The Fantasy Review’s list of Every Modern Doctor Who Christmas Special Ranked. Doctor Who went through a brief phase of having their holiday specials come out on New Years Eve/Day, but we have also included those specials here.
#18 – The Return of Doctor Mysterio
There are some who love this episode of Doctor Who, but I am not one of them. Doctor Who often excels when the show does an episode in the style of another genre. For example, Time Heist was a fantastic Oceans 11-type story.
However, when attempting to do a superhero episode, The Return of Doctor Mysterio falls flat, as both a superhero story and a Doctor Who story.
#17 – Revolution of the Daleks
This is another episode that, based on the premise, actually had a lot of promise. However, it failed to deliver, despite the return of Captain Jack Harkness.
The writing was slow and uninteresting. Even Harkness struggled to be an engaging character, which was a shame considering how much work Chibnall had done with the character in some of his episodes for Torchwood.
This story is essentially the Dalek Invasion on Earth, but without any characterisation and the plot is stripped back to an incomplete skeleton of a story.
#16 – Resolution
This is the dull prequel to Revolution of the Daleks and is only one spot above #17 because at least it was an original concept.
As with much of the Chibnall era, Resolution was a forgettable, uninteresting Doctor Who special that I will not be rewatching.
#15 – The Next Doctor
I remember The Next Doctor coming out and while I have a lot of nostalgia for this fun episode of Doctor Who, on a rewatch it isn’t exactly one of the best. After handing the Cybermen so well in Series 2, Russell T. Davies seemed to forget the point of this terrifying villain, and instead made them into a joke.
That doesn’t stop me rewatching this nostalgic episode now and again, though!
#14 – Eve of the Daleks
Eve of the Daleks is one of the only Chibnall Doctor Who specials I like, starring the wonderful Aisling Bea who stole the show! This is a fun twist on the Groundhog Day trope we have seem a lot of in recent years, with the Doctor and “the fam” having to find their way out of the loop before the Dalek works out how to kill them.
#13 – The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe
Steven Moffatt brought the fairy tale of the Doctor and his TARDIS into focus during his time as showrunner, and The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe is a great extension of this theme, giving us a twist on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, just without all the religious stuff.
#12 – Spyfall, Part 1
Spyfall – Part 2 was the biggest disappointment in Chibnall’s second series as showrunner, but Spyfall – Part 1 was brilliant. The introduction of the Spy Master (Sacha Dhawan) was one of the most exciting reveals I have ever watched in Doctor Who; the little matchbox was the cherry on top!
Stephen fry was perfect in his role, but it is a shame not much was done with the character.
#11 – The Snowmen
The Snowmen was a fun, exciting Doctor Who special, and yet another false start to Clara Oswald becoming the Doctor’s companion. I genuinely think that they should not have killed this version of her character, and instead had this Victorian Clara as the companion; it would have been different for the modern era of the show.
#10 – The Church on Ruby Road
Ncuti Gatwa’s first full episode of Doctor Who was a joy to watch! I love this new direction of the snow, bringing more fantasy elements to a show that is basically already sci-fantasy, so why not go all the way?
We were also introduced to the latest companion, Ruby Sunday, and her family who audience fell in love with immediately. Russell T Davies has a way of focusing on the human element of this show, and giving us a family element to root for, enhancing our connection to the main characters.
Read my review of The Church on Ruby Road for my full thoughts on the episode.
#9 – Voyage of the Damned
After the brilliant short story of David Tennant’s 10th Doctor meeting Peter Davidson’s 5th, we saw the Titanic crash into the side of the TARDIS, ending the clip with Tennant’s signature “What?” No notes.
Voyage of the Damned is a fantastic Christmas episode of Doctor Who giving us another small glimpse into the everyday lives of aliens doing normal things (these were all rich, privileged aliens, but you know what I mean).
The episode is fun, has plenty of explosions, and lots of running. What else could you ask for?
#8 – Twice Upon a Time
This is one of my favourite multi-doctor storylines in Doctor Who history. The first Doctor (played here by the wonderful David Bradley) and the 12th (Peter Capaldi) struggle to let go of their faces, refusing to regenerate, and scared of change.
It is an emotional, heartfelt goodbye to Capaldi’s Doctor, who is one of my favourites (despite a rough start with the series 8 scripts…), as well as a bittersweet ending for the fabulous Bill Potts.
#7 – The Husbands of River Song
Who could forget the amazing fun of River Song’s final episode? She meets the 12th Doctor and has a honeymoon to die for.
We are also introduced to Nardole, who later becomes a full-time companion to the 12th Doctor, and he is absolutely brilliant.
#6 – The End of Time
The End of Time was David Tennant’s final story, with two episodes airing on Christmas and New Year’s. The story has its issues, but as the final farewell to many fans’ favourite Doctor, it was a magical, heartbreaking epic.
Wilfred Mott gets to have his time in the TARDIS, but his eventual role in the death of the Doctor is a tragic one.
#5 – The Time of the Doctor
Yet another final farewell episode, this time we say goodbye to Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor. Time of the Doctor comes straight after the fantastic 50tgh Anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, so it had a lot to live up to.
I think this fantastic Christmas special lives up to the hype, creating a grand, epic finale while also making it feel cozy and Christmassy.
#4 – The Runaway Bride
The Runaway Bride was the first Doctor Who special I watched where I was old enough to comprehend what was going on, within the episode and the structure of a series, etc, so I was very excited for it!
We are introduced to one of the best companions of all time, Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) as she is teleported from the aisle of her wedding to the TARDIS. What follows is a hilarious, upbeat special, with some darker reminders that the Doctor is hurting and needs someone to travel with to keep him from getting lost in that darkness.
#3 – The Christmas Invasion
I remember watching The Christmas Invasion with my mum on Christmas Day. I sat so close to the TV, cross-legged on the floor, and loved every minute of it! Unfortunately, we don’t see much of Tennant in his first full episode as the titular character, but those final scenes make up for it!
And who can forget Jackie Tyler’s line that will live on forever in Who lore? “I’m going to be killed by a Christmas tree.” Iconic.
This might be a weaker episode that some of the others on this list of every modern Doctor Who Christmas special ranked, but for nostalgia reasons, it’s at number three and it’s staying there!
#2 – Last Christmas
I love Nick Frost. I will watch anything he is in, so when I saw he was F-ing Santa in this Christmas special I was unbelievably excited! Frost and Capaldi’s comedic timing was key to a lot of the lighter moments of this Alien-type story, and I adored every second of it.
Despite not being number one on this list of every modern Doctor Who Christmas special ranked, I probably rewatch this special the most out of all of them.
#1 – A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol deserves top spot for the simple reason that it might be one of the most beautiful Doctor Who stories of the modern era. This Dickens tale has been done to death, and to be honest I’m not a fan of the original or any of the adaptations, but Doctor Who does something special with the original story and turned it into something that anyone would fall in love with.