“Doctor Who’s” annual Christmas special is always a treat for fans and the 2015 installment — “The Husbands of River Song” — is no different. At long last, River (Alex Kingston) is back for an adventure with the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and the chemistry between the two actors — who’ve never appeared on “Doctor Who” together — is bound to be off the charts. Plus, the Doctor is now without a companion after the departure of Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald. Could River be the Doctor’s new traveling companion?
Before the Dec. 25 premiere on BBC America, here’s our take on past “Doctor Who” Christmas specials, ranked from best to worst:
1. ‘The End of Time’
This is a given. David Tennant’s send-off was the perfect goodbye to his Doctor, and his final words — “I don’t want to go” — still make fans emotional to this day. Add that to the fact that the two-parter took viewers to Gallifrey, and this is the best Christmas special yet.
2. ‘A Christmas Carol’
Matt Smith’s first Christmas special is also his best to date. The episode had then-companions Amy and Rory largely absent as the Doctor helped this episode’s Scrooge, Michael Gambon’s Kazran Sardick, resolve his lifetime of crotchetiness. Like all of “Doctor Who’s” best storylines, the underlying romance was beautiful and tragic, and “A Christmas Carol” was a lovely pause in Smith’s mystery-heavy story arcs.
3. ‘Voyage of the Damned’
If only Kylie Minogue could have been the Doctor’s companion for more than one episode. The Doctor’s loneliness shines through as he travels on the space version of the Titanic, and this kooky episode showcases everything that “Doctor Who” does best. Add that to the heartbreaking end and the fantastic chemistry between Minogue and Tennant, and this is one of the show’s best episodes.
4. ‘The Christmas Invasion’
The first Christmas special of new “Who” is loved for being just that. Sure, there’s the killer Christmas tree, and Tennant is asleep for a good portion of the episode, and the special effects weren’t at their best, but come on! The introduction of Tennant will always be a fan-favorite.
5. ‘The Runaway Bride’
For fans of Donna Noble (especially Doctor Donna), “The Runaway Bride” has a special place of honor for introducing her character. While she transforms into a much more interesting companion farther into Series 4, Catherine Tate provides a nice contrast to the romantic relationship between the Doctor and Rose and the one-sided relationship to come after between him and Martha Jones.
6. ‘The Snowmen’
The second introduction to Clara Oswald was hardly as good as “Asylum of the Daleks,” but “The Snowmen” showed off her spunk and clever personality more than its predecessor. Add that to the fact Vastra, Jenny Flint and Strax are added as allies and that the Great Intelligence is first introduced, and it’s definitely not the worst special.
7. ‘Last Christmas’
While this isn’t necessarily a bad special, it is pretty scattered — and for very good reason. It was originally meant to serve as the exit of Clara Oswald, but instead Jenna Coleman decided at the last minute to stick with the show, necessitating a change in script. That all said, it’s still a fun Christmas adventure for the Doctor and Clara and resolved the issue set up by the Season 9 finale of the companion no longer traveling with the Time Lord.
8. ‘The Time of the Doctor’
You might think Smith’s final episode would be a special one. Unfortunately, the 2013 Christmas special was a confusing mess. It was also a little too obvious, with the setting being a town called Christmas for no reason whatsoever. There were nice touches — like a cameo by Karen Gillan — but that moment felt more like a slam against Clara than anything else. In the Doctor’s final minutes, he dreamed of the other companion. While it’s an important episode — every regeneration is — it was one of the worst specials yet.
9. ‘The Next Doctor’
As much as we love David Morrissey, his run as Jackson Lake was a bit bland. The episode gets points for its use of Cybermen, and for continuing the discussion of the Doctor’s feelings of loneliness. But all in all, meh.
10. ‘The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe’
“The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe” was a fun twist on “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and had a happy resolution, but it was hardly one of “Doctor Who’s” best specials. The acid rain and wood creatures were some of the zaniest and anticlimactic of “Doctor Who’s” storylines, but at least the final scene where the Doctor join Amy and Rory for Christmas is an emotional gut punch.