The thoughts of its production team may well have turned to assembling next year’s seri… er, two mini-series.
But what if this recent invention were not, well, a recent invention and was instead a tradition winding back decades?
What possible delights and diversions may have been thrown up in the course of notional Dr Who Christmas specials in the 60s, 70s and 80s?
Here are five such episodes that, in an alternate reality, were the biggest and best festive TV events of their day:
Dr Who, Jamie and Victoria materialise in present-day London on Christmas Eve, and are shocked to find the city deserted. Jamie spots a newspaper with the headline CHRISTMAS IS CANCELLED. “Look,” he says, “Christmas has been cancelled!”
The trio journey through the city meeting a collection of eccentrics, including a beat poet (JOHN LENNON), a jazz pianist (DUDLEY MOORE) and an enigmatic bag lady (SHEILA HANCOCK) who warns them to steer clear of the one known as The Controller. “Well goodness me,” mutters the Doctor, “nobody’s going to control me, let alone at Christmas time.”
Suddenly the travellers are arrested and taken to a secret base where the Controller (ROBERT HARDY) discloses he is now ruler of Earth and has cancelled Christmas. “I suppose next you’ll be saying that Santa Claus doesn’t exist,” spits Victoria. “The girl has made a delightful suggestion!” drawls the Controller. Just then the Doctor pushes something over and in the ensuing confusion the travellers escape, blowing up the base on the way out. They celebrate at a newly-reopened discotheque. “All you need is love,” sings Jamie. “Ah yes – and perhaps a mince pie too,” chuckles the Doctor.
1972: NIGHTMARE AT CHRISTMAS
by Terrance Dicks
Dr Who, Jo Grant and the Brigadier are attending a peace conference between the world’s biggest superpowers that is being held at a stately home deep in the English countryside. Proceedings are suddenly derailed when the chair of the conference turns out to be Master (ROGER DELGADO).
He threatens to destroy the Earth unless he is able to broadcast a message on all the world’s television screens at 3pm on Christmas Day. “But he can’t do that,” splutters Jo, “that’s the time of the Queen’s Christmas Message!” “Good lord you’re right,” replies the Doctor.
A local landowner (PETER GILMORE) and his wife (GLENDA JACKSON) smuggle Jo out of the conference and take her to London, where she meets a BBC executive (GEOFFREY KEEN) who contacts the Queen’s secretary (DEREK NIMMO) and arranges for Her Majesty to be transported to a secret UNIT base deep in the English countryside for safety.
Meanwhile the Doctor solves a series of logic puzzles to short circuit the Master’s satellite relay system and broadcast his own message to the planet: “Don’t worry; the Master’s safely behind bars. The Queen will be with you shortly. Oh, Merry Christmas, b’the way!”
1978: CHRISTMAS EVE OF DESTRUCTION
by Douglas Adams
Dr Who receives a call in the TARDIS from Chancellor of the Exchequer Denis Healey (DENIS HEALEY), who warns him that all the money markets on Earth have shut down spontaneously and the Bank of England has vanished. “Perhaps it’s fallen down the back of the sofa,” the Doctor quips. “Silly billy,” snaps the chancellor.
Materialising in London, the Doctor and Romana discover the chairman of the Bank of England (KENNETH WILLIAMS) acting most peculiarly, as if under some sort of mesmeric trance. The new head of UNIT, Brigadier De’Ath (GEOFFREY PALMER), appears similarly compromised, while a BBC newsreader (ANGELA RIPPON) starts speaking in tongues.
With the help of a Cambridge professor (PETER JONES), a junior civil servant in the Ministry of Prices and Consumer Protection (MICHAEL PALIN) and a Fine Fare checkout girl (TOYAH WILLCOX), the Doctor and Romana are able to deduce the Earth has slipped sideways through a time mirror and is reflecting back on itself.
All is restored to normal seconds before Christmas Day arrives and the Doctor gives Romana her present: a talking calculator, voiced by LARRY GRAYSON.
1982: THE NEXUS OF POSSIBILITIES
by Christopher H Bidmead
Dr Who, Tegan and Nyssa are sampling the delights of 20th century Florence, when suddenly the Master (ANTHONY AINLEY) arrives in his TARDIS disguised as a gondola. “So – you escaped from the Xeraphin Citadel on pre-historic Earth,” explains the Doctor.
“Yes, and I’ve returned to conquer the present-day Earth by infecting every Christmas tree on the planet with a wood-eating beetle that will commence ingestion when I press this button,” the Master laughs. “Soon my little pets will lay waste to your pathetic world.”
Two British tourists (KATE O’MARA and DENNIS WATERMAN) overhear the Master’s diabolical scheme and, enlisting the help of an Italian waiter (JIM DAVIDSON) and a local street entertainer (KEITH HARRIS), come to the rescue of the Doctor and his companions. Nyssa is taken ill and spends the rest of the adventure in the Tardis, while the Doctor and Tegan chase the Master round Florence before cornering him in a very brightly lit festive grotto.
The Master is squashed by a giant sleigh and the Doctor is forced to dress as Father Christmas and distribute presents to local children. “Good on yer Doc,” quips Tegan, “now how about some figgy pudding!”
1988: CHRISTMAS CARNIVAL 2088
by John Nathan-Turner and Andrew Cartmel
Dr Who is asked by his companion Ace to reveal his true identity. Just then an enormous explosion rips through the TARDIS and the pair are transported to Basingstoke in 2088 where a Christmas street party is taking place.
The Doctor meets the local mayor (PAUL SHANE) who invites him to declare the carnival underway, and the Doctor responds by performing a string of magic tricks. While a local band (BROTHER BEYOND) perform contemporary versions of Christmas carols, Ace befriends a streetwise scallywag (YVETTE FIELDING) with a dark secret: she has been possessed by rogue timelord Omega (VOICE: WINDSOR DAVIES).
Just then a phalanx of alien warriors led by the mysterious Ackack (HELEN SHAPIRO) arrives and lays waste to the carnival. The Doctor uses his magic powers to defeat everyone and save the day. “So *who* are you?” asks Ace as the pair wander off to find the TARDIS. “Exactly!” grins the Doctor.
*Since the last one.