Christmas has many traditions that people observe in their own way, from when do we get to open presents to what foods we get to eat. My favorite Christmas tradition is watching the annual Doctor Who special on BBC America.
It may not seem like a normal tradition to some people, but it is very normal to geeks like me. Doctor Who has been around as long as I’ve been alive. These Christmas specials are special on so many different levels. They are wonderful stories in their own right, setting up the next season of Doctor Who, and they demonstrate the universal truth about the Christmas holiday. “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe” taught us the importance of family at the holidays. “Last Christmas” taught us to believe in Santa Claus, even with an alien crab stuck to our heads. “Voyage of the Damned” told us why Titanic is a bad name for a ship in any universe.
To fans like me, the Doctor Who Christmas specials are just as important as watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas or It’s a Wonderful Life every year. These are special episodes made to make us laugh, make us cry and tease us for what’s happening next season.
Sometimes, they even help us say goodbye to the old Doctor and hello to the new one. The past three Doctors have all regenerated during a Christmas special. The 10th Doctor, David Tennant, died in “The End of Time” and regenerated into the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith. Consequently, Matt Smith died in “The Time of the Doctor” and regenerated into the 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi. I think BBC does this to make it easy on the fans as they watch these specials on Christmas with family and friends who share their enthusiasm for Doctor Who.
The other great aspect of the Doctor Who Christmas Specials is the wonderful actors that guest star in these episodes. Kylie Minogue played a waitress on the Titanic starliner in “Voyage of the Damned” Christmas episode. Michael Gambon and opera star Katherine Jenkins were in my favorite Doctor Who Christmas special, “A Christmas Carol.”
The origins of the Doctor Who Christmas specials date back to 1964. During a seven-part serial “The Daleks Master Plan” premiered one episode on Christmas Day called “The Feast of Steven” which included breaking the “fourth wall” in television, wishing viewers a Happy Christmas. The tradition really started in 2005 with “The Christmas Invasion” as the Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) helped stop an alien invasion on Christmas Day. From then on, people have enjoyed their Christmas pudding and spiked Eggnog with an extra helping of Doctor Who.
Some people will tune into 24 hours of A Christmas Story, go to church or maybe gather around the piano and sing Christmas carols on Christmas night, but not us diehard Whovians. We will sit and wait and tune into the BBC for our annual tradition of the Doctor, his sonic screwdriver and the TARDIS. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without the Doctor.