A Xmas special was planned even before Doctor Who debuted in 1963, but if made it would have taken the show in a completely different direction.
Doctor Who planned a 1960s Christmas special that would’ve dramatically changed the show’s history. While 2005’s The Christmas Invasion is regarded as the first-ever Doctor Who Christmas special, it wasn’t the first episode to air on Christmas. December 25th 1965 saw the ongoing serial The Daleks’ Masterplan take a break from the death and destruction of previous weeks to have a festive runaround, entitled The Feast of Steven. Beginning with the Doctor (William Hartnell) almost being arrested in Liverpool, the TARDIS team found themselves chased around a Hollywood film set during the silent era. It was a light caper that famously ended with Hartnell’s Doctor wishing viewers a Merry Christmas.
However, the first of the Doctor Who Christmas specials could have happened even earlier than 1965. In 1963, C.E Webber was instructed by BBC Head of Drama, Sidney Newman, to write a pitch document for a new family sci-fi serial. The original Doctor Who pitch was vastly different from the show that eventually made it to screens in November 1963. Rather than being a hero, the Doctor was envisioned as a dangerous villain intent on destroying the future; an idea that Newman swiftly nixed. However, Webber’s pitch document also predicted the existence of a Doctor Who Christmas special four decades early.
Doctor Who Original Christmas Special & Show Changes Explained
Outlining potential story ideas for the first season of Doctor Who in 1963, Webber’s attention turns to Christmas where he suggests some alarming possibilities for a Christmas trip in the TARDIS. The first possible plot line is simply written as “Bethlehem?” which suggests Webber was considering a Doctor Who historical about the birth of Jesus Christ. Quite what the plot would have looked like is ambiguous at best.
Webber then went even further with his potential Christmas episode ideas. Other possible plots involved the Doctor’s TARDIS flying Aladdin’s palace through the air, or Cinderella’s fairy godmother being the Doctor’s ex-wife. None of these ideas impressed Sidney Newman, who decided they were too condescending and not in keeping with Doctor Who‘s educational remit. Interestingly, he also pitched an idea where the Doctor played the role of Marley’s ghost, as Matt Smith’s Doctor did in Steven Moffat’s first Doctor Who Christmas special.
It’s Good Doctor Who’s Original Christmas Plan Didn’t Happen
Aside from the complications that would arise from the historical and scientifically educational serial tackling the birth of Christ, there are other problems with Webber’s original Christmas plans. Doctor Who aired on November 23rd 1963, a month prior to Christmas Day. This means that, had the plan for a Bethlehem or fairytale-based Christmas special gone ahead, it would likely have aired in December of that year. December 1963 saw the debut of the Daleks, which transformed Doctor Who into an overnight sensation, without them, there might not have been the show as audiences know it today.
Although Newman initially objected to the introduction of Doctor Who‘s Daleks, he was convinced of their merit by the show’s producer Verity Lambert, who was vindicated by the public interest in Terry Nation’s iconic creations. Thankfully for both Terry Nation and Doctor Who, Sidney Newman wasn’t convinced to embrace Webber’s more outlandish ideas for Christmas episodes inspired by the bible, pantomime, and fairytale. Instead, he approved of the show airing a dramatic serial about the aftermath of a nuclear war on the planet Skaro over the festive period, and the rest was history.
NEXT: Doctor Who’s Massive New Budget Can Fix The Oldest Insult