In “Hell Bent,” Doctor Who returns to the desert, causing a coup in Gallifrey and revisiting America for a last goodbye. It’s taken billions of years, but the Doctor has finally returned to Gallifrey for a less-than-joyful reunion with his fellow Time Lords. In “Hell Bent” it’s revealed that the struggle the Doctor endured in “Heaven Sent” was less about keeping the secret of the hybrid and more about establishing a bargaining chip to save Clara. Peter Capaldi uses his impressive ability to convey intensity and power even while being still, increasing the drama of “Hell Bent.”
“Face the Raven” leaves us mourning the loss of another Doctor Who companion with the death of Clara Oswald. Though it had been announced that Jenna Coleman would be leaving Doctor Who in Season 9, closing out Clara Osgood’s chapter through death makes her departure stand out. “Face the Raven” is a strong episode not only because of the loss of companion Clara, but also because it’s grounded with the return of Rigsy and heightened with the appearance of Ashildr. It’s also fantastic because the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) changes into a maroon velvet jacket after the youth apparel he’s been wearing lately is destroyed during an adventure with Clara.
In the opening episode of Season 9, “The Magician’s Apprentice,” Doctor Who reminds us that though he is a fearsome and dangerous opponent, that best part of the Doctor is his compassion. He may not exactly be a man of peace, but he is man that, at his best, finds the good in others. In the prologue to Season 9, the Doctor says, “An enemy’s just a friend you don’t really know yet.” The Doctor has lost many friends and loved ones over the course of his long life, and at the same time he has battled some of his foes for more than a millennium. In “The Magician’s Apprentice” we learn that being a Time Lord makes for some very complex relationships.
The 9th season of Doctor Who premieres on September 19th. Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman return as the Doctor and companion Clara Oswald. The fascinating dynamic between the Master/Missy and the Doctor will continue in Season 9, with Michelle Gomez returning for the series. We’re still reeling from her maniacal reveal in “Dark Water” and can’t wait to see what Missy will bring in Season 9.
Season 9 of Doctor Who will include classic Doctor Who aliens such as the Daleks and Zygons, while also giving viewers some fun twists with a highway man, Vikings, ghosts, mercenary robots, creatures with eyes on their hands, and even a Dragon! It has also been reported that the Judoon and the Hath from The Doctor’s Daughter will also make a cameo. In an interview Peter Capaldi noted “There is an epic sweep to this season and I think the villains and monsters reflect that. Great new ones, brilliant old ones, and some very scary creatures looming in stories with real emotional ambitions.”
As the holidays drew near, we began to wonder what this year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special would bring. Even the name of this year’s special, “Last Christmas,” helped get us in the holiday spirit. Enjoying an episode of Doctor Who after Christmas dinner has become a regular tradition, with this year being the 10th special. There have been a lot of good Christmas specials, which we recently ranked in “Doctor Who: Christmas Specials from Best to Worst.” After seeing Santa appear in the TARDIS at the end of the last episode of this season, “Death in Heaven” (S08E12), the anticipation for “Last Christmas” was high.
The Doctor Who Christmas special “Last Christmas” will show at 6:15pm on BBC One and 9:00pm ET on BBC America on December 25. It will mark the 10th anniversary of the Doctor Who Christmas special. The convention of having a episode on Christmas Day was started in 2005, with the new series of Doctor Who, and has grown increasingly popular. They are set during the holidays, always involve snow, and, unless the Doctor has just regenerated, they often end with the Doctor standing outside the TARDIS being asked to come to Christmas dinner.
We have enjoyed all of the Doctor Who Christmas episodes so far, but we have certainly enjoyed some more than others. Part of ranking these specials is to understand they are not just regular episodes. They are watched on Christmas Day, with family and friends, to a larger than normal audience. On such a day we expect the Doctor to do more than be heroic, clever, and funny—he should also make us more merry. The storyline, performance, and engagement are important considerations, but holiday spirit is key when ranking the Doctor Who Christmas specials.