While Jodie Whittaker has finished filming Doctor Who and is in her final batch of episodes, it feels a little early to write her Doctor’s obituary just yet. With three extended specials still to go and around 10 months before she regenerates, we’re still very much in the Jodie Whittaker era, with more adventures to form our lasting opinion of her time in the TARDIS before she leaves.
However, we do now know one thing her Doctor will never do – star in a Christmas special. And frankly, that will always be a crying shame.
Uniquely among the modern Doctors (technically, Christopher Eccleston’s The Unquiet Dead is set at Christmas) Whittaker will never take on a 25th December-themed festive frolic, after showrunner Chris Chibnall opted to focus on New Year’s Day episodes instead.
When this first started, I actually welcomed the change. When they were introduced to the series by Russell T Davies in 2005 (no, The Feast of Steven doesn’t really count) the Christmas specials were a fun tonic to the main series – but over the years both Davies and his successor Steven Moffat clearly struggled to find new takes on Yuletide Sci-Fi, leading to some pretty dire episodes.
This is especially unfortunate because, as a Who fan the only time you might watch the series with extended family is on Christmas Day. Cue the frantic cries of “Well no, it’s not normally like this…”
Of course, there are exceptions, and there are plenty of great Doctor Who Christmas specials (I won’t say which, because then you can fill this point in with whichever ones you like, and we can avoid another argument). But I didn’t think it was necessarily a bad thing for Doctor Who to avoid the pressure of another Christmas episode, try something new with new year and rest the specials for a while.
But now? Well, an entire era of Jodie Whittaker without a Christmas special feels like a serious missed opportunity. Whittaker’s Doctor is probably the most Christmassy Doctor ever – she was born on Christmas Day, and is often childlike, upbeat and fond of socialising – and it seems baffling to me that the BBC couldn’t have found their way to giving her one measly Crimbo caper. Peter Capaldi and Matt Smith had four each, and David Tennant had five!
Jodie Whittaker’s take on the Doctor fits Christmas better than any of the Doctors who preceded her, but instead she’s been saddled with relatively un-festive January episodes (invariably featuring the Daleks) that don’t allow her to spread the cheer she’s clearly perfect for.
I had held out some hope that in her final year she might get a last swing at a 25th December story but alas, it wasn’t to be – Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor will never have a Christmas special, and we’ll just have to live with it.
Coming up, it’s possible the Who-letide episodes aren’t dead entirely. It’s entirely feasible that returning showrunner Russell T Davies will be keen to resurrect the ‘appointment TV’ festive episodes that he first championed, and that we’ll see the TARDIS land in a snowdrift sometime in 2023.
But for Jodie Whittaker, that dream is over. For her Doctor Who specials it’s always winter – but never Christmas.
This year’s Radio Times Christmas double issue is on sale now, featuring two weeks of TV, film and radio listings, reviews, features and interviews with the stars.