Doctor Who: revisiting Russell T. Davies’ Christmas specials

Better watch out: Journey’s End originally ended with a cliffhanger featuring the Cybermen inside the TARDIS, prompting the then-traditional “What? WHAT? … what?” ending. This scene was shot and features in the extras of the Series 4 boxset as a deleted scene. Davies was persuaded to cut the scene by Doctor Who Magazine writer Benjamin Cook, creating some distance between the downer ending of the finale and this special.

The End Of Time (2009-2010)

RTD’s final Christmas special is the one that has had the most influence on the format since. The Tenth Doctor was kind of born on Christmas Day, and he would kind of die around the same time. Notably, Davies pushed for a two-part finale to the specials year, so that they wouldn’t have to do a regeneration episode on Christmas Day. Featuring Part 1 and Part 2 in their titles for the first time since the classic era, The End Of Time two-parter was an epic event.

Set on and around the big day, the first part is festively foreboding, as Cribbins salutes the Queen’s speech, John Simm’s Master tucks into homeless people like they’re roast turkey, and Timothy Dalton issues silky-voiced, spittle-flecked narration about Christmas Day being the final day of planet Earth. If the casual audience wasn’t already a bit lost, then it ends with the ferociously surreal cliffhanger of everyone except a select few people turning into duplicates of the Master.

The Tenth Doctor’s era actually came on New Year’s Day, which must have been nice for parents with hangovers. After a showdown with the Time Lords that closes the entire Time War arc (for the moment), the climax brings the fatal four knocks and then a victory lap for both Davies and Tennant. There are tears, but because it’s Christmas, there are more conker-heads, in the form of the visiting Vinvocci.

Taking in the entire regular cast since 2005, it’s the final bow on a bombastic finale. Just to bring Tennant’s Christmas specials full circle, Gold even sneaks in an instrumental reprise of Song For Ten, shortly before Matt Smith’s Doctor explodes onto the screen.

Better watch out: Echoing the blanket promotion of Wallace & Gromit: A Matter Of Loaf & Death the previous Christmas, The End Of Time’s status as BBC One’s jewel in the crown was affirmed by Tennant’s place in the channel’s Christmas ident. Coupled with Tennant’s press tour, panel show bookings, and appearances in other comedies and dramas, it felt like he, if not the Doctor, was absolutely everywhere. But more importantly, is the reindeer thing canon?

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