - though occasionally, two strips would appear - every year during its original run under Immediate Media. These strips included;

Video games[[edit]]

The mobile game Lost in Time released a special event called Coal for Skaro on 21 December 2023, in which Santa Claus has the Twelfth Doctor and Bill Potts deliver coal for Christmas to the Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans.

Footnotes[[edit]]