It’s inescapable upon reflection that taken as a group each of the Doctors Christmas Specials in no small way reflects the specific personalities of each Doctor. Tennant was large and optimistic, Smith was frenetic and eccentric, and with Peter Capaldi–at least in part a dour and distant Doctor, there’s a certain remove befitting his Christmas Specials. They are there to be admired and appreciated, but not necessarily loved.
Now with Twice Upon a Time, and as importantly, the Capaldi era, in the books, a full assessment of Peter Capaldi’s Christma Specials can now be made.
4. The Return of Doctor Mysterio. After a year away Doctor Who presented a Christmas Special which didn’t really have anything to do with Christmas. Fair enough. But a Doctor Who variation on the Superman myth would be an odd fit almost anywhere it landed, but especially at Christmas. Nothing off-putting, just off.
3. Last Christmas. Perhaps the most thoughtful of the Capaldi 4, there’s lots to admire here with a fascinating recursive quality to the dreaming. It’s a neat sci-fi story, and likable enough in its own right, and as “interior” a Christmas Special as you’re ever likely to find, we still can’t find the same critical hosannas we read from others. The very best of the specials manage to do both.
2. The Husbands of River Song. Perhaps the flip side to Last Christmas insofar as this romp is aiming squarely for being a crowd pleaser and showing Capaldi’s lighter side. At the time Husbands suffered in much the same way that The Time of the Doctor did running so close to the previous broadcast story so as not to seem terribly distinct. Time has given Husbands that necessary distance, and is all the better for it.
1. Twice Upon a Time. What an interesting story this is. Relatively quiet and understated, until it wasn’t. Not really all that Christmassy–until it was, and then in the most remarkable way. A very nice way for Peter Capaldi to go out and clear the decks for Doctor Who to move forward. Some interesting callbacks covering most of the Capaldi era along with the requisite companion goodbyes. We’re not sure how it ranks against the best of other Doctors Christmas Specials, but it is Capaldi’s best.