15th Nov2019

‘Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Holiday Special’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Jody Houser | Art by Roberta Ingranata | Published by Titan Comics


Pretty hard not to like a Holiday Special, right? To this day at Christmas I still pull out a stack of Christmas related issues, and read through them in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Just adds to the feel good factor for me. Usually very schmaltzy, or a bit twee, but hey tis’ the Season and all that. I would imagine the good Doctor has seen his/ her fair share of Xmas adventures, and the TV Specials have usually been good value. Now it’s Jody Houser’s turn, to show us what magic she can weave with the Thirteenth Doctor and the Fam.

Let’s head to the TARDIS, and The Doctor quizzing the Fam as to what they would like to do for the Holidays (I do dislike this Americanization of Christmas to Holiday’s, by the way). Graham points out that him and Ryan do in fact have plans for Christmas, good point, while The Doctor point’s out they are in a time machine. Equally good point. So, what to do? Ryan fancies an alien theme park because, well, alien theme park, but it’s pointed out to him their last visit to one all went a little weird. Which is truer than they all first realise, because it turns out that all of them have different memories about what actually happened on the alien amusement park. All remember the others having a close escape, but not themselves. Also, nobody can remember the actual name of the planet. All very odd.

Of course although all their memories have been tampered with, the one thing that cannot be altered is the records in the TARDIS log. So, what happened on that day? Hmm, seems someone has altered the unalterable logs in the TARDIS. The Doctor doesn’t like this one bit. Someone went to a great deal of trouble to keep them away from that place, by implanting bad memories, so the best thing to do is to stay far away. Of course not, The Doctor uses the stars to renavigate her way back, and finds the planet. Certainly no amusement park, but some colourful buildings with tiny doors. She knocks on one, to be told to go away after last time. The Doctor explains they have no memories of last time and the elf-sized alien tells them to come in quickly. What dastardly foe is behind this? Cybermen? Daleks? The Master? Worse than that. It’s Mr. Henderson.

Not Mr. Henderson, I hear you cry….Actually, probably not. Just who is Mr. Henderson? and what did he do to them? Their new alien friend, who has told them all this before it seems, tells the story. Turns out Mr. Henderson comes to their planet quite regularly, takes some of the inhabitants away to work on his world, and they are never seen again. The Doctor had gone to help rescue them before and, well, here we are. This time, The Doctor promises Friffle, they are prepared, and will succeed (after just confirming they haven’t in fact been back several times). Using brain trackers that look suspiciously like Christmas lights, they arrive on Mr. Henderson’s extremely Earth-like world. Fir trees everywhere, snow falling and covering the ground, and several building lit up by twinkling lights… This couldn’t be Santa, could it? Let’s ask those life size toy soldiers waving guns.

Well someone’s wearing a Santa suit, but it’s not the big man himself. In fact, saying his name doesn’t go down well at all. Who doesn’t love Santa? Accusing them of being spies, The Doctor and Fam are locked up, still curious as to why Santa is so hated. Well, claims the toy soldier, he’s been stealing Mr. Henderson’s workers and possibly eating them. Didn’t see that coming. Seems that those overwritten memories are starting to fray around the edges a little as well, as The Doctor distinctly remembers being imprisoned before. Just as those pieces start to fall a little more into place, they notice another person also in the room with them. One who seems to also remember them from before…but we won’t find out who until Holiday Special #2. Festive cliffhanger.

Although ending with the cliffhanger, and finding out this was a two-parter was a bit bah humbug, I really enjoyed this. A fun story, great dialogue, and lots of subtle and more overt Christmas touches as the story progressed. Not a Christmas story at the expense of a good story, but a good story that has Christmas within it. Great stuff from Jody Houser, and lovely artwork by Ingranata. The festive scenes were especially nice. A perfect holiday special, and I can’t wait to read the final part.

Is it still Santa Baby, or now Santa Baby Eater? Only Jody Houser knows….

**** 4/5

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Holiday Special is out now from Titan Comics.


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