After watching this year's "Doctor Who" Christmas special, (6 p.m. PST Christmas Day, BBC America), you may never see a familiar holiday icon in the same benign light.
"Doctor Who," a British science fiction children's show, chronicles the travels of a Time Lord who, with a companion or two, travels in a time machine which camouflages itself as a blue British police box. The series was laid to rest in 1989 and had an unsuccessful TV movie in 1995. It was rebooted to great success in 2005. There have been 11 Doctors over the life of the series, the latest being Matt Smith.
In this year's Christmas special, "Doctor Who: The Snowmen," the Doctor, heartsick over losing his last companions, lands in the England of 1892, feeling very "bah humbug" about life in general.
"The Doctor is in a Scrooge-like state, being very depressed, like an old grumpy grandpa," says Jenna-Louise Coleman, 26, who plays Clara, the new companion, "and they meet. Clara takes an interest in him and so begins a new story."
"I think there's nothing like a Christmas special that's set in snowy Victorian England," says Caroline Skinner, co-executive producer of the series. "It gives it a real sense of landscape ... a slightly larger-than-life feeling, and you've got some incredibly scary monsters. There's something gloriously freaky about taking something that you're so used to in life ... to take it and give it an evil 'Doctor Who' twist."
—'Doctor Who' is certainly something in the U.K. you kind of grow up with it. It's part of your DNA," Skinner says. "It's just always been there."
Her first hazy memories start with the seventh Doctor, played by Sylvester McCoy in the late 1980s and 1990s, but she and her father watched "loads and loads of Tom Baker (the fourth Doctor, 1974-81) episodes back-to-back" later on.
Coleman didn't grow up with the Doctor. "It was never around when I was growing it. It was the gap (of 16 years when "Doctor Who" was off the air). I missed it in my childhood. When it came back in 2005, I was about 18, so I kinda missed it. I've always been very aware of it."
Coleman hopes to watch all the episodes soon going back as far as the original 1963 ones.
The Christmas special will be available on iTunes on Wednesday.