It will never stop blowing my mind that we’ve had 10 seasons of
12. “THE END OF TIME PART 1”
No matter how many years removed we are, I’ll still never get over how disappointing David Tennant‘s final two-part story was to me. And before we get too far—I
11. “THE DOCTOR, THE WIDOW, AND THE WARDROBE”
I almost fell asleep typing the name of this episode. What a snore. A Christmas episode certainly ought to have whimsy, which “Doctor/Widow/Wardrobe” certainly had (the Doctor showing the Arwell family their Christmas digs was a delight), but whimsy soon gave way to rampant and unfettered sentimentality, which rang very false to me for some reason. It also didn’t help that the plot had one of those “Love Conquers All” denouements that are only really effective in rare instances, and a big waste of a reference to “The Caves of Androzani.” The carved Christmas tree people were in this one. Hmm.
10. “THE RETURN OF DOCTOR MYSTERIO”
If there’s one thing I will give any writer credit for, it’s doing something different, and introducing legitimate, costumed, comic book superheroes into the continuity of
9. “THE NEXT DOCTOR”
About 45% of this is a very good episode. Unfortunately, 55% of it is incredibly stupid and for that reason, I’m out. The public knew the Tenth Doctor’s days were numbered, so a special called “The Next Doctor” seemed like a very exciting prospect. And David Morrissey as someone who seemed like an amnesiac future incarnation of the Doctor stuck in Victorian times was a brilliant idea, and then the reveal that he’s actually just a human with brainwaves from the real Doctor was another nice stroke from Russell T. Davies. But for God’s sake, a giant Cyberman wreaking havoc across London…so, so dumb. And it never overcomes such a stupid plot device. The following full season had to canonically retcon that garbage.
8. “VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED”
Heart and cheesiness I can take in heaping spoonfuls, especially at Christmas, but my tolerance for hokum is aggressively low, and “Voyage of the Damned” is almost nothing but. A pretty great set-up in an interstellar disaster movie, evoking things like
7. “THE TIME OF THE DOCTOR”
How do you follow something as joyous and brilliant as “The Day of the Doctor?” Not only that, how do you use that episode to say farewell to a beloved Doctor who also happens to be that particular showrunner’s first? Well, it turns out you can’t do it super well. While a good portion of the character development hit with me—including the Doctor being forced to stay put for hundreds and hundreds of years—there was so much attempt to answer each and every dangling plot thread of the Eleventh Doctor’s era that none of them were all that satisfying. But the performances by Smith and Coleman are wonderful and it was a fairly fitting farewell, it just didn’t hang together ultimately.
6. “THE RUNAWAY BRIDE”
There’s a certain strain of these Christmas specials that is in no way Christmasy at all. “Doctor Mysterio” is one for sure, another is the very second one ever, “Runaway Bride.” After the gut-punch of a season ender that was “Doomsday,” the cliffhanger of a bride (Donna Noble, we’d find out later) suddenly being in the TARDIS was particularly jarring. But aside from some evil robo snowmen, the most jarring thing was how clearly un-December the special was. That notwithstanding, I rather enjoy this episode, because it gave us our first team up of Tennant and Catherine Tate and it showed us the first hint that the Tenth Doctor had a real streak of darkness in him. So, you know, fun for the holidays.
5. “THE HUSBANDS OF RIVER SONG”
Now River Song has always been a problematic character for her constant “I know something you don’t know” attitude and unclear relationship to the Doctor (like, I get that they’re married, but what does that mean?), but following only a few weeks after the end of series 9—in which we saw the Doctor say goodbye to Clara Oswald—the show gave us a lovely and sad farewell to River, in a story that was mostly exceedingly goofy. Somehow, seeing surly Capaldi put into these ridiculous plots makes them all the funnier.
4. “THE SNOWMEN”
Series 7 was a particularly weird one, split between two calendar years with a hefty break in the middle, and even different companions from one half to the next. “The Snowmen” is the bridge between Sad Eleven’s hiding after losing Amy (and to a lesser extent Rory) and his tenure with Clara. It introduced us to Victorian-era Clara (who, let’s face it, probably should have stayed the companion) as well as the ultimate villain—the Great Intelligence. And, not for nothing, but it was a pretty darn scary with the snowmen full of teeth and stuff. And hey, Paternoster Gang is never a bad thing in my book.
3. “THE CHRISTMAS INVASION”
This is the one that started it all. Of the many genius things Russell T. Davies did in bringing back
2. “LAST CHRISTMAS”
Series 8 was a departure in a lot of ways, both for
1. “A CHRISTMAS CAROL”
Just as series 5 was Steven Moffat crafting a nearly perfect first season, his first Christmas special remains his best, and the best
And there you have it. This is, of course, my list, but you no doubt have your own. Share your ranking of