Without a Christmas Day special this year, Whovians will have to get their Christmas fix through other means. For some, the next best thing to the TARDIS is to curl up with a good book. So let’s look at some festive-themed Doctor Who books you can get your hands on for the week ahead.
The Target Collection
This year saw Penguin Random House relaunch the dormant Target imprint for five new titles novelising Doctor Who stories from the modern series. Among those, two of the show’s Christmas specials appear – the very first and the latest.
The Christmas Invasion
I reviewed The Christmas Invasion by Jenny T Colgan over on BlogtorWho in March. As well as being delighted that the Children in Need cutaway sequence was added, I found Colgan’s use of interior monologue was a great way to enhance a challenging, dialogue-heavy story. As the first TV Christmas special for Doctor Who, The Christmas Invasion holds a special place in fandom, so this new take makes a great gift for the nostalgic Whovian.
Twice Upon a Time
Meanwhile, Twice Upon a Time is Paul Cornell’s take on the 2017 Christmas special. Not only is this the final outing for Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, it’s Steven Moffat’s last script as showrunner. Not to mention it has to work in backstory from 1966’s The Tenth Planet to faciliate the First Doctor’s guest role and include two regeneration scenes.
The fact that Cornell does all this in a lean 224 pages is a testament to the novelist’s efficient approach to storytelling. While it definitely leans more on rendering the action rather than delving into the character’s heads, this is a loving adaptation of a sombre story. If you like to get a little maudlin at Christmas, look no further.
The Twelve Doctors of Christmas
This 2016 anthology included twelve short stories featuring each incarnation fo the Doctor. Naturally side-stepping the War Doctor since the midst of the Time War probably wasn’t a period of goodwill. Replete with artwork from a different illustrator for each story. The stories are very quick and straightforward but loaded with excellent descriptions to complement the illustrations. There’s a nice mishmash of elements from Classic Who and New Who, which I always like as a way to integrate the fictonal universe better. The Sixth Doctor parties in New New York, the Ninth Doctor delivers Rose’s red bicycle and the Jamie sniffs out a Slitheen.
As we’ll see later on, the Eighth Doctor seems to get the best Christmas stories. And as a more emotional incarnations liable to moments of sentimentality, it’s safe to say that his story is the most touching. Not to mention the way it ties into the Eighth Doctor’s Christmas outings on audio.
OK, so maybe I said this was about Doctor Who books. But I feel like including an audiobook or three isn’t cheating. Released only a few months ago, the second set in the Eighth Doctor’s ongoing Ravenous saga saw a stunning two-part story from John Dorney.
The second and third episodes respectively, Better Watch Out and Fairytale of Salzburg see the Doctor, Liv and Helen arrive in modern day Austria just in time for Krampusnacht. Naturally, things are not what they seem and a silent night turns decidedly more chaotic. The adventure culminates in a moving moment for a regular cast member and a final Christmas twist worthy of holiday classic status.
As we alluded to earlier, this is the culmination of several instances of the Eighth Doctor being treated to a festive audio tale at the hands of Big Finish. So let’s look at the last time this happened…
Scheduling the final series of The Eighth Doctor Adventures meant that Big Finish were able to produce two Christmas specials this series. But it’s the second, Relative Dimensions, released in December 2010, that I think will please fans looking to indulge.
Having reunited with Susan the previous year, and met his great-grandson Alex, of course the Doctor invites them round for Christmas dinner. Along with companion Lucie, the foursome are soon caught up in the aftermath of a long-overdue stocking stuffer. Loaded with fanservice, this story can come off as a diversion during the build-up to the bombastic series finale the following March. However, for anyone binging the series, a moment of levity is a welcome break from the increasingly tense atmosphere. Not to mention it reminds the listeners of characters who will play key roles in the future.
One moment in particular has stuck in my mind that really emphasises how soppy the Doctor can be about his old friends. Not to mention creating an interesting instance of symbolism that plays out when the stories of Susan, Alex and Lucie comes to a head in a few month’s time.
The Chimes of Midnight
The Eighth Doctor loves his Christmas and The Chimes of Midnight is where that all began. Rob Shearman penned the sixth audio outing for Paul McGann’s Doctor digging deep into the history and psychology of current companion Charley. Despite being released in February 2002, this story’s setting and status as a fan-favourite has cemented it as the quintessential Doctor Who Christmas story.
To say much more would spoil a spectacular audio drama so I’ll just say that I recommend this highly, especially because you can pick it up for a mere £2.99 on download right now!