Ranking the Doctor Who Christmas Specials

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David Tennant, John Simm and Bernard Cribbins in “The End of Time”. (Photo: BBC)

4. The End of Time, Parts 1 and 2

Technically, “The End of Time” is more than just a Christmas episode. Its second half originally aired a week later, on New Year’s Day. But for purposes of this list we’ll count both parts as a single whole, because as a story, it’s just that good.

Actually, it’s not that good. Several pieces of this two-parter are actually quite bad. It’s also tonally all over the place, much too long and incredibly self-indulgent. And absolutely none of those things matter. David Tennant’s two-part farewell has a lot of things wrong with it – but it’s also one of the most heartbreaking stories the show’s ever done. It involves the return of Rassilon, the Time Lords, and the Master, along with a feeling of unavoidable, impending doom. Wilfred Mott, grandfather of former companion Donna Noble, is Ten’s companion on this adventure. Rassilon threatens to bring about the return of Gallifrey and the end of time, the Master sacrifices himself to save the Doctor, and Ten irradiates himself to save Wilf. By the end, it’s a multiple Kleenex-box situation, and we’re all ugly crying as Ten realizes what the prophecy of four knocks actually means.

Did we really need to see Ten take quite so long to regenerate? Did he need to check in on what seemed like virtually everyone he’d ever met? No. Does that random coda with Mickey and Martha even make sense? Not really. But there’s also no way you can watch his brief, wistful interaction with Rose Tyler – a Rose from the past who hadn’t even met Nine yet – and remain unmoved. This Doctor loved existing. He loved people. He loved being the Doctor. And you know what? We all loved it, too.