“Well, I believe in children’s dreams. And laughter. General jolliness. Bringing joy to others through space and time, despite impossible odds.”
It’s funny how something can creep up on you, and before you know it, it’s become a tradition. Take the notion of there being a Doctor Who Christmas special. Before the series came back in 2005, there’d only ever been just the one episode shown on Christmas Day, and that was only down to a pure quirk in the 25th of December 1965 happening to fall on a Saturday while a Doctor Who season was airing.
Skip ahead to 2005, and suddenly we get killer Santas and lethal Christmas trees. Before you know it, every Christmas Day sees the nation’s favourite Time Lord up against all manner of festive threats, right up until 2018, when the BBC decided – in its infinite wisdom – to suddenly bump the latest seasonal episode to New Year’s Day. And with the stroke of a scheduler’s pen, it was no longer part of the furniture as far as Yuletide telly was concerned.
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For that year, at least. Maybe wiser heads have prevailed, as rumours are currently flying around that the Doctor will land on Christmas Day once more this year, due to photos leaking out of recent filming being done in Bristol, featuring… ah, well, that’d be telling. Maybe it’s all wishful thinking, and we’ll get another New Year’s Special. Or this could all just be a red herring, and we actually end up getting nothing before the series returns in 2020.
Either way, Titan Comics has totally got our backs this year, by giving us a comic Holiday (yuk to the Americanism, but I’ll let it pass, season of goodwill, and all that) Special. Yes, one way or another, we’ll get our festive fix in 2019, courtesy of regular comic adventures writer and artist team of Jody Houser and Roberta Ingranata, a dynamic duo who’ve earned their stripes during the last year or so, and deserve a shot at bringing us their very own take on a Doctor Who Christmas.
It’s become almost an expectation that all Doctor Who Christmas episodes will have all the seasonal trimmings turned up to 11 – snow, trees, tinsel, mortal peril (okay, so maybe the last one’s not something you’d usually associate with Christmas, but I’m not judging either way. You do you, dear reader). You’ll be pleased to know that in the case of this story, there’s an abundant amount of just what you’d expect, to the point you can almost feel the chill of the snowy alien planetscape coming off the page.
Actually, there’s something of a lovely red herring at the start, as it looks as though we’re in fact heading into full-on Scooby Doo territory, with strong suggestions of a spooky haunted alien theme park. It’s one thing that the TV series hasn’t ever really featured, with the closest they ever got to it being a story from the abandoned 1986 season, called The Nightmare Fair (the great thing about old school Who was the way that the titles never erred on the side of ambiguous – it was always ‘Curse’ this, ‘Death’ that, and ‘Doom’ the other).
Here, Houser deftfully wrong-foots us and sets up a mystery inside a riddle wrapped up for Christmas Day, with the Doctor and Team TARDIS finding they all remember a recent event differently – and not just like a Rashomon-style perspective or point of view thing, but wholly differing memories of where they’ve just been, and what just happened. They have to try and retrace their steps, and although the methodology used is slightly suspect, I’m feeling rather charitable as it’s Christmas (or, at least, it’s ostensibly Christmassy in the story), so I’ll let it pass.
All in all, this is a bit of lighthearted fluff (in the nicest possible sense), something fun which is rather nicely in keeping with the style and tone of the annual specials we get on TV. It leaves us on something of an enigmatic (rather than hazardous) cliffhanger, which makes for a pleasant change, and leaves you wanting to know the answers to the question that’s been posed to the Doctor and her fam. Yes, it’s a bit silly at times, but who can begrudge a touch of festive frivolity? Hopefully, this tale may well turn out to be the sort of gift you don’t wish you could return.
Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Holiday Special #1 is released on 13th November from Titan Comics.