It’s going to be New Year’s Day when we’ll be treated to a Doctor Who special as opposed to what had become a traditional Christmas Day outing. Let’s think back to last year’s Twice Upon a Time, which took on a degree of added resonance given that 2018 marked the hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War. Something that was touched upon when the soon-to-exit-stage-left (at least from their current body) Twelfth Doctor surveys goings on in the trenches in the company of the man who began his adventures immediately prior to his decision that one more lifetime wouldn't hurt.
The motivation for that may well lie in the hope for peace presented by what is implied to be the Christmas Day ceasefire of 1914, when carols as opposed to shots rang out between our honest Tommies and their German foes in the spirit of the season. Add in what according to some historians marks the first ever meeting in international football between the two sides and you have quite a packed few hours as far as December 25th of that year is concerned.
But while his first and later selves mull things over in No Man's Land, the comic series The Forgotten, which finds the Tenth Doctor battling to regain memories of his past and plonks the Ninth among the boots on the ground as he assists as referee of a match, which he himself starts, challenging the Germans after a ball makes its way from their trench to its neighbouring equivalent! Like most wise custodians of the whistle he departs soon after the match finishes… but not before he's played his part in thawing relations between the participants.
History seems to record that it wasn't quite as organised as has been presented previously, though - James Taylor from the Imperial War Museum suggests that it would have been more of a kickaround than the almost official fixture it appears to have gone down in lore as.
Perhaps inevitably, though, our boys fell to defeat years before Gareth Southgate could miss a crucial penalty. An unnamed major from our side wrote to the Times that the match finished 3-2 to the opposition, a last desperate interlude prior to the resumption of hostilities cut short by both the advent of Boxing Day and decrees from both British and German higher-ups that fraternising with the enemy just wasn't the done thing.
Something of that spirit would later live on in the form of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, a man the Doctor would come to greatly respect following some initial butting of heads fuelled by his Third incarnation's contempt for the common soldiery and belief that the phrase ‘military intelligence’ represented something of a contradiction in terms.
Prior to all that, at least for the First Doctor (David Bradley stepping into the shoes filled first by the late William Hartnell in those all-important first few years of Doctor Who then Richard Hurndall for The Five Doctors), a chance to meet his future boss' ancestor!
CAPTAIN: My family. Perhaps you could look in on them, from time to time? DOCTOR: We should be delighted. What's the name? CAPTAIN: Lethbridge-Stewart. Captain Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart.
There's a sort of irony to be found in the fact that one of Hartnell's primary drivers in originally taking on the role of the Doctor was a desire to escape typecasting, having come to fame playing gruff sergeant-major types in the likes of The Army Game. Of course, the sort of steel he could be relied upon to show would later influence Peter Capaldi in his own portrayal, which reached its final innings in the company of the original Mondasian Cybermen.
They were responsible for the death of the First Doctor, a harbinger of the first big change for the series during its infancy - the lead in to which is recreated in an almost pre-credits sequence within Twice Upon A Time itself using a unique blend of original black and white footage from the archives and reconstruction in glorious colour.
The only concessions to modernity being the addition of the now usual regenerative effect of an orange glow around the Doctor's hand and his stern refusal to accept the forthcoming change. Retrospectively, we can thank goodness he too decided one more lifetime at least wouldn't hurt even in light of Hartnell's failing health.
Who could fail to be moved by Bradley's assertion while playing old Bill in An Adventure in Space and Time that he didn't want to go even as circumstances began to dictate that he'd have to do just that?
Given what it eventually meant, it's even more powerful than David Tennant's original utterance of those same words during his own final bow in The End of Time. Coincidentally, also a festive blowout in more ways than one as the TARDIS interior went the way of the stomachs of those of us who'd overdone it on the turkey dinner before he made way for Matt Smith in a far more overstated fashion than the original such handover between the man Patrick Troughton dubbed ‘Billy’ and Pat himself.
The regenerative process itself has since become a selling point of seasonal Who, as we saw at the conclusion of Capaldi's swansong. Where he had emerged as the result of Smith's long goodbye on Trenzalore, last Christmas found him preparing to wave goodbye after a divisive three years and handover to Jodie Whittaker, who promptly fell to Earth from the bowels of the old Type 40.
Let us do as Hartnell did during The Feast of Steven and raise a glass - at least to the fact war is over.