The Christmas Special was a yearly tradition for BBC Wales Doctor Who, beginning with 2005's The Christmas Invasion, all the way through to 2017's Twice Upon a Time. On 25 December, each year since the series was revived, a new special would air on BBC One.
Many Christmas Specials have introduced important plot points (e.g., new companion or a new incarnation of the Doctor) and were vital to series continuity. They were often the most-watched episodes of the programme in the respective years in which they aired. The Next Doctor, Voyage of the Damned and The End of Time were amongst the best-rated episodes of all time.
Beginning with series 11, the annual Christmas Special was scrapped in favour of a New Year Special, 2019's Resolution. Like winter specials which came before it, the New Year Special took place on the holiday, and aired outside of the regular run.
Though largely a phenomenon of BBC Wales Doctor Who, there were two minor precedents for the Christmas Special in the original era of the programme.
The very first episode to premiere on Christmas Day was "The Feast of Steven", very nominally the seventh part of the 1965-1966 serial The Daleks' Master Plan. It had almost nothing to do with the plot of that 12-parter, and was consciously written as a "Christmas sidestep" from the Dalek adventure. Indeed, it ended with a fourth wall-breaking "Happy Christmas" from the First Doctor to the audience.
Another example was A Girl's Best Friend, the pilot for K9 and Company. Though technically, therefore, not a "Doctor Who Christmas Special", it is now generally regarded as a part of "classic series lore". Its Christmas theme was not especially obvious until its ending scenes, where Sarah Jane is able to relax following her adventure, and K9 actually sings "We Wish You a Merry Christmas".
List of Doctor Who Christmas specials
- 1965 - "The Feast of Steven" (season 3)
- 2005 - The Christmas Invasion (series 2)
- 2006 - The Runaway Bride (series 3)
- 2007 - Voyage of the Damned (series 4)
- 2008 - The Next Doctor (series 4)
- 2009 - The End of Time: Part One (series 4)
- 2010 - A Christmas Carol (series 6)
- 2011 - The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe (series 7)
- 2012 - The Snowmen (series 7)
- 2013 - The Time of the Doctor (2013 specials)
- 2014 - Last Christmas (series 9)
- 2015 - The Husbands of River Song (series 9)
- 2016 - The Return of Doctor Mysterio (series 10)
- 2017 - Twice Upon a Time (series 10)
- 2005 - The Unquiet Dead (series 1) (according to Russell T Davies, "the forgotten Christmas Special", though it aired as part of the regular series)