Ranking the Doctor Who Christmas Specials

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David Tennant and Billie Piper in “The Christmas Invasion”. (Photo: BBC)

2. The Christmas Invasion

“The Christmas Invasion” was the first Christmas special for a whole new generation of Doctor Who viewers. As such, it not only introduced the holiday installment concept to the franchise, but set the standard for what would come after. Good thing that it’s a wildly fun ride with a ton of heart.

This episode also marks David Tennant’s first adventure as the Doctor. And yet, it sidelines him for much of the story. Instead, Billie Piper’s Rose gets to take the lead. This is, in retrospect, an incredibly smart play. For many new Who fans, this is their first regeneration and letting Piper serve as a bridge between the Ninth and Tenth Doctor eras helps ease us all through the change. Plus, it explores the idea of who Rose is in the Doctor’s absence. The episode eventually reminds her — and us — that even without him, Rose is still capable of resolve and bravery. And by the end of the story, we still manage to get a pretty good handle on the kind of man the Tenth Doctor is likely to be. (The “world’s champion,” indeed.)

The plot is pretty basic. The Doctor’s regeneration is drawing aliens to earth who want to invade while he’s not there to stop them. They’re part of a fairly unmemorable species called the Sycorax, but their arrival is preceded by a torrent of deadly holiday cheer. There are killer Christmas trees and murderous Santa Clauses with flame throwing musical instruments. It’s amazing. The absolute best Doctor Who holiday episodes are the ones that are the most unabashedly embrace their own Christmas elements. And “Christmas Invasion” does not disappoint in that regard.