After much rumour and speculation it has been confirmed that a new episode of Doctor Who will NOT air on Christmas Day in 2018. Instead, an episode will be broadcast on New Year’s Day 2019. Does this mark the end of the traditional Christmas Special, a staple of so many people’s festive period? Or is it actually a smart move that will actually benefit the programme?

Since Doctor Who returned triumphantly to our screens in 2005 it has had a permanent home on Christmas Day. For 13 consecutive years a new Doctor Who episode has been broadcast on December 25th in the UK. In years where we have not been treated to a full season the Christmas Special remained a constant. That run will however come to an end this year. Recently these episodes have proved to be particularly momentous, featuring regenerations for the last two incarnations of the Doctor. Prior to that we had the first half of another regeneration story that concluded on New Year’s Day. The negative reaction of disappointment for this news merely indicates how much viewers have enjoyed these episodes.

The End of an Era

Christmas traditions are a powerful part of the festive period. Modern Doctor Who has been a constant presence in the Christmas Day schedule for over a decade. In the classic era that was not the case. However, when The Christmas Invasion was broadcast in 2005 it started another Christmas tradition. Excitement was particularly high that day as it would be David Tennant’s first episode as the Tenth Doctor. Family traditions began that day and would continue for the next 13 years. Sitting down to watch Doctor Who after the Christmas dinner became a part of the day for many a UK household. Now it has been taken away.

Christmas Day is a prestigious slot for a television programme. As families gather around the television sets on a day when shops and businesses are largely closed. Some might interpret the decision as, in someway, a reflection of the BBC losing faith or interest in what once was one of the Corporation’s strongest brands. The reality is probably more reflective of the busy schedules and competition for a Christmas slot. So removing Doctor Who from that arena could actually be a great move.

Doctor Who - Christmas Special 2017 - Twice Upon A Time - Pictures Shows: Pearl Mackie (Bill), Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), David Bradley (The Doctor) - BBC 2017
Doctor Who – Christmas Special 2017 – Twice Upon A Time – Pictures Shows: Pearl Mackie (Bill), Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), David Bradley (The Doctor) – BBC 2017

Smart Move

Although Doctor Who began the Christmas Day run as one of the centrepieces of the BBC One schedule times have changed in more recent years. Such is the competitive nature of the Christmas Day schedule, the Christmas Specials of the Peter Capaldi era were not in a consistent timeslot. Last Christmas, Capaldi’s first Christmas special was broadcast at 6:15pm. The remaining three of the Twelfth Doctor’s era began before 6pm. Twice Upon a Time for instance started at 5:30pm, a time not often seen in the modern era. This is indicative of the competition for a place on the most sought after day of television all year. In 2017 Doctor Who had to compete against Christmas Specials, often extended instalments, of ‘Call the Midwife’, ‘Eastenders’ and ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. That’s just on BBC One and doesn’t even consider the competition for viewers on other channels.

So does a move to New Year’s Day, another day where shops and businesses are again largely closed and families gather around televisions, actually make more sense? David Tennant’s swansong, the second instalment of The End of Time, was watched by more viewers than all but two episodes broadcast on Christmas Day. This is of course largely due to viewers wishing to see the end of the Tenth Doctor and Russell T Davies’ era at the helm. But it does suggest that viewers are willing to watch Doctor Who on New Year’s Day in significant numbers.

Doctor Who Series 11

Change my dear…

Equally, being free of Christmas Day enables Chris Chibnall to avoid having to shoehorn in snow and Christmas trees into a story. Over the years we have been treated to Robot Santa’s, actual Santa, killer Christmas trees and animated snowmen. In 2019 there will be no necessity to add a festive element. Instead, a solid story can hopefully be at the forefront of the episode. After all, we just want great Doctor Who stories to enjoy no matter when they are broadcast.

Series 11 has seen huge changes onscreen, behind the camera and to the broadcasting of the show. Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor has been a hit. We’ve had new companions, a new sonic and a new TARDIS. The move from Saturday to Sunday evenings has proved successful. Shifting an episode from Christmas Day to New Year’s Day is just another change to add to the list.

Doctor Who will be broadcast on New Year’s Day 2019. Series 11 continues this week with Kerblam! The Doctor Who adventure continues…

Doctor Who continues this Sunday at 6.30pm GMT on BBC One and at 8pm EST on BBC America with Kerblam! by Pete McTighe. For further broadcast times in your region, check local listings. Series 11 stars Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien) and Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair).

Kerblam! guest stars Julie Hesmondhalgh and Lee Mack and is directed by Jennifer Perrott.

“Delivery for the Doctor!”

A mysterious message arrives in a package addressed to the Doctor. It leads her, Graham, Yaz and Ryan to investigate the warehouse moon orbiting Kandoka, and the home of the galaxy’s largest retailer: Kerblam!


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