Every 'Doctor Who' Christmas And Holiday Special, Ranked
For many Whovians, Doctor Who holiday specials are a Christmas Day - and sometimes New Year's Day - family tradition. Both those who grew up watching Classic Who and those well-versed in New Who can enjoy these festive, action-packed episodes, such as "Twice Upon a Time," "The Runaway Bride," and "A Christmas Carol." Like regular Doctor Who fare, they can't all be winners, but each is unique and enjoyable in its own way.
In December 2019, the tradition continues with the 13th Doctor, Jodie Whittaker, and her companions Ryan (Tosin Cole), Yaz (Mandip Gil) and, Graham (Bradley Walsh), flying the TARDIS to their next adventure. In anticipation of this festive holiday event, let’s take a look back at the Doctors, companions, and otherwordly creatures of Christmas past.
- 1103 VOTES
The Husbands Of River Song (2015)
River Song (Alex Kingston) is part Time Lord, part adventurer, part outlaw, and part romantic - and many believe she's the one and only true match for the Doctor. This holiday special presents River with multiple “husbands,” each of whom serves her needs in different ways. Like everyone else, she believed the Doctor was out of regenerations, so she doesn't recognize Twelve (Peter Capaldi) when they first meet. River brings him along on her caper, during which she speaks openly about her love for the Doctor and their complicated relationship.
Once their quest is complete and the Doctor has made himself known, his signature grouchiness has melted away. The two travel to a planet called Darillium to enjoy a beautiful Christmas dinner date and spend their (very long) last night together.
- 2123 VOTES
The End Of Time (2009)
In what may be the most epic and heart-wrenching holiday special of the show, David Tennant takes his tearful final bow as the Doctor when he faces off against his maniacal Time Lord nemesis, the Master (John Simm). The Master enacts an evil plan to take down the Doctor once and for all, but before this plan can come to fruition, Ten sacrifices himself to save Donna’s grandfather (Bernard Cribbins).
Packed with action and emotion, the episode earns its place as the only two-part holiday special of the series. It introduces a brand new element to the long-running series: a Doctor who is afraid to regenerate. As we bid farewell to the tousled hair, trench coat, and Chuck Taylors, Ten utters his poignant last words: “I don’t want to go.”
- 3117 VOTES
The Runaway Bride (2006)
This Season 3 episode gives us our first glimpse of future companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), as well as a healthy dose of Ten's unflappable charm. Where the first holiday special was an action-drama, this episode provides action with a heaping side of comedy.
The Doctor is grieving the loss of his previous companion, Rose, when Donna is unexpectedly beamed into the TARDIS in her wedding gown. The episode gives us a giant-spider villainess and, once again, Christmas accoutrement gone wrong, like a weaponized Christmas star and ornaments, and dastardly Santa-bots. By the end of the special, it's clear that despite her cantankerousness, Donna is a good counterweight for the Doctor. He invites her to join him on his travels, but she turns him down - at least this time.
- 4119 VOTES
A Christmas Carol (2010)
In Matt Smith’s first holiday special as the 11th Doctor, yet another spaceship is on a crash course, and it’s up to our favorite Time Lord to save the day. The high-stakes, space-age take on Dickens’s famous tale evens out the drama with Eleven's signature eccentricities, wacky details like a flying shark, and a wash of both romance and melancholy.
Our Scrooge character, a hardened millionaire named Kazran (Michael Gambon), travels with the Doctor through the timeline of his own life in an effort to regain his sense of humanity. According to the previously stated rules of time travel in the Doctor Who universe, meddling in one’s own timeline is off-limits, but perhaps these rules don't apply on Christmas.
- 5106 VOTES
The Time Of The Doctor (2013)
In this episode, the Doctor nearly perishes from old age, as lore tells us that the Doctor should have used up all of his regenerations. The New Who writers, however, had other plans. Not only does this holiday special introduce Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor, but Matt Smith’s Eleven goes out in a blaze of glory, using his regeneration energy to save humanity from his nemeses, the Daleks.
This holiday special attempts the Herculean task of tying up the countless plot threads introduced throughout Eleven's time on the TARDIS. Though it's more focused on a grand, fez-topped farewell than Christmas festivities, no one can claim this episode isn’t epic.
- 6113 VOTES
Voyage Of The Damned (2007)
The third holiday special finds the 10th Doctor at a Christmas party aboard a retro-futuristic spaceship called the Titanic. When the robot angel servants turn on the passengers and the ship begins hurtling toward Earth, the Doctor and a small group of passengers, including guest star Kylie Minogue, must fight for their lives.
This self-contained episode is one of the most-watched of the New Who era, likely due to its star power and familiar location. The Doctor once again asks someone to be his companion, but he's unsuccessful. Kylie Minogue’s Astrid is both brave and beautiful, but unfortunately, she doesn't make it out of the caper alive.