In the short time since Chris Chibnall (Broadchurch) assumed the role of show runner for Doctor Who, he has taken pride in shaking things up. In addition to a new Doctor (Jodie Whittaker, Broadchurch) who has a new outlook on life, there is new theme music, a new TARDIS (inside and out), and new companions who the Doctor treats as equals and friends rather than disciples. Change comes with the territory for fans of a show about a time-and-space travelling alien who regenerates about every two years.
Through five Doctors, numerous companions, many wardrobe changes, and dozens of alien species, one thing remained the same: The Doctor Who Christmas Special. Every year of the New Who era, starting with The Christmas Invasion in 2005, Whovians were able to sit down with their families on Christmas Day and enjoy a new episode of Doctor Who. This year, however, instead of a Christmas special, fans will see a marathon of previous Christmas specials on December 24th and 25th, with a new Doctor Who episode airing on New Year's Day (renamed Who Year's Day by the BBC for the occasion).
It sounds like a small change. After all, the new holiday episode is only airing a week later than usual. How much difference can a week make? But these Christmas episodes are special to fans. The first one, The Christmas Invasion, has a special place in my heart as the first time I saw the love between Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant), my favorite companion and Doctor. Watching them holding hands and looking into the sky at the end of the episode will always be a favorite Who moment.
Other Christmas specials introduced fan favorite characters such as Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) and were the final bows for the Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Doctors. While fans do not always know what to expect from the Doctor Who Christmas Special, they know to expect something big, and often something show-changing.
I don't know what to expect with this Who Year's Day special. Will it be New Year's themed? Will it be funny or serious? Will it include the new companions?
Here's what I do know: I am pleased with almost everything Chibnall has done with Doctor Who series 11. I love Whitaker's Doctor and the new companions (especially Mandip Gill's Yaz), and I have thoroughly enjoyed the six episodes I've seen thus far. In fact, my only quibble is with the interior TARDIS design: looks a little too much like the Terrigenesis Chamber from Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
So, while I am a bit sad that there will be no Christmas Who this year, I am cautiously optomistic that Chibnall will give fans something enjoyable and memorable…and he'd better. Thing is, if you're going to change a thirteen year tradition, you better have a really good reason for doing it.
Because – in the words of Tennant's Tenth Doctor from The Christmas Invasion…
Make sure to check out Bleeding Cool's resident expert on all things Doctor Who Rich Johnston every Sunday of Who season as he offers his takeaways from the week's adventures. Here's a look at his thoughts on last week's 'Demons of the Punjab':
This week? It's the seventh episode of Doctor Who's series 11, 'Kerblam!':
Doctor Who Series 11, Episode 7 'Kerblam!': A mysterious message arrives in a package addressed to the Doctor, leading her, Graham, Yaz and Ryan to investigate the warehouse moon orbiting Kandoka, and the home of the galaxy's largest retailer: Kerblam!