The Doctor Who Christmas special is now as much a part of the festive season as a dinner so fattening it might as well come with a health warning & the race to be top of the pops come December 25! Incidentally, top of the Yule charts in the year of Doctor Who's first ever Christmas Day broadcast were the Beatles with I Want To Hold Your Hand, the Doctor such a fan of theirs he copied Paul's hair in his next incarnation!
Viewers in 1965 who had slumped in front of the telly after a slap-up feed on turkey with all the trimmings & a few drinks ( in the case of the adults), or excited after Santa's visit ( the kids), would find themselves welcoming another white-haired hero into their homes- the First Doctor...
Alongside his companions Steven & Sara, he would spread a little festive cheer during Episode Seven of The Daleks' Master Plan! Grab yourself a mince pie, hmm? You might wonder why The Feast Of Steven-named after the day upon which Good King Wenceslas looked out, according to John Mason Neale's 1853 carol, adapted from the thirteenth century 'spring carol' Tempus adest florinum ( 'it is time for flowering')- all together now!
Good King Wenceslas looked outLovely stuff, eh? Alas, they're not able to convince the Daleks, the Monk & Mavic Chen to go wassailing with them. But the tone of The Feast Of Steven is much lighter than what had gone before, in line with a BBC diktat that surely nobody would want to see something as hard-hitting as the previous episodes of The Daleks Master Plan at Christmas time - Katarina had become the first of the Doctor's companions to die in Episode Four, for goodness' sake! Although that would fit the theme of the average EastEnders Christmas special.
on the feast of Stephen,
when the snow lay round about,
deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shone the moon that night,
though the frost was cruel,
when a poor man came in sight,
gathering winter fuel.
Landing in Sixties London, where very little swinging is going on, the Doctor decides the best thing to do is nip out to fix 'Sexy's' scanner while his friends remain safely inside the bowels of the venerable Type 40 ( imagine this but with tinsel & decorations littering the console room, just for fun. Also, note the lack of a Santa hat on the hat-stand. Dear dear dear, most disturbing). They've actually landed outside a police station, where some bobbies are quite understandably perplexed.
Was that police box there a second ago? Arresting the Doctor moments after he's stepped out the door, he's taken in for questioning. Where's he from? He's a man of the universe. What was he doing inside a police box? It's his home. Meanwhile Steven has disguised himself as a policeman.....it should be pointed out that at this point they're all sober, just to be clear. Sara has been trying to fix the scanner, but told to move on by a policeman & subsequently nearly finding herself in the slammer- luckily they escape, legging it back to the TARDIS. They need a safe place to destroy that pesky taranium, & quick!
Somehow, they then end up in Hollywood for a bit of slapstick fun, leaving a film crew dumbfounded at how they've managed to pull off the ' special effect' of dematerialisation- time for a toast to the festive season, & the Doctor breaking the fourth wall by wishing "...a happy Christmas to all of you at home!"
Sadly the whole episode is one of the 97 currently missing, presumed wiped, and it's also the one episode that is highly unlikely to ever be recovered as it was never sold abroad. All that exists are some off air recordings of the soundtrack and some telesnaps. A recreation of the famous scene was released as a DVD extra with An Adventure in Space and Time...
The whole 24 minute episode has recently been given a new lease of life in the form of a fan made animation, which is quite a Christmas present in itself...
The Feast Of Steven made another surprising return, of sorts, this year. As Doctor Who and Christmas are now an annual British tradition, and the backbone of the BBCs festive output, the audio of William Hartnell's seasonal message was included in this year's BBC Christmas trail...
You might've noticed that the BBC trail also uses the TARDIS sound effect over some of the old Christmas idents to give the impression of going back in time, and features clips from more recent Doctor Who Christmas specials, including The Christmas Invasion - which, 40 years later, would be the next time Doctor Who would premiere a new episode on December 25th.
For now though, pour yourself a glass of champagne and join us as we raise a toast to the good Doctor... after all, he deserves it.
And incidentally, from all of us here at WarpedFactor, a happy Christmas to all of you at home... bottoms up!