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Bookmark and Share On the Twelfth's Day of Christmas

12/25/2015 11:51:00 am - Reported by Chuck Foster

As darkness descends across the United Kingdom, the country's viewers will settle down to recover from afternoon excesses in front of the television to watch what has become a traditional festive line-up on the box: Eastenders, Call The Midwife, Strictly Come Dancing, Mrs Browns Boys, and of course Doctor Who - which reaches its tenth anniversary of Christmas adventures at 5:15pm.

However, to misquote another anniversary's line of dialogue, that isn't how it all started. And, to steal a phrase from another franchise enjoying a successful return this year, there is another ... as fifty years ago today the Doctor, Steven and their latest waif in time Sara were to discover Christmas Day themselves!

Now into its third year on television, Doctor Who's regular Saturday schedule meant that in 1965 it would coincide with the 25th December. At this point the Doctor and company had been embroiled in an audacious plan by the Daleks to take over the universe by means of a Time Destructor, and some six episodes in had already seen two previous TARDIS travellers killed. With a Christmas audience of the 1960s as fickle as those of today at watching television on the day (and certainly without the myriad ways to catch-up we can now enjoy) it was decided to take a festive detour from the main complex plot and "cut-away" from the Daleks to a light-hearted interlude instead.

Unlike the modern Christmas adventures this was an episode never meant to be taken seriously, or indeed take itself seriously. So, rather than the inhabitants of Skaro, the Doctor is instead apprehended by the inhabitants of a Northern England police station, who have to contend with a man who loses his greenhouse; and once he's 'escaped' its off to encounter madcap antics in a Hollywood film studio, as he and his travelling companions are chased by a number of colourful characters! In comparison with festive adventures of more recent times, it might seem a strange approach to a Doctor Who episode now - but it was produced in an era of light entertainment, slotted into contemporary programming, and wouldn't have felt too out of place for cosy Christmas television viewing of the time!

The Doctor wishes a very merry Christmas in The Feast of StevenDue to its (then) unique status as a light-hearted Christmas episode, The Feast of Steven wasn't included in any overseas package sales, and with episodes seldom repeated Saturday 25th December 1965 became the only time that anyone in the world were able to experience the tale in its original form. Fortunately the soundtrack survives, so fans can still 'live' that first dalliance with festive Who - including the Doctor's little message in the closing moments:

Here's a toast. A Happy Christmas to all of us.
Incidentally, a Happy Christmas to all of you at home!

Happy 10th and 50th anniversaries to a Christmas Doctor ...
Whose twelfth incarnation embarks upon a twelfth festive adventure!

Doctor Who around the world on Christmas Day

Unlike 1965, in 2015 Doctor Who can be enjoyed around the world 24x7. However, there is still a nostalgic feeling to watching 'live' on television, and there is plenty of episodes to be caught around the world today!

In the United Kingdom, morning-risers can enjoy the tenth Doctor's last adventures as Watch broadcasts the specials from The Next Doctor onwards. Meanwhile, in the lead-up to The Husbands of River Song on BBC One during the afternoon viewers can then immerse themselves in a classic "base-under-siege" type adventure as Horror Channel show the appropriately named Horror of Fang Rock at 3:00pm (and/or at 8:00pm if they prefer to avoid the traditional enemy, Coronation Street!).

In Northern America, both BBC America and SPACE have turned their channels over to Doctor Who, with today seing a re-run of Series Nine in preparation for their own premiere of Husbands at 9:00pm. More locally in the United States, viewers could then switch over to catch The Hand of Fear on Retro TV at 10:00pm, and those in Oklahoma could then watch Robot of Sherwood at 11:00pm. Earlier in the day, UNC in North Carolina show the final two episodes of The Time Monster from 5:00pm, whilst EBRU finish off the ninth Doctor with Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways, also from 5:00pm. The final episode for Christmas Day is The Brink of Disaster, a first Doctor outing courtesy of KMOS in Missouri.

In Europe, BBC First in the Benelux countries will show Before The Flood just after midday with The Girl Who Died later this afternoon; BBC Entertainment in Europe and the Middle East had an early morning adventure with The Time of the Doctor; and BBC HD in Poland and the Nordic countries stay festive with The Snowmen, The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe and The Best of the Christmas Specials. German viewers can catch Before the Flood, The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived on FOX from 4:15pm, or the continuing adventures of the Torchwood team in Children of Earth on SyFy. And in Denmark DR3 will "Face The Raven" as that episode premieres in the country at 8:10pm.

For the rest of the world, FX in India goes festive with A Christmas Carol, The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe, The Time of the Doctor and Last Christmas, whilst PRIME in New Zealands catches up with The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived. TV Cultura in Brazil have Vincent and the Doctor in Portuguese, and for the Doctor's friends, Jeem in the Middle East provides an Arabic outing for Sarah Jane Smith with Mona Lisa's Revenge in the evening.

The continuing adventures of the Doctor can be followed around the world via This Week in Doctor Who!