So this is the inevitable IT. What we here at the Tour assume will be our final look at the legacy of 13 years, and 16 overall Doctor Who Christmas Specials. These are the final five.
#5 – The Dæmons – The #5 entry is quite frankly a bit of a cheat as it’s a bit of a stretch to make the list, but on December 28, 1971, BBC One aired the omnibus movie version of The Dæmons. That sure sounds like a Christmas Special to us here at THT Worldwide. Of course in terms of pure feel, The Dæmons is much more of a Halloween story (even though the story itself takes place in April) but the joy of it all is watching the pure esprit-de-corps of the cast moving through the story. The stakes here are every bit as high as during any of the ‘modern’ Christmas specials, but this is a team effort, and not just the Doctor up against a series of explosions.
#4 – The Snowmen – On the scale of Smith-massy-ness the ranges runs from The Time of the Doctor (low) to A Christmas Carol (very high–and yet to show on the list). The Snowmen, #4 on our countdown, attempts to split the difference between the two. On the one hand it’s very much a bridge episode between Series 7a and 7b and it brings back the Great Intelligence to set up Series 7b. At the same time there are definite dream-like qualities as Clara ascends the staircase to the stars and such. Those parts were lovely. And since The Snowmen is Jenna Coleman’s first proper story, it’s certainly an inflection point for the Matt Smith era.
#3 – The Unquiet Dead – Who said the Christopher Eccleston didn’t have a Christmas Special? Okay technically he didn’t, but he did have a Christmas story. And what a joy it was. You can’t get more Dickensian than a story which features the man (Simon Callow) himself. #3 in our Christmas countdown, was a deliberate throwback in style and intent, The Unquiet Dead was not only a story set in the past, but done at Christmas time, and a zombie-story (of sorts) to boot. It was understandable that long-term fans would gravitate immediately to this story more than others for the more traditional elements within the story, but the reason it rings in at #2 here is that 5+ years on (and also incidentally the only story in our list NOT to be shown on Christmas day itself) it that deftly turned Dickens own story a bit on Dickens himself, keeping the joy for the character but also providing a touchstone for viewers as well.
#2 – The Christmas Invasion – For a long time this was always our #1 story, but this time around there’s no shame in slipping a spot to #2. What can we say, you never forget your first special. The first of the modern run of Christmas Specials not only had to entertain the masses, it was the first post-regenerative story in the modern era and had to educate viewers in that as well. Then RTD made the bold decision to work against viewers expectations by withholding Tennant’s full appearance until the last third of the story. But what sets this story ahead of all others in our opinion is it’s sense of scale. While very much a Christmas story, the invasion as the title suggests was massively global, and the way the cast reacts seems very in keeping. Rose’s increasing helplessness and courage in the face of the threat make the story work. Piper was probably never better than here. And Tennant showed in his brief twenty minutes many of the manic qualities which defined his early run of stories.
#1 – A Christmas Carol – The final story in our Christmas countdown was also the first…. for Matt Smith. A Christmas Carol was a deft combination of Moffat-style timey-wimey as well as a neat turn of the Dickens classic. For this reason alone it stands atop of the Christmassy-ness of all the Christmas Specials to date. The fairy tale qualities of flying fish and masterpiece casting of Michael Gambon provided an amazing first Smithmas for us all. Any story which gets Tour Honchos a little misty at the end of the story is almost by definition a great story, and having watched it again quite recently only reaffirmed it’s ascension to #1 in our eyes.