This Christmas, as for the past nine years, many of us will be watching the latest Doctor Who Christmas Speacial. It is hard to beleive that this will be the tenth such special since the show returned in 2005. For many people watching the latest Christmas Special has become one of the great Christmas television traditions.
But, much as I enjoy watching the latest special every year, for me nothing quite sums up Christmas like 'The Box of Delights'. The television adaptation of this story celebrates it's 30th anniversary this year and it's become something of a tradition for me to try and watch it every year.
Although it's more rooted in fantasy than science fiction, 'The Box of Delights' does share some similarities with Doctor Who, not least of which that both feature a central character who is hundreds of year old and who possesses a magic box seemingly bigger or inside. Also, rather appropriately, both the Doctor and the mysterious Cole Hawlings were played by Patrick Troughton. This was a fact that would have escaped me when I first saw it back in the 1980s but it feels appropriate that Troughton should play this unassuming tramp-like figure with a secret past.
The rest of the cast is equally impressive, particularly stage and screen veteran Robert Stephens who plays the main villain of the piece, Abner Brown whose sole aim in life is to possess the Box of Delights for himself. Watching him in this I can't help but think that, had circumstances been different, he would have made a good Master.
It's hard to explain why I go back to this story year after year. I think ultimately it comes down to the fact that, like A Christmas Carol, it's just a great Christmas story. Nowadays, the visuals might look a bit cheap and some of the acting, particularly from the children, a little awkward, but the story quickly makes you forgot any shortcomings the production might have. If you haven't seen it, it's worth looking out the DVD or reading the original novel.