12 Blogs 4: Christmas Songs of the Doctor Who Writers

This is rather like one of those Christmas TV specials where one's host is continually surprised by new visitors ringing his doorbell. I've been greatly cheered by the response, both from the contributors and the commenters, and it's gone a long way towards establishing what is a different sort of Christmas vibe for me this year, but a Christmas vibe nevertheless. I feel reinvigorated for my final push at work this week. There have been a few stragglers in both previous categories, so we'll round those up near the end of the Twelve Blogs.

Today, I asked the writers of TV's Doctor Who what their favourite Christmas music was. And, as I think you'll find, my old gang didn't let me down...

‘My first instinct is to say Wizzard's “I Wish It could Be Christmas Every Day” because it's indicative of the genius that is Roy Wood and I loved it as a kid ‘cos they were funny on Top of the Pops and I love it now because it's just so darned brilliantly produced. But then I thought of the others I love, Kate Bush's “December Will be Magic Again” and Kirsty and the Pogues’ awesome “Fairytale of New York” (every play of that these days can reduce me to tears in seconds because we should never have lost Kirsty). And then I realised, for exactly the same reason, what my fave Christmas song has to be. Because it's so powerful, so beautiful and so uplifting and will make me cry with that simple, heartfelt whisper of "Merry Christmas John, Merry Christmas Yoko". It's the Plastic Ono Band's “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”. I love Lennon so much, and because of when he died, songs like “Imagine” and “(Just Like) Starting Over” make me consider them as being Christmas songs too. But it's “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” all the way,’ - Gary Russell (script editor, director The Infinite Quest).

I’m more of a McCartney person, really. But that’s our first Kate Bush mention of the day. But who’s this at the door, fleeing the lava...?

‘The usual suspects get terribly overplayed, so my current favourites are unusual ones that nobody else would ever play. Top of the list has to be the Muppets and John Denver singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” - you can't go wrong with the Muppets, and it's both Christmassy and absolutely hilarious, especially when Miss Piggy completely milks her line again and again. A close second though has to be Elvis' cover of “Winter Wonderland” - a cracking Christmas tune, with the added bonus of Elvis sexing it up wholesale, giving it an ending flourish which makes walking in a winter wonderland seem like one of the dirtiest, rudest things you could possibly do,’ - James Moran (writer, ‘The Fires of Pompeii’).

And James included the following...

But now look who it is, all sinister and gaunt in the shadows, about to scare us with Crooked House on BBC4...

‘By a country mile it's actually “O Holy Night”. A much underrated carol. I always get a little frisson of Christmas loveliness when I hear “Fall on your knees! O hear the angels' voices”. I'm a sucker for almost any carol actually. Every Christmas I go to Durham Cathedral for the carol service. It's amazing to think that people have been doing just the same thing in the same place for a thousand years,’ – Mark Gatiss (writer, ‘The Unquiet Dead’, etc.).

Aww! Myself, I love ‘Oh Little Town of Bethlehem’. It’s got this simple power which still astounds me, and doesn’t invite the chorus to theatrics. I even tried to have it played at our wedding. Until my wife told me I was insane.

But who’s this, skidding up to the door in a Ford Cortina?

‘”Lully Lullay Thou Little Tiny Child.” No one knows the composer, but it dates from the early 16th century. Ostensibly it's a lullaby to a crying infant (in a manger one assumes) but it is also a lament for that child's great and painful future life. It is so evocative of cold winter's nights and it just aches with compassion and sadness. Either that or Slade. Kidding,’ – Matthew Graham (writer, ‘Fear Her’).

And look, it’s a poor urchin, all shivering in the cold, in his ripped jeans and t-shirt, his hair askew from years of... oh, now I see it’s not...

‘Well, I'm torn between “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” and “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, so I'd like to combine them into the super carol: “The Three Hundred And Sixty Five Days Of Christmas”. Or “The Three Hundred And Sixty Six Days Of Christmas” on a leap year,’ – Tom MacRae (writer, ‘Rise of the Cybermen’/’The Age of Steel’).

Thanks, Tom. Now, it’s a good thing I’ve got the red carpet out of the loft. Look busy, everyone, throw the cover over the specially-built Hugo Award trophy case (yes, even though it’s empty) and hide the hymn books, look who it is...

‘Oh, Slade's one, that's brilliant - see, I love a traditional Christmas Carol, me. ‘Cos that's what Christmas sounds like - all noise and happy and daft. Also a sucker for any songs that mention Santa. I love Santa, and I think his hardline naughty/nice stance still speaks to the modern world. But I don't like the ones that mention God, ‘cos everyone knows it's just your Mum and Dad,’ – Steven Moffat (new boss, Doctor Who).

Please, Steven, spoilers!

But, arriving on a sleigh drawn by a panting team of panto stars, and bringing with him Christmas video goodness, here’s someone with whom I can very much share festive tastes (on things pop, at least)...

‘I hope I'm not duplicating yours! It's “December Will Be Magic Again” by Kate Bush - the proper 7" single version, not the piano version you hear on Xmas compilations. It's got that lovely Kate Bush altitude thing going on - you know, “Heights”, “Top of the City”, “Kite”, “Aerial” - as she descends on her parachute, and it sounds so warm and Christmassy,’ – Gareth Roberts (writer, ‘The Shakespeare Code’, etc.)

And Gareth has provided the following...

Which made me happy in many different ways this morning. Who else would put that much work into a song sung from a chair?

The Adventures of the Amazing Scale Guy... Day Three.

‘Scale Guy, Scale Guy, does whatever a Scale Guy does. But he’s the best at what he does. And what he does is demonstrate relative size. Da de dah de dah...’

Today: Scale Guy does Fables.

‘That bed is too small, Goldilocks, that bed is too big, but you’ll find that one is just right. What? No, for that you need The Astonishing Porridge Temperature Judgement Guy. No, he’s probably not busy.’

See you tomorrow! Ho ho ho! Cheerio!

25 Response to "12 Blogs 4: Christmas Songs of the Doctor Who Writers"

  • Ben Says:

    Last time I sang "Lully Lullay Thou Little Tiny Child", also known as the Coventry Carol, the score had this note at the foot of it: "This song is sung by the women of Bethlehem in the play, just before Herod's soldiers come in to slaughter their children." So yes, in prefiguring what is to come it's probably the most theologically correct Christmassy song of all - the hidden layer beneath little donkeys and sweet singing in the choir.

  • Chris Says:

    This post put a great big smile on somebody's face... mine!

  • RAB Says:

    God bless Gareth Roberts. But this is actually a third version of the song: this is the 7 inch single version (set here to a fan-created photo montage) and of course this is the piano version from her TV special in 1979.

    Sorry to be pedantic, but I was once touted by Q Magazine for my Kate Bush knowledge (strange but true!) and it's hard to let go of past glories.

  • Paul Oldroyd Says:

    It's got to be the Kate Bush one for me too - although I prefer the solo piano version 'cos I heard it first on a Christmas special she did with Peter Gabriel many decades ago.

    Happy Christmas / War is Over pushes it a *very* close second with Slade an even closer third: both remind me of Christmas parties at University. I particularly like the "does your grandma always tell you that the old songs are the best" line in the latter. They certainly are now .....

  • heatherfeather Says:

    This was a marvelous idea Paul. Very entertaining way to learn more about the DW writers!

    I have to agree with James Moran that the Muppets version of is the definitive one.

    Some of my favorites not listed:
    -"I Believe in Father Christmas" by Greg Lake
    -"Mary's Boy Child" by Boney M
    -"Father Christmas" by the Kinks.

    Finally, Frank Sinatra's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" always brings back fond childhood holiday memories.

  • David Bishop Says:

    Applause for Mark Gatiss and his choice of O Holy Night. My favourite version is the New Orleans jazz musicians who play it on the Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip xmas episode [Sorkin always writes a Christmas cracker, but the tune is frosting on the cake, as it were].

    May I humbly nominate Xmas Prison Blues by Seasick Steve? No? Thought not. Sigh...

  • Paul Oldroyd Says:

    How could I have forgotten about "I believe in Father Christmas" (another of those great University Christmas dirges)? Probably knocks Slade off the number 3 slot for me!

  • Stephen Says:

    Hmm, I'll have to see if I can meet Mark Gatiss. I live in Durham myself and the carol service is always a treat.

    Good old Scale Guy, helping out Goldilocks. I have to wonder what he'd think of the giant at the top of Jack's Beanstalk.

  • Anonymous Says:

    Spitting Image 'Santo Clause Is On The Dole.' Especially love the lines about the suit going back to burtons and the raindeers being turned to glue.

    Though on a serious note. As a singer I really enjoy Silent Night and Nat King Coles Christmas Song.

  • Kentonist Says:

    I have to say... and slightly biased I may be... but I'm plumping for "Let's Not Fight This Christmas" by Chris Difford (Squeeze) and the Decorations. : )

  • pbristow Says:

    “December Will Be Magic Again”

    - D'you know, somehow I'd never actually seen or heard that one before.

    And yes, happy-making in, er... [CLEARS THROAT] ...several ways. =:o}

  • Gary Gillatt Says:

    Loving the festive blogging, Paul! Great stuff.

  • DavidM Says:

    No Darlene Love, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" = No credibility.

    And "My Christmas Prayer" by Saint Etienne, as well.

  • Rob Stradling Says:

    Well, I reckon there'd be four or five versions of "Silent Night" in there before anything else got a look-in.

    Probably Simon & Garfunkel's "7 O'Clock News", with it's Vietnam headlines slowly drowning the song. That might just edge Enya's stunning Gaelic version in a penalty shoot-out. Sinead O'Connor's "Ghosts of New York" effort gets an honourable mention.

    Oh, and today's Blogger word-verification puzzle is "obandors"... wasn't that a Moby song?

  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Thanks, all. Great stuff, Ben. Rab: I know Gareth's a bit of an expert too, so I wonder if he knew that. I'm always boggled by the strangely sinister bit in the Slade song. I can't agree with all this Greg Lake love: sarcastic Christmas song titles are for kids. His follow up, 'Oh, I'm so enjoying the summer, I'm having *such* a good time' didn't do so well. Stephen: don't doorstep Mark during the carols! Or, if you do, tell us how it goes. I like a bit of 'Silent Night' and of course Saint Etienne. 'Getting groovy after Halloween...'

  • The Sword Is Drawn Says:

    Hi Paul. Good stuff. I'm really glad you managed to make up enough time to allow you to do these blogs this year.

    Just read the advanced March solicits from Marvel, and seen that excellent Stuart Immonen cover for CB&MI13 #11 (http://www.comicbookresources.com/news/preview2.php?image=solicits/marvelcomics/200903-advance/CAPBMI011_COV.jpg). Very nice indeed. Reminds me quite a bit of his Nextwave covers. I love the way that he's worked the colours of the flag into the sky.

    Speaking of the Solicits, there seems to be a very strong indication that Nightcrawler might be leaving the X-men.

    A long term friend of Brian's, who's good with a sword, makes a competent spy, and has strong links with mysticism? I can think of another title he might be better suited to, right now.

    Just saying... ;D

  • balcairn Says:

    Fantasic. This is turning into a great series of blogs. (& O Holy Night is definitely the best)

  • Rocko Jerome Says:

    Yeah man, that cover rules.

    I'd rather not have Nightcrawler as a fixture in CB's book, though. Maybe a guest spot. I actually always resented that Captain Britain became an X-Character and was then relegated to the B list.

    my favorite Christmas songs:




  • Paul Cornell Says:

    I like that cover too. I don't know what plans for Nightcrawler are, but since he's not British, he's not really on my list. Mind you, I'd love to write for him one day.

  • Spaceminx Says:

    I'm rather partial to KT Tunstall's cover of The Pretenders' 2000 Miles which she had on a little Xmas album last year. Other than that its the old stalwart of Fairytale of New York by McColl & The Pogues(KT also does this one) and I Saw Three Ships (or whatever its called).

  • Chris Broughton Says:

    This one's my favourite:


    Slightly melancholy, but lovely. 'The beds were small' is a beautifully evocative image.

  • Paul Cornell Says:

    I do like this modern world where we can show our working with pop videos! Lovely stuff.

  • Karen Funk Blocher Says:

    I loved the John Denver and the Muppets clip (and was surprised that it did not match the CD version of the song), and of course it's hard to top Happy Christmas (War is Over). But you folks have probably never heard of my favorite Christmas record, We Wish You a Merry Christmas by the Robert Rheims Choraliers, circa 1959. Rheims managed to fit standard choral arrangements of pretty much every traditional Christmas carol onto 12 inches of translucent green vinyl. Everything is sung just a smidge too fast and with fewer verses, accompanied by organ and chimes. Too bad it never made it onto CD.

  • Corey K. Says:

    Dunno if anybody is reading this months after the fact, but here's an obscure favorite: "Icicles, Holly, Red Berries and Snow," an original carol released by Peter Pan records. A bit corny, but lovely nonetheless.

  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Goodness, is it still Christmas where you are?